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Friday, February 29, 2008

Reasons to watch Calvin Pace's decision

During the 2005 offseason Jason Taylor was watching very closely when new coach Nick Saban added free agent defensive end Vonnie Holliday. Then the coach added free agent defensive end Kevin Carter. Then the coach drafted defensive end Matt Roth in the second round.

At that point Taylor texted several friends wondering, "What are we doing?" because he was concerned about his future with Miami.

Turns out Taylor had nothing to worry about then. But he, along with Joey Porter should be watching over the next couple of days to see if Arizona free agent Calvin Pace decides to take a sizeable deal from the Dolphins.

The Dolphins, you see, already have signed strong side linebacker Reggie Torbor and could add Pace, another strong side linebacker, if he accepts Miami's deal. That will create something of a logjam among Miami front seven players.

And somebody will either have to take a seat on the bench. Or go elsewhere altogether.

If the Dolphins project Pace as a linebacker rather than an undersized defensive end, which is likely, that means they will have him, Taylor, Torbor and Porter competing for two outside linebacker jobs.

If, and this is a huge if, all four go to training camp, it will signal an epic competition. But I am skeptical that all four would go to camp. I simply don't see how the new regime cannot be committed to either Torbor or Pace after having just signed them.

That raises the question how committed they are to either Porter or Taylor. Here's a guess: One of those two guys will not be with Miami in September if Pace signs.

It is no secret the new regime was unimpressed with Porter after studying his play during parts of last season, and Bill Parcells is aware of reports of Porter's disrespect for previous coach Cam Cameron. So the strongest reason to keep Porter if Pace signs is because cutting him would do considerable damage to Miami's cap.

Now teams make cap sacrifices all the time to go in a direction they want to so it is possible the Dolphins will try to trade Porter, which still will have a cap cost, for the sake of having the chemistry they want. We'll see.

Or there is the Taylor option. Trading him is much easier. There are no serious cap ramifications and his worth on the market is likely much higher than Porter's.

And why get rid of him? Draft pick compensation is one reason. But it is no secret the Dolphins new leadership is not thrilled with Taylor's Dancing with the Stars gig. It comes at a time his teammates will be involved in offseason training. Taylor's offseason absence could even extend into a minicamp if he is a good dancer and survives the weekly eliminations.

And the fact Taylor will not be in South Florida, but will be living in Los Angeles during the gig also cannot be going over well. Taylor, understandably, is taking care of his interests because his post-NFL career promises to be a lot longer and just as profitable as his football days. And Dancing is a stepping stone to that career. So his focus is on that now.

But the Dolphins, understandably, want Taylor's focus on football and little more. He's arguably the leader in the locker room and what team wants that kind of example on a young team from its leader?

So it should not surprise if he or Porter is moved -- especially if Calvin Pace signs with the Dolphins.

[Reminder: My radio show this weekend is Saturday from 4-7 p.m. on 790 The Ticket. Please join me.]

Ernest Wilford, Josh McCown sign (excited?)

Receiver Ernest Wilford was expendable in Jacksonville because the Jaguars wanted someone with more speed and dash even though Wilford led the team with 45 receptions last season.

Josh McCown (pictured) has been expendable in Arizona, and Detroit, and Oakland.

The Dolphins have signed both today.

Wilford has signed a four-year deal worth $13 million with a whopping $6 million signing bonus considering he is not assured of being a starter. The Miami Herald's Jeff Darlington is reporting McCown has signed a two-year deal worth $6.25 million.

"Ernest has great respect for coach Parcells even though he's not the coach," said agent Drew Rosenhaus, who negotiated the deal but declined to give contract specifics. "It's a great fit for Ernest and I think for the Dolphins. Now it's up to him to come in and work hard and compete."

Wilford is a bigger more accomplished Derek Hagan. He is 6-4 and 218 pounds. He caught 45 passes for 518 yards last season with 3 touchdowns. He started 14 of 16 games.

Dolphins make early splash into free agent pool

Three things: It is late. I am working. And the Dolphins didn't take long to kick off free agency.

San Francisco guard Justin Smiley will soon become the newest member of the Dolphins as he agreed to a free agent contract just minutes ago, according to a Dolphins club source.

Smiley, a 26-year-old former second round pick out of Alabama, is getting a five-year contract worth $25 million. The deal includes $9 million in guaranteed money.
The Dolphins have penciled Smiley in as their starting right guard but I remind you that is in pencil. First of all he has to pass a physical. Second, that is not an easy accomplishment for him.
Smiley is still recovering from surgery to repair a dislocated right shoulder he suffered on Nov. 4, 2007. Even if he passes, Smiley likely will be limited in offseason minicamps. It is unknown at what stage in training camp Smiley will be ready, but one assumes the Dolphins have a sense he'll be good to go early enough to make a difference. Otherwise why give the guy $9 million guaranteed?

Anyway, the move pretty much signals the end of Rex Hadnot's days with the Dolphins unless he accepts a minimum-salary deal and he wasn't inclined to do that as an unrestricted free agent, last I heard. Hadnot started all 16 games at right guard for the Dolphins in 2007.
That is the big headline so far. Here are others:
A report in The Dallas Morning News says the Dolphins and Cowboys are close to completing a trade for defensive tackle Jason Ferguson, who has played for Bill Parcells dating back to his days with the Jets. Can't get too excited about this exchange for an 11-year veteran especially when Shaun Rogers was available in trade. Of course, trading for Ferguson will likely cost a seventh-round or conditional pick.
Another soon-to-be former Dolphin is quarterback Cleo Lemon who is scheduled to visit Jacksonville Friday morning and could be David Garrard's backup before the day is over.

I am still hoping, indeed, praying the Dolphins continue to revamp the offensive line by chasing Alan Faneca to play left guard, but that now looks unlikely. The Jets and St. Louis are about to offer perhaps the richest guard contract ever to the perennial Pro Bowl player.

Forget about Flozell Adams reuniting with former line coach Tony Sparano to play left tackle here. He has agreed to re-sign with the Cowboys for a whopping $43 million over six years with approximately $15 million guaranteed. Wow.
The NFL calendar year begins today (Friday) and the Dolphins open the new year second among NFL teams with the most salary cap room behind only Tampa Bay. Last week the team had the most space at $44 million according to figures acquired from the NFLPA and other sources.
Miami had $39.5 million at the official opening of free agency with the difference coming in the signing of Mike Lehan, Greg Camarillo, David Kircus and other minor bookkeeping matters don't merit writing about. If and when the Smiley signing and Ferguson trade ($4 million base for 2008) happen, it obviously will cut into that figure.
[Check back often on Friday, like during the day when normal people are awake, to catch up on the latest happenings.]

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Dolphins talking trade for Shaun Rogers

The Dolphins have joined a group of about five AFC teams actively talking to the Lions about trading for nose tackle Shaun Rodgers, according to a report out of Booth Newspapers in Michigan.

I have been unable to confirm this report locally so understand this could be akin to reports about Miami liking Minnesota receiver Troy Williamson, who is going to end up in Jacksonville, or reports saying Trent Green was going to come back to the Dolphins even though he only recently has been cleared to play after two concussions in two seasons.

But several reasons to believe Miami's interest in Rogers is legitimate do exist. First, Bill Parcells, who is running the Dolphins these days, has in the past waxed glowing praise on Rogers -- this coming when Parcells was the Dallas coach and the Cowboys were preparing to play the Lions.

Secondly, have you noticed the Dolphins roster? It doesn't have a viable starting-caliber nose tackle on it. Keith Traylor is gone and there really is no free agent option out there to fill the large void. A rookie could do that but the Dolphins are apparently not willing to spend their first round pick on USC's Sedrick Ellis. The second round pick would do no good as Ellis is a top 10 player.

So the idea could be to get in on the Rogers talk and see if the Dolphins can climb over the four other teams that have been dealing with Detroit GM Matt Millen for over two weeks now. It is fair to believe Millen wants a second round pick for Rogers.

It is also fair to believe no team will want to give higher than a third-round pick. The Dolphins could easily use the lower of their two second round picks (coming from San Diego in the Chris Chambers trade) to get this thing done.

Now why is Rogers on the trade block? Well, he's a fine player when he's engaged and interested and in shape. The problem is he's not always engaged and interested. And he's definitely not always in shape.

Rogers is listed at 340 pounds but was pushing 360 at times last season -- like during the season, when players typically lose weight. The Lions were bitterly disappointed in Rogers when he seemed to slow down the final eight games of the season. As the team was 1-7 in those games and dropped from playoff contention, Rogers pretty much struggled during that time with the exception of a 2.5-sack showing against KC.

Not surprisingly, that was the only game the Lions won down the stretch.

Regardless of that roller-coaster season, Rogers is still considered a dominant player when he's "into it," so to speak. And at 28 years old he could be at the top of his game for another four or five years, assuming he starts taking care of his body better.

Rogers, by the way, is not the only defensive tackle on the trade market. Jacksonville's Marcus Stroud, New York's Dewayne Robertson, and Carolina's Kris Jenkins are also available for various reasons. Robertson, is notable in that he is the one with the most experience playing in a 3-4 but is also the least accomplished of the group. I find it hard to believe anything can happen with him considering his team, like the Dolphins, is in the AFC East.

No trade can happen until after midnight tonight, meaning there will be a handful of trades made tomorrow and Saturday.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Some observations coming out of the combine

The frustration of this year's draft is that there is no Carson Palmer or Peyton Manning or Orlando Pace or Bo Jackson who screams, "I am better than everyone else in this draft so pick me."

In that regard the Dolphins are reliving the misfortune of 2005 when Nick Saban, armed with the second overall pick, complained to his staff that there was really no one worth using the pick on. The Dolphins eventually picked Ronnie Brown.

Now don't get me wrong, there is talent in this draft. But there is not one clear-cut, can't miss guy out there. Jake Long is a monster, having benched 225 pounds a combine-high 37 times in recent days. But most scouts agree he's not as suited for instant success in the NFL as what Joe Thomas was last year. And Thomas did not go No. 1.

Chris Long? Great pedigree, great production and he was coached by Bill Parcells disciple Al Groh at Virginia -- which is perhaps the biggest reason I believe Long will be Miami's choice if they keep the first pick. Parcells trusts Groh's opinion and Groh loves Long, so Parcells will love Long.

The problem is if the Dolphins are going to run a 3-4 defense, that means Long will have to play standing up a lot. And he's never done that. Yes, he might turn into Willie McGinest, who Parcells turned into a stand-up player after he played mostly down at USC years ago, but just because one guy made the transition doesn't mean the other will.

Personally, I think Ohio State's Vernon Gholston has greater potential than Long. He's quicker, faster and is still learning so his potential to become better is greater than Long's. Long has been immersed in football all his life and isn't likely to improve exponentially. Gholston started playing as a sophomore in high school and is still very raw. I love this guy, but I doubt the Dolphins would pick him No. 1. Too unorthodox.

You know of Miami's need at quarterback. After nearly a decade of trying to find the next great Dolphins quarterback, the Dolphins are still searching for the next great Dolphins quarterback. They will select a quarterback in this draft, no question about it. They cannot be convinced John Beck is the future and it is simply good stewardship to have multiple quarterbacks in the pipeline.

But Matt Ryan with the first overall pick? That is hard to fathom. Although Mel Kiper insists that's the pick, the truth is Ryan simply will not be the highest-rated player on Miami's board at No. 1. Yes the guy has great intangibles, but neither from a physical nor production standpoint can he be ahead of Darren McFadden, the two Longs and --here's a surprise -- even USC defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis. All of them are more likely to succeed in the NFL than Ryan, who threw a bunch of interceptions and has unimpressive mobility.

Glenn Dorsey of LSU? He has undisputed first overall pick written all over him if not for a ton of buts. He's great BUT he's probably better suited for the 4-3. He's great BUT he didn't work at all at the combine. He's great BUT he's been injured a lot. He's great and plays hurt BUT that left tibia fracture he had in 2006 still is not completely healed and that is a concern.

So what does that make Dorsey? A prospect haunted by a bunch of questions. Just like most of the other guys.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The trade market is open for business

Before everyone gets all excited about a trade the Dolphins are about to make, there needs to be a calming disclaimer here that trades in the NFL are not all that common, they are less common when it involves big-salaried players and they don't usually happen until just prior to the draft or on draft days.

Having said all that there certainly is a lot of available talent out there to be acquired through a trade. Think about it, cornerback DeAngelo Hall is available, safety Michael Huff is available, linebacker Jonathan Vilma is available and receiver Troy Williamson is available.

Vilma and Williamson have been given permission by their teams to shop themselves around and they were doing just that at the Indianapolis Scouting Combine the past few days. Hall is being shopped by the Falcons and has said the chances of his returning to Atlanta are, "slim and none."

So should any of these guys interest the Dolphins?

Well, absolutely. Let's talk about Hall. [The fact is all the players mentioned here have issues that make them less attractive to their current teams and not necessarily attractive to Miami, but of these Hall is clearly the most talented and accomplished player.]

Hall is unhappy in Atlanta because he found out the new regime doesn't think that highly of him. The new GM and coach apparently realize Hall comes with some warts and most of those involve attitude and locker room leadership issues. So the guy probably needs a change of scenery.

And that is where the Giants are becoming involved. They are quite interested in Hall. But that is also where the Dolphins should at least test the waters. Please! As has been posted earlier here, the Falcons have the third overall pick in the coming draft and have a strong desire to add a franchise quarterback.

Matt Ryan of Boston College is really the only so-called franchise QB that will be drafted in the top 5-10 slots. It would make sense for the Dolphins, who are eager to trade out of the top pick, to act like they love Ryan and convince the Falcons he's their guy.

That might cajole the Falcons to make a trade with Miami for the first overall selection and guarantee them Ryan. Obviously, however, the Falcons would have to give up something more to get that first pick.

How about Hall?

The positives are numerous: Hall is a play-making cornerback and the Dolphins don't have any of those. He's a proven player that doesn't come with the questions that rookies come with. It would bring the Dolphins two players for the price of one because the Dolphins still get Atlanta's first pick and that pick would bring a player that is still a difference-maker because the No. 3 pick is still supposed to provide that.

The negatives? Well, Hall has that attitude issue. And he is unsigned beyond 2008 so the Dolphins would have to assure themselves of being able to sign the guy for the long term because who wants to trade for a guy and have him only one season, or two if they use a franchise tag on him? And by the way, signing Hall wouldn't be easy because the guy would likely want to be among the highest paid corners in the NFL which right now means a salary of no less than $9 million per season and probably as high as $12.2 million per season, which is what Nate Clements got last year.

Sorry, but that's what it costs to get a guy with 17 interceptions in four seasons.

It is a lot for any player and there is risk, but you know what? Hall is 24 years old and it is about time the Dolphins do something audacious, like bringing a difference-maker to the locker room.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Join me on the radio today from 4-6:30 p.m.

I'll be doing my regular Sunday after radio gig today on 790 The Ticket.

If you want to call and be part of the show, feel free to call at 1-888-790-3776. I'll be on the air from 4-6:30 p.m.

We'll be talking about the Heat, the Marlins, the latest NFL trade rumors, the NFL combine, and of course, the Dolphins -- the sale of the team, the first overall pick, the signing of Zach Thomas in Dallas, and the coming of free agency.

You can listen even if you're not in South Florida. You can listen live online at

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Zach Thomas to the Dallas Cowboys

Zach Thomas is going back to his home state of Texas as The Herald's David J. Neal, who is at the Indianapolis Combine, is reporting the former Dolphins linebacker is signing with the Dallas Cowboys.

Thomas has agreed to a one-year deal worth $3 million, including bonus, base salary and incentives. At that price it is clear the Cowboys expect Thomas to be a starter.

"It's a dream come true for a man from Pampa, Tex. and Texas Tech University," agent Drew Rosenhaus told Neal.

The Cowboys are the most recent team to meet with Thomas. He also had contract offers on the table from the New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints.

The reason Thomas is headed to Dallas is the Cowboys came with the best combination of solid contract offer plus the opportunity to make it to the Super Bowl. The Patriots, frankly, didn't offer a competitive deal to Thomas while New Orleans was in the ballpark, but its chances of competing for a Super Bowl are more uncertain.

Thomas, 35 in September, had his contract terminated by the Dolphins nine days ago after he played 12 seasons here. He had been scheduled to make $5.65 million in the final year of his Miami contract.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Half of Dolphins sold to Stephen Ross

Wayne Huizegna has effectively sold 50 percent of the Dolphins and Dolphin Stadium and the land surrounding the stadium.

Dolphins fans, meet your future owner Stephen M. Ross of New York and Palm Beach.

You should recognize the name. Several months ago The Herald identified Ross as the man about to buy the Dolphins. That was before Huizenga blew out his coaching staff and personnel department and hired Bill Parcells. Part of that Parcells hiring came with a promise from Huizenga that he would not sell a controlling interest in the Dolphins.

Well, he's been true to his word. He only sold half the interest to Ross who is chairman of the Related Companies, an international real estate development company. Huizenga will keep hold of the power of the franchise as he remains, "the Managing General Partner of the franchise," while Ross will be an active partner and has the opportunity to become the Managing General Partner in the future.

Translation: Huizenga will call the shots for now, but at some point, he will turn over the team to Ross who will then be able to exercise an option to buy the whole caboodle.

This from Huizenga in a statement: “I have always said that I wanted to bring in a partner, and I can’t think of anyone more appropriate than Steve. He has unbridled enthusiasm and I couldn’t feel better about the future than I do with Steve as my partner and Bill Parcells running football operations.”

From Ross: “Having grown up in South Florida, Dolphins football has been a lifetime passion for me. I am energized by this opportunity and look forward to being able to once again watch the Dolphins win a Super Bowl alongside all the other loyal Dolphin fans.”

The transaction requires the approval of the National Football League and that is almost certain to come as anything Huizenga recommends concerning his team typically gets approved.

The question is whether this sours Parcells at all. As long as Huizenga is in charge, there probably won't be a problem. But Parcells has a four-year contract and wanted assurances that Huizenga would be the only one he answered to during that tenure.

The questions now are does Huizenga hold onto the power of the team throughout those four years? Does Ross, as rightful part owner, exert say-so over Parcells? And does Parcells rethink his tenure in Miami based on the promises he got and what happened today?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Dolphins rule the roost on salary cap space

I know a lot of you have been wondering about what the Dolphins are likely to do in free agency when it begins Feb. 29.

Well, I can report they can do just about anything they want.

That's because the Dolphins have the most cap space of any NFL team, according to figures acquired from the NFL Players Association and other sources. The Dolphins are a whopping $44 million under the salary cap as of this writing. The salary cap is set at $116 when the new league year starts Feb. 29.

Only one other team -- Jacksonville -- is even close. The Jaguars are $41.995 million under the cap.

Obviously, the Dolphins have been helped by the fact they cleared between $13-$15 million in cap space last week. And some of that space will be eaten up when the team starts re-signing its own free agents.

For example the signing of cornerback Michael Lehan on Wednesday will take a nibble out of that $44 million once the contract is reported to the NFLPA. But the biggest item the Dolphins must budget for their cap is the signing of their first overall draft pick.

The first overall selection, if the Dolphins keep the pick, will get a contract anywhere in the neighborhood of $33-$35 guaranteed. Of course, it will be less if the Dolphins trade the pick, which they will try to do. And whatever they do the first pick will be expensive because it's doubtful the Dolphins will drop out of the top 10 even if they do trade.

But the fact Miami has more room than anyone else is interesting. Do the Dolphins go out and spend to the cap? Do they sign a bunch of veterans? They do have to spend pretty close to the cap because the collective bargaining agreement stipulates teams can no longer spend just 60 or 70 percent of the cap as happened in the past.

So you heard it here first (actually I wrote this months ago and am going to repeat it): The Dolphins will very likely chase Pittsburgh guard Alan Faneca. Faneca is a Pro Bowl player and a winner. He is also the guy Bill Parcells told the New York Jets they should sign when he talked to that team's braintrust at times during the 2007 season.

Parcells told the Jets that taking Faneca would bring stability to their offensive line and help turn young tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson and young center Nick Mangold into better players. So now I think Parcells will take his own advice because the Dolphins need a fine guard to bring stability to their young center Samson Satele and their left tackle (whoever that will be).

So Alan Faneca is on Miami's radar for sure.

The Buffalo Bills (39.4 million), Tennessee Titans (39.24 million), and New Orleans Saints (39.2 million), round out the top five teams with the most cap space.

By the way, this is my second post today. Check back often because this is a busy time of year around the league and I will try to bring you the latest, which sometimes means multiple updates on the same day. Yeah, it also helps increase the number of hits on the blog, which I know you guys hate when I mention it.

Mel Kiper lets loose on the Dolphins, the draft

The latest rumor? That the Atlanta Falcons are so in love with Matt Ryan of Boston College that they would swap the No. 3 overall pick and other considerations with the Dolphins to take him.
By the way, the Falcons won a coin toss Friday morning to win the No. 3 pick. Oakland and KC,, which also finished with 4-12 records are slotted No. 4 and No. 5 respectively.
The trade with Atlanta nonethelss has merit as I've heard mild rumblings from NFL people that Atlanta badly wants a franchise quarterback and Ryan is the only certain guy at that position in this draft. So if that supposed love by the Falcons is true enough that the they would give up this year's second-round pick and maybe another pick next year, I would say the trade will happen.

That's because Miami likes Ryan. But the Dolphins have not yet fallen in LOVE with Ryan as the first overall pick. Anyway, ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper did a conference call earlier this week in which he discussed that topic and others concerning the Dolphins.

What follows is a partial transcript of the call:

On the decision facing Bill Parcells concerning the first overall pick: “He has a decision to make initially about John Beck and if they don’t feel like John Beck’s the right guy moving forward with, then you look at Matt Ryan. I think Matt Ryan is the kind of quarterback that would fit what Bill wants. … You look at what Drew Bledsoe had coming out and you see some similarities there. I think the first question is, if John Beck’s not their guy, the first pick overall - where do you go? Had they drafted Brady Quinn last year -- the previous organization -- instead of Ted Ginn, then they wouldn’t be drafting Matt Ryan. Brady Quinn would’ve been their guy moving forward. But, the fact that they went Ted Ginn and then John Beck obviously puts them in a position that instead of utilizing that pick for another position, now they’re pretty much forced to take Matt Ryan.”

On the elite players in this draft: “If (John) Beck’s not the guy, (Miami) has to take Matt Ryan, but there are guys with equally as good a grade. Glenn Dorsey, (Darren) McFadden, Chris Long, Sedrick Ellis, Jake Long all have grades right in there with Matt Ryan. There are six guys that are a cut above the rest and those are the six.”

On what it will take the Falcons to move into the No. 1 spot: “Atlanta is going to have to give up pretty much everything they’ve got to get Matt Ryan. He means as much to Miami as he does to Atlanta.”

On LSU’s Glenn Dorsey: “When Dorsey is at full strength, he is a dominator. What I like about Dorsey is that he gives you that Ray Lewis mentality. He is so energized and football is all that matters. Everybody around him becomes better when he’s on the field. You saw him play through injuries when very few would have been out there playing. He went out there when most guys would have been in street clothes watching on the field. Dorsey is special in that sense – in his approach and attitude.”

On Arkansas Running Backs Darren McFadden and Felix Jones: “McFadden, I like his skill level. I like his talent. I like how he did against elite teams. I like his versatility. The question I have is that he had some fumbling issues this year. Ball security is critical in the NFL. That’s something he’s going to have to work on and something that showed up this year. He’s not the violent, aggressive runner that Adrian Peterson is, but not many running backs are. He’s not a tackle-breaker like Peterson – well, that’s not his forte. When you look at his all-around capabilities, he’s certainly worthy of being a top-five pick.”

“Felix Jones, same thing. He gives you the game-breaking capability. He’s not a guy who will carry the ball 25 times a game. Teams that want a feature back will not look at Felix Jones. They’ll look at McFadden or Mike Hart. He’s not a feature back. For Felix Jones, I think Tampa Bay would be a possibility because there he would be a compliment to what they have.”

On picking a running back high in the draft: “I would not move up to get a running back unless it was a case where you saw a guy drop significantly. Adrian Peterson was either the first, second or third guy on everybody’s board and he dropped down to seven. He dropped down to five and nobody did anything. He dropped down to six and nobody traded up to get him. He fell right to Minnesota who had a debate. When you see a Peterson drop to seven to trade up for a running back … you can find a running back in the fourth round as good as in the first. You can pick and choose other positions, but consistently in the NFL you can do that at running back."

On Michigan Offensive Tackle Jake Long: “He became a complete player this year. He was a great run-blocker, destructive run-blocker, a better run-blocker than Joe Thomas of Wisconsin was last year. The consensus opinion this year was, ‘Will he be the pass-blocker he needs to be to become a quality left-tackle in this league?’ He proved this year to be that. With his ability and aggressiveness, the team that would want him the most is Kansas City.”

On Potential NFL Starting Quarterbacks in this year’s Draft: “There are at least 12 quarterbacks that are going to have the chance to be starting quarterbacks at some point in their careers. Josh Johnson (University of San Diego) is one of them. He’s got to fill out a little bit, but he’s got talent. I think he’s the kind of guy in the fourth or fifth round you take a look at. (Andre) Woodson (University of Kentucky), I think that hitch at the top of his delivery, that slow release, causes concern. He’s got ideal size. He powers the ball to any point on the field. He works hard. That delivery is going to cause concern, but he didn’t finish strong either. I started dropping his grade in November. He’s in that second or third round mix. Other quarterbacks that are interesting are Caleb Hanie out of Colorado State … Joe Flacco out of Delaware is a second-round pick at worst.”

On Delaware quarterback Joe Flacco: “He’s very confident and he has that inner-competitiveness. When you talk to him, you can sense that he competes. With his physical tools, you look at him going in the late first or worst second round. Teams that are going to be thinking quarterback -- I think the Chicago Bears would be a perfect opportunity and a great spot for him. In Chicago you need someone who can cut through wind and play in those conditions. He flicks that wrist and the ball jumps off his hand. To me he’s got the best arm of any quarterback in this draft.”

On Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan: “That Sugar Bowl showed that he’s got to put on some weight. He’s got to get a little stronger and all that, maintain that weight right around 200 pounds, not be at 185-190. That’s the big thing, and the delivery is all over the place. The arm strength is decent. He’s borderline arm strength, but he’s okay, and he doesn’t have the great arm – good enough arm. He’s a guy you would say is definitely good enough. … He competes hard and there’s an awful lot to like about Colt Brennan. In the fifth or sixth round he’ll be a nice choice for somebody, but I think the days of thinking second or third round pretty much ended at the Sugar Bowl.”

A player to watch in this year’s draft: “Another kid that kind of gets lost in the shuffle is Chris Johnson at East Carolina. Keep an eye out for him in the second round. He can return kicks very effectively. He catches the ball downfield exceptionally well. … He moved from a fifth or sixth-rounder in the beginning of the season to second round. He’s a versatile kid with a lot of ability and someone you have to take a good hard look at.”

Pretty good stuff, huh? Your thoughts...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Marty Booker next to meet with Patriots

First it was Larry Izzo and Damon Huard all those years ago and that was a little annoying, especially when Izzo and Huard sent their former Dolphins teammates a picture of themselves holding their Super Bowl rings.

Then it was Heath Evans. Then it was Wes Welker. And Sammy Morris. Then yesterday the Patriots offer Zach Thomas a contract. And today the team is hosting Marty Booker on a free agent visit.

What is it with the Patriots and their apparent Dolphins infatuation?

Booker, who was cut eight days ago by the Dolphins, is visiting Foxboro this afternoon as that team sees whether he fits. The Chicago Bears are also apparently interested in Booker.

Booker, who caught 50 passes for 556 yards, didn't have a very good season in 2007. Who on the Dolphins did? But he does have a history of playing very well against the Patriots and that is perhaps one reason they are interested.

Booker has had three games in which he gained 100 yards against New England. he caught seven passes for 123 yards against the Pats on Oct. 10, 2004. He caught five passes for 102 yards on Nov. 13, 2005 and he had eight reception for 103 yards against New England on Dec. 10, 2006.

The Patriots have interest in receivers because they may soon cut Donte' Stallworth. Stallworth is due a $6 million bonus next week and another $2 million only days after that. It is very, very, very unlikely the Pats will pay those bonuses to keep Stallworth.

So the Patriots obviously want to see if Booker is a fit, particularly since catching passes from Tom Brady will make him a much better receiver than he ever was catching passes from Cleo Lemon or Trent Green or Sage Rosenfels, or Brian Griese or Daunte Culpepper or Gus Frerotte in Miami.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Bigtime news on Jason Taylor (sort of)

In keeping with the cutting-edge sports journalism that this blog offers on a consistent basis, I am now going to break a national story BEFORE it is on national television.

Jason Taylor. Remember him?

Informed sources tell me that Taylor, whose career with the Dolphins is teetering on the decision to keep him or trade him, will make national news in the coming months as a new member of Dancing with the Stars on ABC.

I cannot believe I just wrote this.

But it is true and the announcement will be made on ABC before tonight's Dance War show is over at 10 p.m.

So what do you think? Does JT do the Soulja Boy? Does he mambo or samba? Does he breakdance? Or does the man of the long, lanky legs simply flop like Jerry Rice, Clyde Drexler, and Emmitt Smith did?

The new season of Dancing with the Stars starts March 17. Interesting offseason conditioning program.

Oh, and by the way, tune into the announcement to see if Taylor finally comments on brother-in-law and longtime teammate Zach Thomas being cut by the Dolphins -- something that happened, you know, last week.

The Zach Thomas blog offers the latest on Zach

OK, here's the scoop on Zach Thomas and his visit to New England today:

It was a "great" visit according to agent Drew Rosenhaus and that must be the case considering the Patriots offered the linebacker a contract.

Thomas has not taken the deal and will visit the New Orleans Saints tomorrow as scheduled.

Meanwhile, the more I think about this, the harder it is to get my brain around the fact that the 1-15 Dolphins can simply discard Thomas but half a dozen other teams think enough of the player to try to sign him.

And ALL of those teams -- particularly New England -- have been a lot more proficient at making personnel decisions in recent years than the Dolphins. So what did the Dolphins know that New England, Buffalo, the New York Jets, New Orleans and Dallas not know?

I would say nothing.

Zach Thomas free agent tour starts in New England

Ready for the nightmare? Well, close your eyes and imagine Zach Thomas in a Patriots uniform.

Now open your eyes. Voila!!! Your nightmare is close to coming true.

Thomas will be in New England today to visit with the Patriots brass. The meeting will take place at Gillette Stadium.

It is no secret that Thomas has cast his eyes on playing for a winner and I can tell you that former Dolphins linebacker Larry Izzo, who is friends with Thomas and has played for the Patriots since 2001, has often told Thomas how great it is to be in Boston.

Thomas will probably have a physical and if that goes well -- meaning Thomas is indeed as healthy as he states -- I would not be suprised if this signing happens before the visit is over. The Patriots have a history of acting quickly on such matters and the fact they have moved ahead of New Orleans and Dallas on Thomas's itinerary speaks volumes.

Thomas was to meet with New Orleans on Tuesday and his agent was to speak with the Cowboys on Wednesday.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Zach Thomas says he's been preparing for this move

Just got off the phone with Zach Thomas who called to say good-bye and ask if I had any final questions for him.

He said the Dolphins didn't ask him to take a pay cut to stay so he had no choice but to accept his departure. He tells me he isn't exactly thrilled that he has to leave the Dolphins. "Anytime you're cut it's not great," he admitted.

But in the same breath, he is clearly excited about the new possibilities his career is about to offer. And, true to form, he's been preparing for the likelihood he would be playing somewhere else.

"Ever since the last game of the season, you know me, I've been breaking down the defenses on a bunch of teams to see which one fits me," Thomas said. "I broke down nine teams, all 16 of their games. I've had a lot of time on my hands, I guess, so I've been looking at three or four games a day. I've been seeing which defenses have needs to fill and I've got them all saved up on the computer."

Thomas said his agent Drew Rosenhaus has indeed been fielding phone calls from interested teams. Rosenhaus has mentioned New England, Indianapolis, San Diego and Dallas as teams that make sense for Thomas.

"There are a couple of others, too," Thomas said before declining to name them.

He said he's compiled a list of requisites for the teams he will look at: "It has to be a winning team first," he said. "I've got to fit the scheme. I'm looking at a team with group of good guys. I'm looking at the place because I will be living there. And I'm looking to see what their quarterback situation is because you need a good quarterback and a good offense to win."

Thomas had been considering retirement since the end of the season, but that is out of the question now given what he calls "being totally healthy."

"I'm not waking up with anchy joints," Thomas said. "Look, if my play had dropped last year and I was feeling wrong, I'd stop. But why do that when I can still play? I've been doing this since I was in third grade. It's been an important part of my life and I still feel I can play. So that's what I'm going to do. I know when to turn the page, but it's not time to turn the page yet."

Thomas wants to play but it won't be about money or being a star on his next team.

"I want to go somewhere and fit in," he said. "I want to go to a team that doesn't need me as much as I need them."

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Jason Taylor trade should be next

Now that the Dolphins have cut ties with Zach Thomas, it is time for the other shoe to drop.

It is time to trade Jason Taylor.

If the Dolphins can justify getting rid of Thoma because he will be 35 in September and his physical status is too uncertain and his trade value is practically non-existent, then they have to trade Taylor.


Because one move flows with the other. If you're cutting your losses of aging vets and building a younger team, you don't keep another aging vet especially if the possibility exists you can get something in return for him. That simply does not make sense.

That doesn't mean Taylor is in the same situation as Thomas. He has value where Thomas apparently had very little. But the Dolphins can't wait too long on this matter.

At 34 years old in September Taylor still has trade value now but may not next year. And Taylor's physical status is not in question now but may be a year from now.

Let's face it, even if all of Miami's offseason moves work as planned, the Dolphins will not be a Super Bowl or even playoff-caliber team in 2008. As one Dolphins official told me today, 10 years of ineptitude cannot be erased by one offseason of aptitude.

So even if everything goes well for the Dolphins in the next 12 months, Jason Taylor is still not going to help the team win a championship in 2008. So Miami has to take a wider view of this situation. The view has to include a year from now when Taylor is readying for his final contract season.

The market for a soon-to-be 35-year-old defensive end might not be very good -- certainly not as good as it might be this year for a soon-to-be-34-year-old. So why hold on to Taylor?

Please, somebody give a compelling reason to keep him.

Taylor would be happier elsewhere away from yet another Miami rebuilding project. The Dolphins will likely be better off without him dying a little bit every Sunday as the team continues to lose. And, again, getting something for a player is always better than getting NOTHING. And the Dolphins got NOTHING for Thomas and will get NOTHING for Taylor if they hold on to him too long.

Now, you might ask, what is the market for Jason Taylor? I have no idea. Last year an NFC North personnel man told me he could see some team giving up a third-round pick for Taylor. Some team might even give up a second-round pick. After all, the Chargers gave up a second for Chris Chambers.

If the Dolphins can pick up a second- or third-round pick for Taylor, that would give them five picks in the first three rounds of the coming draft. And that's one more player that should become a starter within two or three years in exchange for one player who will likely be out of the league in two or three years.

Do it!!!!

What's the other side of that coin? Well, maybe the Dolphins want to keep their best player so they can put a better product on the field. Sorry, that argument no longer has merit based on the fact they just cast out another one of their better players for NOTHING. [By the way, even the Chiefs got a fifth-round pick from Miami for Trent Green, who was 37 and coming off a concussion-shortened 2006.]

The point is it makes no sense for the Dolphins to simply cut Zach Thomas but keep Jason Taylor. Not when everyone knows the Dolphins aren't playoff-ready for 2008. Not when they can still get something for Taylor this year, but might not get anything in return for him next year.

Not when the first shoe dropped already.

Statement from Zach Thomas

The Dolphins have just released this statement from a very content Zach Thomas.

Why is he content? Let's see, he's escaping a team that was 1-15 last year and in rebuilding mode. He's going to play for a good team next year.

Why not be happy?

“I want to thank the entire organization, especially Mr. [Wayne] Huizenga, for making my 12 seasons with the Dolphins as memorable as they were,” Thomas said. “I also want to thank all the coaches and teammates that I’ve had during my career for helping me to grow both on and off the field. I have a tremendous appreciation and admiration not only for the Dolphins organization, but for the fans as well, for all of the support that they have given me. I can’t thank Bill Parcells, Jeff Ireland and the rest of Dolphins management enough for handling this situation in a first-class manner. I am healthy and look forward to playing in 2008, but will always consider myself a Miami Dolphin.”

Good luck Zach, just don't go to New England

I want to wish Zach Thomas all the best as he turns the final corner and heads for the wire of his NFL career.

The report from is true. He will be cut later today. As we speak the Dolphins are in meetings trying to figure out how to break this news to their fans without causing a general revolt.

Regardless of how the public relations part of this is handled -- and I believe it will be by no one actually making themselves available to answer questions because, you see, that's the Dolphins way now. It's called hiding behind a dictated and vague statement even when you're whacking one of the team's most popular and highly decorated players.

But I digress.

Here is my concern: I am told by a source close to Thomas that he is healthy and can and would like to play in 2008. But he wants to play for a Super Bowl caliber team. So what's the concern?

That he'll end up playing for New England.

Personally, I am sick and tired of watching players the Dolphins discard winding their way to New England and ballin' like there is no tomorrow. You saw it with Heath Evans, Wes Welker, Junior Seau and others. Unfortunately for the Dolphins, you might see it with Thomas also.

As you know the Patriots have uncertain linebacker issues, particularly with their inside linebackers. Seau is older than the moon and unsigned for the 2008 season. Tedy Bruschi is a couple of years younger than Seau, but similarly is unsigned. Thomas is better than either one of them.

Thomas is familiar to the Patriots because they've suffered at his hand for quite some time. That was Zach that knocked out a Patriots wide receiver in his first game in 1996. That was Thomas who studied Bruschi and then played better than Bruschi in 2005 when the Dolphins started running a 3-4 similar to the one the Pats run. And that is Zach who will get a big endorsement from Nick Saban when Bill Belichick asks his friend about the former linebacker.

So the pegs are in place for Thomas to leave South Florida. He will go only to a Super Bowl-caliber team. Unfortunately, it may be the team that has embarrassed the Dolphins in the past by picking up Miami discards and making them look like treasure.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Shockey and Johnson don't make sense for Dolphins

Google the names Chad Johnson and Jeremy Shockey and you get a lot of results involving those good players being involved in, or wanting, a trade. And while I might not doubt that Johnson wants out of Cincinnati and Shockey may eventually be headed out of New York, I have to stop Dolphins fans right there.

Because either of those two in South Florida in 2008 doesn't make a lot of sense. Maybe none.

Johnson has been rumored coming to the Dolphins ever since he made his desire to leave the Bengals pretty evident. I say that desire is evident because the front page of Johnson's personal website has a link to an story about Johnson being dealt. And I, being a serious investigative reporter, can read the tea leaves.

Johnson embraces the idea of being traded.

The fact Johnson is from Miami and was caught on camera apparently gesturing to Bill Parcells to phone him only fueled the Dolphins rumors.

But wait a minute here. Is Johnson a fit for the Dolphins?

If he wants to get out of Cincy because he wants to win, you think he's going to be happy in Miami? If he often complains that Carson Palmer doesn't always get him the ball enough, you think he'll be a fit with Miami's uncertain quarterback situation? If the Dolphins are rebuilding, you think the way to do it is giving up a valuable draft pick or draft picks for a 30-year-old player?

Tell me, please, which one of those ill-formed pieces fits a trade scenario to Miami? I would say none.

Then there is Shockey, who was last seen drinking in a University of Phoenix suite while the Giants won Super Bowl XLII. There is Shockey, who was noticeably absent from the Giants victory parade back in NY.

There are grumblings the Giants are willing to deal him because, frankly, qaurterback Eli Manning seemed more comfortable without the tight end in the huddle demanding the football during New York's playoff run. And one of the Giants' big plays of the Super Bowl was a 45-yard pass from Manning to Shockey standin Kevin Boss.

The Dolphins, in dire need of a solid tight end because David Martin was a flop last season, seem to be a fit right? After all, Shockey played at The U and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, is from South Florida and Shockey loves the area.

But wait a second, trade breath. The rebuilding Dolphins are going to give up what exactly for a Shockey? You think the Giants will give him up for a third round pick? Doubtful. You think the Dolphins will pay a second? Not for a player coming off a significant leg injury and perhaps his second least productive season, not for a player who has had two good seasons out of his six and those came in 2002 when he was a rookie and in 2005.

And certainly not for a player who once upon a time referred to Dolphins vice president of everything football Bill Parcells as a, "the homo," in a 2003 New York Magazine article. In that article, Shockey said, "Parcells is not my kinda guy."

Well, if one looks dispassionately at both Shockey and Johnson, and understands the Dolphins are not in the best position to make either fit right now, it should cool the talk about landing the two players.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Axe drops on four former starting players today

In case anyone forgot how drastic a change the Dolphins are undergoing following the worst season in franchise history, the point was made anew Monday when the team cut nine players, including four veteran starters.

The Dolphins have just terminated the contracts of wide receiver Marty Booker, quarterback Trent Green, tackle L.J. Shelton and defensive tackle Keith Traylor. All were starters during the 2007 season.

The team also waived tackle Anthony Alabi, defensive tackle Anthony Bryant, tackle Marion Dukes, defensive tackle Marquay Love and offensive tackle Joe Toledo. All of those players were backups, in Alabi’s case, or project players who had yet to establish themselves.

“This is never easy, especially since all of these players worked hard during their tenure here,” Dolphins General Manager Jeff Ireland said in a statement. “In particular, in the case of each of the veterans, it’s especially difficult to release players who have been productive and valued members of the organization. However, we feel these decisions are in the best interest of the team.

“I want to thank all of them for their contributions to the Dolphins and wish them good luck.”

By some quick math, today's moves slice around $13.07 million off the books in scheduled 2008 base salary alone, but because there will be proration charges on bonuses paid to Green, Shelton, Traylor, Toledo, Alabi and Booker that will accelarate to this year, the actual savings to the cap will be more in the neighborhood of $9 million.

On the Green contract alone, the Dolphins are saving good money. Green was to make $2.8 million in base salary this season. He was scheduled to collect a $500,000 roster bonus by the end of this month and a $100,000 workout bonus later this offseason. His cap charge was to be $3.73 million.

Well, the base salary goes away, as does the roster and workout bonus. The Dolphins are on the hook for $667,000 in prorated signing bonus charge. So they save $3.063 million on Green alone.

Marty Booker signed a 7-year, $28 million contract in 2002. The contract's last year was to be 2008 when Booker was due $4.3 million in base salary. He doesn't get that now but the final year of proration for the signing bonus is still on the books. So the Dolphins save approximately $3.5 million on Booker.

For Shelton, the savings is not quite so spectacular because he still had two years remaining on his four year contract. Shelton signed that four-year, $15 million deal in 2006. Although the Dolphins don't have to pay him the $3 million due in base salary this year, they have to pay approximately $1.75 million as the accelarated proration for the $3.5 million signing bonus Shelton collected. That means a savings of $3 million but the proration charge of $1.75 million equals a savings of about $1.25 million for Shelton.

By the way, I asked the Dolphins to help with these important numbers because, after all, accuracy is important and the entire NFL sees them anyway so there is no competitive advantage or disadvantage involved. But I haven't heard back on that as of this writing.

Former assistants' migration to Dallas continues

The Dallas Cowboys and former Dolphins secondary coach Brett Maxie are close to finalizing a deal that will continue the migration of fired Miami coaches to Dallas.

Maxie was with the Dolphins only one season. He was fired along with practically every other coach on Cam Cameron's staff following the 2007 season. Maxie coached in Atlanta prior to coming to Miami.

The Cowboys already hired former Dolphins offensive line coach Hudson Houck and recently were talking to former Dolphins defensive coordinator Dom Capers.

Todd Archer and Calvin Watkins, of the Dallas Morning News, reported this morning that Capers is not going to end up in Dallas when it is all said and done.

So for the time being, Capers and his hefty salary of approximately $2.2 million per year will remain on the Dolphins' books.

Interesting that when he was fired as Houston's head coach, Capers held out hope he could land a head coach job elsewhere. He didn't. Now that he was coordinator of a defense that went from No. 4 in the NFL to No. 23 overall and No. 30 in points allowed, he is still trying to land an defensive coordinator role.

The Cowboys were apparently unwilling to displace Brian Stewart from the defensive coordinator job in Dallas.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Let's talk on radio Sunday 3-5:30 p.m.

Because you knuckleheads always accuse me of making it all about me, let me feed the machine a little bit.

I'll be on the radio between 3-5:30 Sunday afternoon on 790 The Ticket here in South Florida. Feel free to tune in either on the radio or online at You can also call in to the toll free line at 1-888-790-3776 and we can talk or you can leave questions or comments in the comments section below and, if they're not filled with expletives, I'll read them on the air and answer.

If on the other hand you think I suck, feel free to listen and call in anyway because it apparently doesn't keep anyone from visiting this blog.

It'll be all in fun folks.

Hey, did I happen to mention this blog got a record 153,377 visitors last month?

Friday, February 08, 2008

Sparano availability short on news

My apologies for not getting new stuff up sooner, but I've been under the weather since getting back to South Florida from Phoenix.

Anyway, you guys should know that Tony Sparano talked to the media Thursday and basically, didn't say a whole lot that was interesting. I must say that, with all due respect for my media peers, they didn't seem to ask some of the important questions.

No one apparantly asked for a health update on Ronnie Brown or Yeremiah Bell or Ricky Williams.

No one apparently asked Sparano if he wants to keep Williams on the roster. No one asked what happened that Giants quarterback coach Chris Palmer was not included in the offensive coordinator search.

No one apparently asked if Zach Thomas has overcome his post-concussion headaches yet. No one apparently asked what philosophy the team will use for rebuillding -- to rebuild with youth and stay away from high-priced, older free agents, or to dive right in and try to get things rebuilt ASAP by signing 31-, 32-, and 33-year-old vets as well as drafting rookies.

And if the answer to the last question is the Dolphins are going young, someone should have asked the reason the Dolphins have reportedly reached out to 37-year-old Trent Greent?

Oh well.

Below is the complete transcript of the Sparano availability. I'm sorry I missed it.

(Opening statement) – “I just wanted to get a chance to visit with you a little bit and talk about our staff. I’m really excited about the group of people that we’ve put together here. We finally completed the staff early in this week here when we hired Dan Henning. It’s completed and we’re excited about it. We have some great teachers here for these guys and I think something that will really help us to be a lot better football team here as we get on. There wasn’t one guy when we got into this process that we weren’t excited about and tickled to death to have. We’re really happy that they’re here and we’ve hit the ground running and we’re moving right now with meetings and all those things, personnel-wise. It’s been really positive for us that way. That’s what we’re talking about.”

(On why he chose Paul Pasqualoni as defensive coordinator) – “Obviously, Paul Pasqualoni, my defensive coordinator, is someone that I’m very familiar with. He has a great deal of experience, but, more importantly, I really respect what Paul stands for and I know the strengths that he’ll bring to our football team, and that will be the discipline end of things. There won’t be any detail that will go undone that way with Paul and those are all really positives for us. He had a great group of guys in Dallas that he got to play really well for him. His players like playing for him and they like that relationship because he’s straight-forward and he’s been honest with them all along the way. I think that’s been really positive, to get Paul and to get his experience.”

(On why he chose Dan Henning as offensive coordinator) – “Dan Henning is on a different side of this thing. His experience that he brings to the table – not only for the team and the players, offensively, but even for me – this guy has been a head coach a few times and it gives me a great opportunity, a sounding board to kind of bounce things off of a little bit too. It’s been helpful that way. Getting a coach like Dan, and Paul (Pasqualoni), two coaches that way, to be able to come into this building to help our players, with the experience they have and the way that they form relationships with the players along the way, I think are really positives. That way there, you’re not trying to coach the coach, so-to-speak. These guys have done it. They’ve been in some of these battles before, and it will be a little bit easier for us.”

(On Dan Henning’s reputation for being able to turn around struggling offenses) – “I think, obviously, you’re exactly right. He’s been in some of these situations before. When you look at where they were with the Jets, or when they went into Carolina, that situation wasn’t a great situation when he went into Carolina, and there was a lot that had to be done. We’re in that situation right now. We know the amount of work that has to be done right now. We know that. We know the challenges. I think the great thing about Dan Henning, where he is in his career, is that he’s excited about the challenge. He’s ready to dive in.

One of the things he said to me is he said, ‘Tony, I can’t feel my feet hitting the floor right now. I’m walking on air. This is great.’ To see that kind of enthusiasm and excitement come out of somebody that’s in our program and our family right now excites me. I think he does have a reputation of fixing things and helping quarterbacks and those types of things. He is very knowledgeable that way. The receiver end of things right now, he sees the wide receiver position a lot different than most and can be really critical of that position and help the players in that position. We have young players in some of those situations, so that’s going to be helpful for us, to bring that kind of experience to the younger players.”

(On if Dan Henning will call the team’s plays) – “Yeah, Dan is going to call the plays.”

(On what Mike Maser brings to the position of offensive line coach) – “He brings an intensity to the staff and to the group that I think is important. What I love about Mike Maser is his expectation is to be an offensive line coach, to be the best offensive line coach he can be. That’s what I love about him. I didn’t want to hire me as the offensive line coach. What I mean by that is I didn’t want to hire this guy that wanted to be the head coach or wants to be the coordinator. I felt like our offensive line needed to have a coach that would just put himself in a room and want to coach five guys and have a little bit of tunnel vision that way, and Mike Maser is that kind of guy. He wants to coach the five guys he has. That’s really what he wants to do and help them to be better in any way we can. I think that’s critical, right now, to our success.”

(On how similar what he looks for from an offensive line is to what Mike Maser looks for from an offensive line) – “Very similar in that way; Maze (Mike Maser) is his own guy and he’s been doing this, in some situations, even a lot longer than I have with the offensive line. I’ve been in a room with Maze before in Jacksonville. We coached together. He and I have a great relationship that way, so I know exactly what he brings to the table. He really does look for a lot of the same things that I look for. That’s one of the reasons that he’s here. Make no mistake about it, myself, Jeff Ireland, Bill Parcells, Brian Gaine, we all have pretty good ideas of what it is that we’re looking for and for the people that we hired we felt like that would be important, and Mike (Maser) is one of those pieces. He knows exactly what we’re looking for that way and shares my philosophy.”

(On what else he has done other than the hire of assistant coaches) – “Honestly, what we did is once we got the staff together, and really waiting for Dan (Henning) was the last piece, getting Dan in here, but prior to that we really spent a lot of time just watching our players and watching what we do. I’m really not concerned about the other things right now. Bill (Parcells), Jeff (Ireland), they can handle that part of this right now, meaning the draft and free agency and all those things. Right now the most important thing to me was to see what we had in house and evaluate our personnel as we go along doing that. We’re still in the process of doing that right now. With Dan on board, we’re still in the process of getting in there and watching our guys, watching all the tape to make sure that we do a thorough evaluation of each area.”

(On what he has learned from viewing film from last season) – “Just that there were a lot of young players and injuries last year that had a lot to do with what happened to this football team, obviously. Whenever you have as many guys as they had, as we had, I should say, on the injury list that takes its toll. As an example, I sat here at 10 o’clock at night watching six or seven special teams games. At times running down the field there is a different number every game. Almost every other play there is different people running down there. It’s hard to grab one or two guys and say ‘This guy played 15 games and he did this really well.’ We’re having to go back even to the preseason to watch some of this tape. That’s kind of what I see. I see a young football team in a lot of situations out there because of injuries and those types of things. Right now, that’s what we see.”

(On how he interacts with Bill Parcells and Jeff Ireland on a daily basis) – “Because of the relationship it’s walking into each other’s offices at different times. That’s the way it is. Jeff will come into my office anytime. I can go into Jeff’s office. I can go to Bill and Bill can come to me; any of those kind of situations. It’s really very open that way, and it’s been great. Everything that I expected when I came here I know that I’m getting right now. I enjoy both of them. I enjoy working with both of them, and I think they feel the same way. We have an open relationship that way so it’s good for us to be able to talk and communicate every day, and that’s important.”

(On if he has had an opportunity to speak with players) – “I’ve spoken to a lot of players. I had sit-downs with several of them. Not so much direction or any of those things, it was more me getting to know them and them getting to know me, and a little bit about what I expect and what I’m looking for that way, and me kind of hearing them a little bit, too. I’m not going to go into detail about that. That is between me and our players right now. More importantly, they were positive meetings that took place.

I met with Jason (Taylor). In fact, Jason Taylor was the first person to come up and visit with me right after the press conference, which told me an awful lot. It told me how much he cares about the Miami Dolphins, and it sent a really good message to me. I thought that was important. I’ve met with Jason, I’ve met with Zach (Thomas) and I’ve met with several of the players right now. My coaches have reached out to them as well. I thought it was important that we contacted them and we had visits with them on the phone and had a chance to introduce ourselves and say, ‘This is what I am, and this is what I’m all about,’ and hear from them as well. That is done, or is being done, as we speak.”

(On why there was a delay in hiring an offensive coordinator) – “What it was was just me really having the opportunity to get a chance to think about where we needed to go with that position. I’m an offensive guy, but at the same time, I know that the responsibility from my end needs to be to see the big picture of this football team. I’m not going to stick myself in the room and be an offensive coach or go over and be a defensive coach. I need to be able to touch Jason Taylor, to be able to touch Will Allen, and yet, at the same time, to be able to get over there on the offensive end and help Ted Ginn out if I need to. That is important for me that way. I needed to find the right piece, so it took me a little longer, because it was an offensive position. I knew Paul Pasqualoni was a guy I thought an awful lot about. I knew of Dan Henning, but didn’t know Dan Henning, personally, that way. When Dan came in, we visited and we had great talks. Dan and I visited for about eight or nine hours and sat down and talked about a lot of things. It was so positive that at the end of it, I knew this was the guy that we want. That’s why it took so long.”

(On if Pete Carmichael, Jr. was offered the offensive coordinator job) – “No, there were no job offers that way at all. Dan Henning was offered the job.”

(On the process used to pursue Pete Carmichael, Jr.) – “There was no process. At the end of the day, Dan Henning was the guy that got the job.”

(On Karl Dorrell choosing to accept the position of wide receivers coach) – “What’s interesting is that Karl Dorrell, our relationship started in Oxnard, Calif. We were practicing out there when I was with the Cowboys and, quite honestly, Karl came out with his staff to practice. He really met Bill (Parcells) at the time and kind of visited with Bill a little bit. Then Karl was around and we got a chance to visit, ourselves. We were right in the middle of camp, but we spent a little bit of time that way. More importantly with Karl, and this was a big factor, he’s seen how things were done. What he wanted to be a part of was the way that we do things, and the way that we’ve gone about doing things. I think that from practice to the evaluation of players – all the things that he’s heard about or he got a chance to see when he was out there on the practice field. Our interaction with our players, the way we practice and all of those things are kind of what, I think, excited him about this opportunity. You’re right, he did have a lot of opportunities and we’re lucky to have him. He’s a good coach.”

(On if he can shed light regarding Zach Thomas’ future with the team) – “Right now, we haven’t evaluated any of those situations. Every player that is here is on our team, and we’re doing what we have to do that way. We’re still in the evaluation process right now of going through any of this. We have not sat down and talked about that at all.”

(On the dangers associated with having everyone on the coaching staff familiar with his method) – “At the end of this whole process, when I look at our staff, George Edwards is really not part of that process. He’s just a good football coach that we all know is a good football coach, and we retained him. For us, it’s a win. James Saxon is not part of the process from Kansas City, but what I know is that he’s had some great running backs out there and has done an outstanding job with a lot of those players. Karl Dorrell is not really part of the process. When I say this to you, I mean that he was out at practice for two days. He just got a chance to see what we were all about that way. Jim Reid is not really part of the process. We were able to hire four or five guys. Luckily, a couple guys I worked with in Dallas and, at the same time, some coaches that I’ve been familiar with myself, like Mike Maser that I’ve been in a room with, and that starts a little bit of the core of the staff, which is important. You have to be in there able to talk the same language. But these coaches have all been out with other people, and I think that’s important. They’ve been out with other people, seen other things and they bring great ideas to the table – James from Kansas City, Karl from his background and being with Denver, and that type of situation, and Jim Reid. I used to go watch George DeLeone clinic as a coach, as a young coach, and listen to him clinic. Now I have this guy as a piece in my room coaching the tight ends. I know that tight end is getting coached. I know it. It’s been good to get those ideas. We wanted idea people. What we didn’t want to hire is guys who are just “yes men” that shake their head “yes” in the room. We wanted to bring idea people into the room. We have idea people. I feel like our staff is full of knowledge right now to be able to help these players.”

(On hiring coaches who understand his method) – “I think that’s important. I think that if they understand the method, at the end of this we have a vision and we know where we want to head, and that’s important. In most cases, I think there are several of them there that also have to understand that.”

(On if it is more important for him to be liked or respected by the players) – “It’s more important to me to be respected. It doesn’t have anything to do with liked. That doesn’t really matter to me one way or another. At the end of this, I know that if I do my job, and I do my job well, that our players will respect what I do. They’ll respect it as long as I do my job well. I’ve got to hold up my end of the bargain, and I will.”

(On if he can provide a thumbnail of how he envisions his offense and defense) – “This is as honest as I can be with this question. Right now, we really don’t have an idea one way or the other of what direction we’re heading. What I told you in the press conference, and I believe this, is that our system needs to fit our players. Our players don’t have to fit our system, so that’s important right now. We need to make the system fit the players. In this evaluation that is taking place right – and this isn’t a one-day thing, so I can’t give you the answer that you’re looking for right now – we’re watching 16 games of film, all sides of the ball, going back to possibly last year on some guys and also watching preseason tape. That is how thorough that we’re doing this. When we finish that process, we’ll know the answer. We’ll know this is what we can be because of the people that we have right now. That’s the best way I can answer that question. That is where we are.”

(On how he would handle having a team suited for playing 4-3 defense when he ideally wants to play 3-4 defense) – “I don’t, ideally, rather play either/or right now. I want to play what it is that our personnel dictates us to be able to play. When I look at our personnel and we get a clear evaluation of that at the end, we’ll figure out what it is that we’re going to play. Obviously, we have exposure in both systems right now, and so do the players here, from that standpoint. They’ve been involved in 3-4, and they’ve been involved in 4-3. We really need to identify the pieces that are in place right now that way. As far as my philosophy goes, my philosophy is one thing. It is something that you wish for and something that you hope for maybe. At the end of this, we have to do what’s best for our people here and for the Miami Dolphins. That is going to be predicated on the rest of this evaluation as it goes on.”

(On the types of players he is looking for) – “Smart, tough, disciplined players. Smart, tough, disciplined players, with ‘discipline’ being the key word probably.”

Monday, February 04, 2008

Henning named Dolphins offensive coordinator

Dan Henning, a veteran of 28 seasons as an NFL coach, is the Dolphins new offensive coordinator beating out a group of three other experienced and well qualified candidates.

Henning, most recently the offensive coordinator with the Carolina Panthers from 2002-06, gets the job ahead of New Orleans quarterback coach Pete Carmichael, Giants quarterback coach Chris Palmer and former Atlanta offensive coordinator Hue Jackson.

I told you last week that neither Palmer nor Carmichael were getting the job.

Instead it will be Henning, who embarks on his second stint with the Dolphins, having served as the team’s quarterbacks and receivers coach from 1979-80 under Don Shula.

In Henning’s five-year stay with the Panthers, the team advanced to the NFC Championship game twice, including one year in which they went on to play in the Super Bowl (2003). Quarterback Jake Delhomme, who entered the league as an undrafted college free agent in 1997, became a full-time starter for the first time in 2003.

Under Henning’s guidance he gradually became one of the NFL’s top signal callers, having been selected to the NFC Pro Bowl squad in 2005. In addition, from 2003-06 Delhomme tossed 89 touchdown passes, the fifth-highest total in the NFL over this time. Overall in Henning’s five seasons leading the Panthers’ offense, six different offensive players made a total of eight Pro Bowl appearances, including four skilled position players in RB Stephen Davis (2003), WR Muhsin Muhammad (2004), Delhomme (2005) and WR Steve Smith (2005, 2006) The 2005 squad scored 391 points, the third-highest total in the NFC that year and the second-highest figure in the 13-year history of the Panthers franchise.

This season finally gives Dolphins something to be proud of

I know most of you are Dolphins fans, which makes sense because this is a Dolphins blog. But I haven't understood how lately, as the Patriots have been making their run toward 19-0 and I have written about the 1972 Dolphins, some of you have expressed sentiments against the geezers.

A lot of you joined the chorus of folks calling them grumpy old men. A lot of you wanted them to simply go away. A lot of you wanted the Pats to win them all so you wouldn't have to hear or read about the '72 Dolphins anymore.

I hope that feeling was fleeting. I hope that feeling is gone.

During tonight's Super Bowl I found myself rooting for the Giants simply because I wanted the Pats to lose and, in doing, keeping unique the Dolphins' claim on perfection.

I found myself rooting for the 1972 Dolphins even though they weren't playing. I found myself appreciating what those guys did 35 years ago. And it made me proud that I'm from South Florida and, regardless of how troubled today's Dolphins are, I feel proud that we still have the team from yesteryear to represent us.

Congratulations to the Giants, yes. But we should extend a hearty congratulations to the 1972 Dolphins also.

There will be a ticker tape parade in New York. How about a party for the '72 guys at Dolphin Stadium? And yes, how about popping one bottle of champagne at the affair?

Anyway, here are some of the comments from those members of the 1972 team that represented South Florida so well years ago and continue to do so now:

Mercury Morris: "When this kid scored, a tear came into my eye ... I'm very humbled at what the Giants were able to do as underdogs, realizing that on any given Sunday, anybody can beat anybody else -- except in 1972."

Don Shula: "The Patriots had a great season, but it shows just how difficult it is to go undefeated. Our players and our fans feel that much more proud of our accomplishment. Look at how good New England is -- 18-0. And they had the lead late in the fourth quarter in this game and that could have been 19-0, surpassing our 17-0 season. But New York hung in there and you really have to give that football team and that coaching staff credit and I know their fans are very proud."

Jim Kiick: "Obviously, we're proud to still be the only undefeated team in the history of the National Football League. We're proud of it. Why shouldn't we be? We never were against the New England Patriots. We have our accomplishments. We're not comparing ourselves to anyone else from other generations. We're happy with our own accomplishments. The Patriots are a great football team. Unfortunately, they didn't win the Super Bowl."

Jim Mandich: "The drive Eli [Manning] put together at the end of the game will go down in Super Bowl history as one of the great drives ever. As for the 1972 Miami Dolphins, I don't take joy in the fact the Patriots lost. Period. But I do relish and savor the fact that there has only been one unbeaten team in the history of the NFL, and it is the 1972 Miami Dolphins. Of that, I am extremely proud."

And he shouldn't be alone Dolphins nation. Not at all.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Jason Taylor to win Walter Payton award

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Defensive end Jason Taylor will be named the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year by halftime of today's game, The Miami Herald has learned.

Taylor, who has spent countless hours of work on his Jason Taylor Foundation, will win the award named for the legendary Chicago Bears running back, who died in 1999. Taylor beat out Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward, Kansas City Chiefs guard Brian Waters and Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten.

The Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award is the only league award that recognizes a player’s off-the-field community service as well as his playing excellence.

Taylor joins Dan Marino (1998) and Dwight Stephenson (1985) as former Dolphins players to win the award.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

What Bill Parcells is telling his peeps

PHOENIX -- Super Bowl week is a great time for meeting and greeting and I have been blessed to bump into several respected NFL people this week that invariably start talking about Bill Parcells.

Miami's football czar is trying to play Houdini -- not talking to guys like me about Dolphins issues and acting like he has nothing to do with what's going on with the Dolphins -- but the entire NFL knows this rebuilding job isn't Jeff Ireland's or Tony Sparano's but, rather, belongs to Bill Parcells.

A couple of men have told me they talk to Parcells at least once, sometimes twice every couple of weeks and this is the message he's giving them: "You know he always plays poor man," said one longtime NFL man. "He's always moaning about his teams. But the difference lately is you really believe him because of the situation with the Dolphins."

So Parcells is telling folks the Dolphins are bad. That is not a revelation. But this is:

"I talked to him a week or two ago and he was telling me he has only three or four players down there," another NFL legend said. "He believes he's got a punter [Brandon Fields], he's got a center [Samson Satele], he's got Ted Ginn, and maybe he's got a running back if Ronnie Brown gets back to being the guy he was early last year. But even Brown he's not really counting on."

Is that it? No Jason Taylor, no Zach Thomas, no John Beck, no Yeremiah Bell, no Vernon Carey, no Paul Soliai, no Channing Crowder nor Joey Porter?

"Nope," the man said. "That's it. He doesn't mention those other guys."

Understand I am not telling you these men's names because that would be bad for all of us. If I identify them, Parcells won't tell them anything anymore, then they won't have anything to tell me, and I won't be telling you.

But I believe this is interesting insight into several things:

First, Parcells now has a complete grasp of how desperate and dire the situation is in Miami. Nick Saban didn't come to grips with that until his second season in Miami, which I believe is one of several reasons he bugged out. Sure, his wife didn't like South Florida and he didn't enjoy coaching professionals as much as college players. But if Saban had looked around and seen a rosy future for his Dolphins, a light at the end of the tunnel, I think he would have stuck it out.

Parcells is seeing already exactly how dark that Dolphins tunnel.

Secondly, Parcells is obviously not counting on vets such as Taylor, Thomas or even the 31-year-old Porter as being part of the Dolphins when, and if, they become a good team again.

Finally, the comments tell me Parcells thinks the past regime did OK in acquiring Ginn and Satele and, amazingly, even Fields. But he apparently wasn't encouraged by what he saw out of Beck, which I guess is understandable.

And that tells me the Dolphins will be quarterback shopping bigtime this offseason.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Ultimately, fans will pay for management's mistakes

The Dolphins have recently undergone some cost-cutting measures and even had a hiring freeze not too long ago, but costs of operating the team still have gone up substantially.

The fact is Wayne Huizenga has had to dig deeper into his pockets than ever to pay for what amounts to his own mistakes. In the last month alone, he has had to swallow the cost of hiring Bill Parcells, Jeff Ireland, Tony Sparano and a new coaching staff even as he's had to accept paying off the contracts of Cam Cameron, Randy Mueller, and the old coaching staff that included a high-priced and underperforming Dom Capers.

Some of the costs of paying off those fired people will be subsidized when the folks that were fired get new jobs. This already happened with Cameron. But the Dolphins still have to make up the difference between what those men were scheduled to make in Miami and what they are actually making at their new jobs.

So Huizenga and his leadership staff have cost the Dolphins money by hiring people they eventually had to fire -- in other words the wrong people, the people that didn't get the job done.

And why should you care that the billionaire owner's cost of doing business is higher?

Because some of the higher costs the Dolphins have heaped upon themselves by making bad decisions will almost certainly be passed along to ticket buyers.

The Dolphins today announced that 2008 season ticket prices will remain the same as 2007 for current season ticket holders. But that is only for now.

Season ticket holders will receive a renewal package in the coming weeks informing them that their ticket prices will not be increasing for the 2008 season if they purchase their renewals prior to May. New season ticket purchasers will also benefit from the price freeze.

But fans that purchase season tickets after May 9th will likely pay higher prices than in 2007 despite the fact the Dolphins last year were the worst team in the NFL.

Why? Well, because the cost of doing business is going up every year and ticket prices have to rise to meet at least part of those rising costs. But also, unfortunately for Miami fans, because Miami's burden is greater than most teams based on the substantial debt it incurred by hiring people that didn't work out.