Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Lance Briggs to Dolphins? Don't bet on it.

Earlier this week, Peter King of Sports Illustrated wrote an article about the Dolphins' recent cuts and how the team should have close to $40 million in cap space this offseason. In said article, Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs is the first potential big-name free agent King mentions, and there is even a picture of Briggs at the top of the page with a caption that reads: "Bill Parcells and the Dolphins have the money to land a marquee free agent like Lance Briggs."

While true the Dolphins will have the money to land a high-priced free agent on Briggs' level, my advice to Dolphins fans would be to not get your hopes up about that free agent being Briggs himself.

Briggs, 27, has spent his entire five-year in Chicago's Cover 2 system and has thrived. But as I've said repeatedly this offseason, all indications are Miami is converting from the 4-3 defense to the 3-4. In such a defense, the 240-pound Briggs would almost certainly move inside. It would be a very different thing for Briggs, and it'd be a change that would not benefit him.

But don't take my word for it. Take a look at how Briggs himself feels about the prospect of playing in the 3-4. The following is an excerpt from a Boston Globe article from just over a year ago.
"The 3-4 is a whole different scheme," he said, noting that he played in the middle of a 3-4 at the University of Arizona.

Asked if he liked playing in that scheme, he said: "Not really."

Briggs believes he's a good fit in the Bears' scheme, which is a 4-3 that features smaller, athletic players.

"It allows me to play ball, the weakside position in this defensive scheme, you're

kind of called on to make play after play after play," he said. "When Lovie [Smith] came here, he said 'I want you to play the weakside, I want you to be the Derrick Brooks of this defense.' In this defense, you are relied to make play after play."

Asked how that would transfer to a 3-4, playing inside linebacker, he said: "Not real well."

The full article can be found here. It is a blog entry by Globe journalist Mike Reiss, who in my experience is one of the sports writers that is most on top of things. Even if he does cover the most evil team ever.

The point is, there is more to signing free agents than simply matching up a player with a team that has cap space. Briggs is a good player, but a player more suited for a system that the Dolphins will not be running. He is not a prototypical 3-4 linebacker because it is not a scheme that utilizes his strengths, and as you've clearly read he does not seem too keen on the idea of playing in it either. Briggs is a free agent that can go anywhere he wants, and as one of the top players in his position will have plenty of options that will all pay him handsomely.

The Dolphins do not need Briggs, and Briggs does not need the Dolphins. That is why you should not expect to see him in aqua and orange come September, and why you shouldn't necessarily be bummed about it, either.