Thursday, February 26, 2009

My 2009 Offseason Plan

Free agency officially begins at midnight (EST) tonight, but the Dolphins have already had themselves quite an offseason.

They added two-time CFL defensive MVP Cameron Wake. They signed safety Gibril Wilson to man the free safety spot. They re-signed three key pieces of their starting lineup in Yeremiah Bell, Vernon Carey and Channing Crowder. All this before free agency and the draft have taken place.

So what’s next for the Dolphins in the coming months? Only Bill Parcells & Co. know for certain, but there’s no harm in speculating, is there?

But I’m going to go a little farther than speculation. In the following article, I will outline my plan for the Dolphins this offseason. I cover everything from re-signings, to free agent signings, to the draft, to cuts and trades to get back below the offseason roster limit.

My goal here is not simply to list a bunch of superstars I want the Dolphins to sign. Rather, this is what I would consider a realistic yet very productive offseason that would put the Dolphins in position to continue to build on the success they achieved in 2008. Enjoy.

Unrestricted Free Agents
Re-Sign: CB Andre’ Goodman – A career-high five interceptions doesn’t even begin to tell the story of Goodman’s 2008 season. He was absolutely a shutdown corner in the second half and proved to be quality starter. While his performance last season could earn him more dollars than the Dolphins are willing to match, the team would be wise to at least inquire about bringing him back as a starter in 2009, before moving him to the nickel position a few years down the line.

Don’t Re-Sign: FS Renaldo Hill, C Al Johnson, WR Tab Perry, LB Derek Smith – I would have been in favor of re-signing Hill as a short-term starter/veteran backup before the Gibril Wilson signing, but now there is simply no need for him. Johnson and Perry both have a long injury history, while the 34-year-old Smith is clearly at the end of his road.

Exclusive-Rights Free Agents
Re-Sign: OG Ike Ndukwe – While not really starting NFL material, Ndukwe has starting experience, great size and the versatility to play all five positions across the line. He’d cost next-to-nothing to bring back to compete for a backup job.

Don’t Re-Sign: TE Aaron Halterman, OLB Quentin Moses – The team has no need for Halterman at tight end, while there are simply too many young outside linebackers on the team (Wake, Walden, George) to justify bringing back the continually-disappointing Moses.

Free Agency
Sign: Ravens C/G Jason Brown – The Dolphins weren’t happy with Samson Satele’s work in 2008 and Brown would be a perfect fit. There appears to be mutual interest, and the 25-year-old mauler could start at either center or guard.

Sign: Steelers CB Bryant McFadden – As good as Andre’ Goodman was in 2008, he’s getting up there in years and probably doesn’t have more than a few years of starting left in him. The talented 27-year-old McFadden could step right into the starting lineup and would push Goodman to the nickel spot, where he would excel.

Sign: Jets WR Laveranues Coles – The Dolphins need a veteran receiver among the youth, and who better than a former Pro Bowler and one of Chad Pennington’s closest friends? Signing Coles to a short-team contract worth $3-4 million per year would be absolutely ideal for all parties involved.

Sign: Titans OT Daniel Loper – A fifth-round pick out of Texas Tech in 2005, Loper has been backing up two very talented tackles in Michael Roos and David Stewart. Loper should come fairly cheap and could provide great depth at both tackle and guard positions.

Sign: Titans CB/KR/PR Chris Carr – The Dolphins clearly want Ted Ginn, Jr. to focus on offense and Davone Bess isn’t anything special on punt returns. Carr is a quality return specialist who can also contribute as a dime back.

2009 NFL Draft
1: ILB Brian Cushing, Southern California – The Dolphins may have re-signed Crowder, but Akin Ayodele will be 30 in 2009 and has a high cap hit each of the next two seasons. A strong, athletic tackler, Cushing could be groomed behind Crowde and Ayodele and be ready to start alongside Crowder in 2010. He also has the talent to play outside and the Dolphins are still looking to upgrade their pass rush.

2a: CB Sean Smith, Utah – A quick corner with great size (6-3, 205), Smith would be a good addition to the secondary and could be groomed as a starter behind Will Allen, Bryant McFadden and Andre’ Goodman.

2b: OLB Michael Johnson, Georgia Tech –A Top-10 talent who is very inconsistent, Johnson is worth taking a flyer on in the second round and developing as an outside pass rusher. The 6-foot-7, 260-pound Johnson has the speed and athleticism to be a pass-rushing specialist.

3: WR Ramses Barden, Cal Poly – The Dolphins signed Ernest Wilford last offseason to be the big, possession guy complementing Ted Ginn, Jr. in the starting lineup. That turned out to be a bust, but drafting Barden would more than make up for it. Barden has rare size (6-6, 230), great hands and surprisingly good speed (4.5 in the forty).

4: RB Arian Foster, Tennessee – Ricky Williams probably doesn’t have many years left, so drafting a solid backup behind Ronnie Brown would be a wise move. Foster is a powerful runner with good speed who absolutely has the talent to one day start in the NFL.

5: NT Sammie Lee Hill, Stillman – Prototypical nose tackles are hard to find and this small school product fits the bill. The 6-foot-4, 330-pound Hill would be a great project to groom behind aging veteran Jason Ferguson.

7a: SS Trimane Goddard, South Carolina – An underrated ballhawk, Goddard would play special teams initially but could also be groomed as the eventual replacement to Yeremiah Bell.

7b: OT Alex Boone, Ohio State – Slipping because of behavior questions, Boone has good size (6-8, 312) and has started at left tackle for the Buckeyes powerhouse for three seasons. He’d be a quality prospect providing depth at the tackle position.

7c: QB Curtis Painter, Purdue – Though he’s coming off a sub-par senior campaign, Painter would be worth burning a seventh-round pick on to develop as a backup quarterback. This would be a precursor to a John Beck trade.

Undrafted Rookie Free Agents
QB Rudy Carpenter, Arizona State – A smart and accurate passer to push Painter for the No. 3 job.

RB Javarris Williams, Tennessee State – A solid running back prospect to replace Jalen Parmele, who was lost to the Ravens from the practice squad late in 2008.

WR Patrick Turner, Southern California – A big-bodied (6-5, 220) receiver who never fully realized his potential at USC.

TE John Phillips, Virginia – A solid all-around tight end who could push Joey Haynos for a backup job and maybe eventually be the No. 2 job behind Fasano.

OT Eric Vandenheuvel, Wisconsin – Another big-bodied Big Ten tackle to compete with Alex Boone and Nate Garner for a backup job.

C Cecil Newton, Clemson – With Satele on the outs, Newton has the chance to compete for a backup job behind Jason Brown.

NT Antonio Dixon, Miami (Fla.) – A borderline NFL prospect but a big (6-3, 330) nose tackle to push Joe Cohen for a backup job.

ILB Jasper Brinkley, South Carolina – A prototypical 3-4 inside linebacker who could play special teams and push William Kershaw for a backup job.

OLB Ian Campbell, Kansas State – Not a pure pass-rusher, but plays the run well and could compete for a backup job at outside linebacker with the likes of Erik Walden and Tearrius George.

CB Jahi Word-Daniels, Georgia Tech – Good size (6-0, 200) for a corner and could compete for a practice squad spot.

CB Glover Quin, New Mexico – A good hitter who could potentially compete at either corner or safety.

FS Lendy Holmes, Oklahoma – An overshadowed player with the Sooners, Holms is a solid all-around safety who could compete for a backup job behind Wilson.

P Chris Miller, Ball State – Brandon Fields has the leg, but he hasn’t been able to consistently put it all together on the field and has been pretty disappointing at times. This MAC product gives Fields some talented and legitimate competition.

LS Mark Estermyer, Pittsburgh – After two bad snaps in the season finale against the Jets, John Denney need someone to push him in camp.
Departures

Departures
At the time this article was written, the Dolphins had 61 players under contract. That’s 19 under the 80-man offseason roster limit.

However, after all the re-signings, signings, draft picks and undrafted rookies I’ve outlined above, the Dolphins have a whopping 91 players on the roster. That means 11 spaces need to be cleared, and these are the ones I’m proposing:

Trade: QB John Beck and C Samson Satele – Take whatever late-round pick you can get for Beck, who has no future in Miami behind Pennington and Henne. Try and get a mid-round pick (4th or 5th) for Satele from a team that can better utilize the small but talented and athletic center.

Release: DE Vonnie Holliday – The lone veteran and really talented player on this list of departures, it just makes more sense to get rid of Holliday than it does to keep him. He has a cap hit close to $6 million this season and the team is already stocked with young talent (Langford, Starks, Merling) at the position.

Trade/Release: RB Ricky Williams – Williams can still play and is a good backup, but Ronnie Brown showed he can handle the load in 2008. There’s no need to keep Williams, who counts $3.5 million against the cap in 2009, when you can draft a rookie like Foster in the middle rounds and pay him $300,000.

Release: RB Lex Hilliard – Not a lot of upside and doesn’t have much of a chance to earn a spot on the roster.

Release: G Shawn Murphy – Disappointing 2008 fourth-rounder who couldn’t even get on the field as a rookie.

Release: NT Joe Cohen – A camp body, let go to make room for younger prospects.

Release: CB Will Billingsley, CB Scorpio Babers and CB Joey Thomas – none likely have much of a future in the league, and the cornerback position is too crowded after all the additions.

Release: SS Courtney Bryan – pure special teamer being let go to make room for younger prospects.

Conclusion
There you have it - my step-by-step plan for the Miami Dolphins in the 2009 offseason. For an idea of what the Dolphins would look like with all these moves, here's a hypothetical depth chart:
While it’s essentially impossible for all of this to happen exactly like I’ve outlined above, I do think there are some good ideas here and I’m confident that at least some of them will come to fruition.

So what do you think? Am I on the money or totally out of my mind? Let me know the moves you agree with and the moves you don’t, as well as the moves you’d make!