Thursday, January 22, 2009

Cameron Wake Contract Update

As you all know by now, two-time CFL Defensive MVP Cameron Wake signed a four-contract reportedly worth up to $4.9 million and including a $1 million signing bonus.

I've also found out that the contract includes base salaries of $310,000 (2009), $395,000 (2010), $480,000 (2011) and $565,000 (2012). This is a total of $1.55 million in base salaries. The rest of the reported $4.9 million is likely made up of roster-bonus money plus possible incentives based on things like playing time, sacks, and so on.

For the record, those base salaries are all the league minimums outlined in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. This is certainly a manageable contract and if Wake doesn't pan out it won't be a burden on the team's salary cap or difficult to dump. The team did well to lock Wake up for four years at this contract, as it's a low-risk, high-reward move.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Ethan Kilmer Contract Update

Updating a previous item, recently signed safety Ethan Kilmer received a two-year contract from the Dolphins. The deal includes base salaries of $460,000 (2009) and $545,000 (2010). He will be eligible for unrestricted free agency in the 2011 offseason if he plays out the entire contract.

As previously reported, Kilmer was signed by the Dolphins on Jan. 19. The three-year veteran was originally drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the seventh round of the 2006 NFL Draft out of Penn State. He will compete for a backup safety job in Miami and will play special teams.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Dolphins Sign Special Teams Standout Ethan Kilmer

The Dolphins' special teams unit was one of the most criticized aspects of the team in 2008, and rightly so. They got better as the season progressed, but special teams coach John Bonamego still has his work cut out for him and the Dolphins could use all the help they can get.

To that end, the Dolphins have signed fourth-year defensive back Ethan Kilmer. A seventh-round pick out of Penn State in 2006, Kilmer spent two seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals before splitting 2008 between injured reserve and unemployment.

Background

A native of Wyalusing, Pa., Kilmer was a basketball and track star in high school but did not play football. He first attended Shippensburg University from 2001-02, but again did not play football.

In 2003, Kilmer transferred to Penn State and walked on to the football team. He worked solely as a scout team player his first season before playing special teams and some free safety in 2004.

As a senior in 2005, Kilmer led the Nittany Lions with 25 special teams tackles. He also moved from safety to wide receiver and caught 15 passes for 236 yards and a touchdown. In an Orange Bowl victory over Florida State to close out his collegiate career, Kilmer caught six passes for 79 yards and a touchdown.

Prior to the 2006 NFL Draft, Kilmer ran a 4.45-second 40-yard dash and did 19 bench reps at Penn State's Pro Day. He was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the seventh round with the 209th overall pick and subsequently signed a four-year contract.

A safety and emergency receiver during his rookie season, Kilmer appeared in all 16 games for the Bengals and was second on the team with 18 special teams tackles. He also recovered a fumble on special teams and returned a Drew Brees interception 52 yards for a touchdown.

A knee injury plagued Kilmer throughout the preseason and into the regular season in 2007, forcing him to miss the team's first five games. He was eventually placed on season-ending injured reserve on Oct. 16.

Unable to recover from a thigh injury during training camp in 2008, Kilmer was waived/injured on Aug. 20 and reverted to injured reserve after clearing waivers. He was outright released with an injury settlement on Oct. 9 and spent the rest of the year out of football.

Analysis

The biggest red flag when it comes to Kilmer is durability. After playing in all 16 games as a rookie, he has been plagued with injuries the last two seasons and has not played in any preseason or regular season games.

All of the injuries have been to the lower body, including the quadriceps, knees and thighs. None have been serious on the level of torn ligaments, but they've been enough to keep him off the field since 2006.

However, in what is likely a very inexpensive signing, Kilmer is a good pickup here. He's smart and a hard worker, while also possessing good speed and athleticism. He's a solid tackler on special teams and also has the versatility and experience to play wideout, cornerback and safety.

That being said, Kilmer doesn't play any of those offensive or defensive positions very well. Despite both of the team's starting safeties—Yeremiah Bell and Renaldo Hill—being free agents this offseason, Kilmer is primarily a special teamer and is unlikely to compete for a starting job in the secondary.

With Tyrone Culver seeing the most time on defense in 2008 of any of the safeties under contact, it's safe to assume he has the best chance to make the roster as a backup in 2009. That means Kilmer will compete with the likes of Jason Allen and Courtney Bryan—both primarily special teamers—for a backup gig.

While a huge disappointment on defense as the 16th overall pick in 2006, Jason Allen has turned into quite a special teamer and won't be easy for Kilmer to fend off. Courtney Bryan is solid as well, but faces a very tough battle to make the team. I'd give Kilmer the edge right now based on versatility.

It is that versatility which gives Kilmer his appeal to the Dolphins' organization. Parcells, Ireland and Sparano are big on players that contribute in multiple ways, especially when it comes to backups. The mere fact that Kilmer can, if needed, play wideout, corner and safety (even if he can't start at any of them) potentially saves the team a roster or practice squad spot that can be spent elsewhere.

However, Kilmer is no lock to make the team and will have to shine on special teams first and foremost in order to stick. He already has some tough competition on the roster and will have a handful more after free agency and the draft. He'll also have to stay healthy, which is something he hasn't been able to do in recent years.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Dolphins Snag Two-Time CFL Defensive MVP Cameron Wake

Free agency doesn't begin until Feb. 27, but that didn't stop the Miami Dolphins from already adding a potential defensive starter for 2009. Highly sought after by more than half the NFL, the Dolphins agreed to a four-year deal with the Canadian Football League's best defender, BC Lions defensive end Cameron Wake, on Jan. 19.

Background

Wake (then going by his given first name, Derek) played college football at Penn State where he recorded 191 tackles, 8.5 sacks and 24 tackles for a loss as a linebacker and defensive end. Following his collegiate career, he ran a 4.55-second 40-yard dash at Penn State's Pro Day in 2005.

After going undrafted in the 2005 NFL Draft, Wake signed with the New York Giants in April. This is where his past gets a little fuzzy.

Wake's BC Lions bio says he was signed by the Giants in April 2005 and released in December 2006. However, according to my research, he was released by the Giants in June 2005 just two months after being signed and was never re-signed.

The only other NFL connection I could find was a 2007 Baltimore Ravens head shot on the photo website JAMD.com by searching 'Derek Wake.' However, I cannot find any record of him being a member of the Ravens so it's possible he just participated in one of the team's minicamps on a tryout basis.

Regardless, we do know Wake's NFL career didn't materialize in those first years. He signed with the Canadian Football League's BC (British Columbia) Lions in May 2007 and began going by his middle name, Cameron. That's when the fun began.

Wake burst onto the CFL scene with 16 sacks as a rookie in 2007, earning the CFL's Most Outsanding Rookie Award, Most Outstanding Defensive Player Award and Western Division All-Star honors. He also recorded 72 tackles and blocked a field goal during his first season.

Wake was once again the CFL's most dominant pass rusher in 2008 with a whopping 23 sacks. He also recorded 65 tackles and three fumble recoveries (including one returned for a score) on his way to his second straight Most Oustanding Defensive Player Award and Western Division All-Star selection.

According to Adam Schefter of NFL.com, Wake drew interest from 17 NFL teams this offseason. He worked out for eight, including the Miami Dolphins on Thursday, Jan. 15. He agreed to a four-year contract with a $1 million signing bonus on Jan. 18. Per Schefter, the deal could be worth up to $4.9 million.

Analysis

As I'm not a follower of the CFL, I learned about Wake earlier this season from some fans of the league on my Dolphins' facebook group. It was pretty clear the guy was a beast and had the potential to be a damn very pass-rusher as a 3-4 outside linebacker. I'm ecstatic the Dolphins signed him and I think the presence of the Parcells, as well as Miami's 2008 turnaround, probably aided Wake in his decision to pick the Dolphins over the other interested teams.

Listed at 6-foot-3 and 241 pounds, Wake told reporters after his signing that he weighs between 250 and 260 now, which is closer to ideal for the position he'll play in Miami. He already has a great blend of strength, speed and athleticism to go along with a nonstop motor. Physically, he looks a lot like Vernon Gholston, but hopefully he has a better NFL career than Gholston's had thus far.

Of course, one has to be somewhat wary of Wake since he didn't have an impressive college career and couldn't make it in the NFL the first time around. He certainly seems to have turned the corner though, and even though the talent level of the CFL drops off quite a bit from the NFL, one guy racking up nearly as many sacks as some whole teams in a single season is an impressive feat.

I expect Wake to compete immediately for a starting job upon his return to the NFL. Outside of Joey Porter (and even including Porter in the second half of the season) the Dolphins' pass rush was pretty poor for a lot of 2008. The guy who needs to be concerned most about the signing is Matt Roth.

Roth was strong against the run during his first season as a 3-4 outside linebacker, but his pass-rushing skills leave plenty to be desired. I am of the opinion that Roth does not have a long-term future as a starter in Miami's current scheme and won't return when his contract expires following the 2009 season.

While it seems unlikely Wake is as strong against the run as Roth, he certainly seems to have more upside as a pass rusher and his superior speed and athleticism should give him the edge in over Roth the coverage department as well.

At the very least, Wake should factor into the pass-rushing rotation (a la Charlie Anderson in 2008) immediately. He should have no problem jumping Erik Walden, Tearrius George and Quentin Moses for playing time and will likely push at least one off the roster entirely. Wake should also benefit from the presence of Joey Porter, from whom he can learn the finer points of pass-rushing in the NFL out of the 3-4 outside linebacker spot.

Quite simply, this is a low-risk, high-reward signing for the Dolphins. The contract will not be an issue in the event Wake doesn't pan out, and having him locked up for four years if he does thrive will be a big plus. While still a huge question mark, Wake will potentially one of the biggest sleeper signings off the offseason.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Breaking News: Dolphins Add CFL Defensive Star Cameron Wake

After working him out on Thursday, the Dolphins reeled in a potentially great sleeper by signing CFL defensive end Cameron Wake.

Undrafted out of Penn State in 2005, Wake spent time with the New York Giants before moving on to the BC Lions of the CFL in 2007. He recorded 39 sacks during his first two seasons in the league, earning Western Division All-Star honors and the CFL's Most Outstanding Defensive Player Award both years.

Wake had received interest from 17 NFL teams and worked out for eight. He received a four-year contract from the Dolphins that could be worth up to $4.9 million and included a $1 million signing bonus. He will play outside linebacker in the Dolphins' 3-4 scheme.

I'll have more on this move in an analysis article tomorrow, so stay tuned!

Conference Championship Picks

A little late, but thought I'd post this now. I got Philadelphia and Pittsburgh this weekend. (Aren't you impressed I was honest about my Philly pick even though they're already losing 14-3?)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Dolphins Add Former CFL Pass Rusher Tearrius George

A day after re-signing seven of their own practice squad players for 2009, the Dolphins added their first fresh face of the new year by claiming linebacker Tearrius George off waivers from the New Orleans Saints on Jan. 6.

Undrafted out of Kansas State in 2006, George has spent time with the New York Jets, Dallas Cowboys and Saints in the NFL while playing for the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League in 2007.

Background

George (6-4, 250) began his collegiate career at L.A. Valley Community College, playing two seasons and earning all-conference honors. He then transferred to Kansas State prior to the 2004 season.

As a junior at Kansas State in 2004, George appeared in 10 games for the Wildcats including five starts and recorded 21 tackles (11 solo), six tackles for a loss and three sacks. He then appeared in 11 games as a senior in 2005, recording 27 tackles (six for a loss), four sacks, two fumble recoveries and a forced fumble.

After going undrafted in the 2006 NFL Draft, George was signed by the New York Jets on May 15. However, he was waived by the team just a day later and eventually signed with the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League.

During his rookie season with the Stampeders in 2007, George recorded 33 tackles while leading the team in both tackles for a loss (four) and sacks (eight). He also recovered one fumble on the season.

George signed with the Dallas Cowboys in early 2008 and participated in training camp with the team. Attempting to make the team as an outside linebacker in the team's 3-4 scheme, George recorded seven tackles during the preseason and had two sacks against the Minnesota Vikings in the preseason finale. However, Dallas waived George during final cuts on Aug. 30.

George was re-signed to the Cowboys' practice squad to begin the 2008 season and remained there until Dec. 4 when he was signed to the active roster of the New Orleans Saints. (Coincidentally, the Saints also signed linebacker Rob Ninkovich off the Dolphins' practice squad the same day.) George did not appear in any games with the Saints and was eventually waived on Dec. 28.

By adding him off waivers, the Dolphins will take on the two-year contact George signed with the Saints in December. He will have a base salary of $385,000 in 2009, after which time he will become an exclusive-rights free agent in the 2010 offseason.

Analysis

George was almost listed in my Six Potential Cowboys Cuts to Watch entry from August, but instead I went with fellow linebacker Darrell Robertson. He just seemed like a guy the Dolphins would be interested in based on his potential as a 3-4 pass rusher.

George doesn't have great timed speed (he ran in the 4.8-4.9 range in the forty before the draft) but he plays fast. He has good acceleration and burst off the line and can be a dominant pass rusher at times. On the down side, George can sometimes have trouble shedding blocks and could benefit from being more physical.

George is now one of five outside linebackers under contract with the Dolphins, joining Joey Porter, Matt Roth, Charlie Anderson and Erik Walden. The Dolphins also have Quentin Moses, an exclusive-rights free agent, who I imagine will be tendered and re-signed later in the offseason.

As it stands now, George has a solid shot at earning a backup job for the Dolphins at outside linebacker. He can certainly give Walden and Moses a run for their money and has had a more productive career at the pro level to this point. However, it seems likely the Dolphins will add more bodies (and potentially even use a high pick on the position) before camp so George will have much more competition by the time July rolls around.

This is a good signing for the Dolphins, though it's important to not get carried away. George wasn't very productive in college and has yet to establish himself in the NFL. He did have a solid rookie season in the CFL and certainly has the tools to be a 3-4 pass rusher, but he still has a long way to go and is by no means a lock to make the Dolphins' roster.

Breaking News: Dolphins Work Out CFL Pass Rusher Cameron Wake

In what could be the first step to a great addition to the roster, the Dolphins worked out CFL defensive end Cameron Wake on Thursday, Jan. 15.

Undrafted out of Penn State in 2005, Wake spent time with the Giants before signing with the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League in 2007. He made an immediate impact with three sacks in his first game and eventually became one of the most dominate players in the league.

After a 16-sack rookie season in 2007, Wake posted a whopping 23 sacks during his sophomore campaign in 2008. In addition to being named CFL Most Outstanding Rookie in 2007, Wake has been named a West Division All-Star and Most Outstanding Defensive Player each of his two seasons.

The addition of Wake would be a huge add for the Dolphins, as it would give them an outstanding outside linebacker prospect in their 3-4. He would certainly be an upgrade over Matt Roth and at the very least would factor into the pass-rushing rotation from the beginning. Wake could eventually replace Joey Porter down the line.

Signing Wake will be no easy feat, as he is easily the most sought after CFL player and is being pursued by numerous NFL franchises. Hopefully, the impressiveness of the revitalized 2008 Dolphins and the clout brought by Bill Parcells will help lure Wake to Miami.

I'll keep you guys posted if anything more develops. Here are some links for more info on Wake:
Thanks to Steve for the tip.

Breaking News: Dolphins Hire DeGuglielmo as OL coach

The Dolphins wasted little time filling their lone coaching vacancy, hiring New York Giants assistant Dave DeGuglielmo as their new offensive line coach.

DeGuglielmo, 40, had been the Giants' assistant offensive line coach since 2005. He also coached with Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano at Boston University, UConn and New Haven.

The hiring of DeGuglielmo comes just a day after the the Dolphins fired offensive line coach Mike Maser after just one year on the job. The Dolphins had the 12th-ranks offense in their one season with Maser coaching the line.

Pasqualoni a candidate for KC?

It's just speculation at this point, but Adam Schefter of NFL.com reports that Dolphins defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni could be in the mix for the head coaching job in Kansas City. As Schefter points out, Pasqualoni spent time with new Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli at Syracuse, and he runs the 3-4 defense which Pioli is familiar with from his time in New England. Pioli is also the son-in-law of Dolphins vice president Bill Parcells.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Breaking News: OL Coach Mike Maser Fired

The Dolphins have made their first (and hopefully one of few) coaching changes of the 2009 offseason, terminating offensive line coach Mike Maser.

Maser came to Miami with over three decades of collegiate and pro coaching experience. He had most recently served as the offensive line coach in Carolina from 2003 to 2006 before joining the Tony Sparano's staff in 2008.

I'll have more analysis on this move within the next day or two, but I have to say right now I think this is a tough break for Maser.

Yes, the line was a big reason Miami lost in the Wild Card round to Baltimore and they did have their struggles all game. However, I feel some of it was out of Maser's control. The injuries to Donald Thomas and Justin Smiley were big, and if Samson Satele is just too undersized for their taste them there's nothing Maser can really do. Miami was shuffling interior linemen all season, so it's hard to build continuity and have a good line that way.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Dolphins Re-Sign Seven Practice Squad Players for 2009

With their 2008 season coming to an end last weekend against the Baltimore Ravens, the Miami Dolphins have begun to shape their 2009 roster by re-signing seven players that finished the year on the team's practice squad.

Re-signed were wide receiver Anthony Armstrong, cornerback Scorpio Babers, cornerback Will Billingsley, fullback Chris Brown, defensive tackle Joe Cohen, running back Lex Hilliard and wide receiver Todd Lowber. All seven received two-year contracts with base salaries of $310,000 (2009) and $395,000 (2010).

Here is some brief background info on each player as well as my thoughts on their chances of making the roster:

WR Anthony Armstrong

A West Texas A&M alum, Armstrong (5-11, 175) played for the Odessa Roughnecks of the Intense Football League before playing two seasons with the Dallas Desperados of the Arena Football League. He signed with the Dolphins during camp on July 26 and spent the entire 2008 season on the practice squad.

2009 Outlook

Armstrong will likely be competing for a fifth and final spot in the Dolphins' receiving corps in 2009. Guys like Ginn, Bess, London and Camarillo (if healthy) will all be ahead of him, not to mention any other players added this offseason through free agency and the draft. Armstrong has his hands full and could be destined for another year on the practice squad unless another team picks him up.

CB Scorpio Babers

Signed by the Dolphins as an undrafted free agent out of Sam Houston State in 2008, Babers was cut during camp and finished the preseason with the Green Bay Packers. He was out of football until being re-signed to the Dolphins' practice squad on Dec. 24.

2009 Outlook

At most Babers will compete to be Miami's fifth cornerback. However, he has a huge uphill battle and will surely have more people in front of him after free agency and the draft. He's a very long shot to make the team and may not even make it to camp.

CB Will Billingsley

Billingsley spent the entire 2007 season unsigned after going undrafted out of North Carolina A&T before being signed by Miami in April 2008. He failed to make the team out of training camp and was on and off the practice squad throughout the season.

2009 Outlook

Billingsley has better physical tools than Babers and is clearly favored by the team, as he stuck around much longer and more often. However, he's very raw and is a long shot to make an active roster at this point. He'll have to compete with any free agents, drafted rookies and undrafted free agents for a final corner spot.

FB Chris Brown

A tight end at Tennessee, Brown went to camp with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2008 and also spent time on their practice squad. He was signed to the Dolphins' practice squad on Dec. 10 when running back Jalen Parmele was signed by the Baltimore Ravens.

2009 Outlook

Brown certainly doesn't have the size (6-0, 240) Miami likes in their tight ends, so he'll definitely be trying to make the roster as a fullback. Lousaka Polite was solid in the second half of the season after Boomer Grigsby and Casey Cramer didn't pan out, but by no means does Polite have the position locked down. Brown will have a chance to compete, but as of now he has to be considered an underdog.

DT Joe Cohen

A fourth-round pick out of Florida in 2007, Cohen spent all of his rookie season on injured reserve with a knee injury. He was released by the 49ers following the 2008 preseason and remained a free agent until being singed to Miami's practice squad on Nov. 20.

2009 Outlook

I actually feel like Cohen has one of the better shots to make the team of the seven players discussed here. Jason Ferguson is getting up there in years, Paul Soliai has potential but can't get out of the team's doghouse and Randy Starks is better suited at end in the 3-4. The team is sure to add one or two guys in competition, but Cohen will have a chance to land a backup job.

RB Lex Hilliard

One of Miami's three sixth-round picks in 2008, Hilliard spent his entire rookie season on the practice squad. The 5-11, 230-pound Montana alum could potentially be moved to fullback, but hasn't shown much yet at either position.

2009 Outlook

Jalen Parmele was clearly the more talented of the Dolphins' two drafted backs, which is why he was signed away by Baltimore and Hilliard went untouched all season. With Brown, Williams and Cobbs all likely to return in 2009 and Polite and Chris Brown probably ahead of him at fullback, I don't see Hilliard making the Dolphins' active roster in 2009. A fresh face from the draft or undrafted free agency could even push him out of the mix for the practice squad in 2009.

WR Todd Lowber

A tremendous athlete with no organized football experience before 2007, Lowber has bounced around between four NFL teams and a CFL franchise. He was originally signed by the Vikings in 2007, spent time on the Giants' practice squad during the '07 season, then went to camp with Dallas in 2008 after a brief stint on the practice squad of the Toronto Argonauts. He was signed to Miami's practice squad on Nov. 10.

2009 Outlook

Lowber's got the physical tools at 6-3, 205 and speed timed in the 4.2s, but he's still very raw and hasn't been able to crack an active roster yet. He's an intriguing prospect but has to be considered a long shot to make the roster, probably even more so than Armstrong. There will be a lot of bodies ahead of him on the depth chart in camp (if he makes it there) so he'll have to really impress to make the cut.

Update on Heerspink

The only practice squad player yet to be re-signed is offensive tackle Daren Heerspink. Undrafted out of Portland State in 2008, Heerspink failed to make the team out of the preseason and was out of football until being re-signed to the practice squad on Dec. 11.

While the the other seven were re-signed on Jan. 5, Heerspink's practice squad contract did not expire until Jan. 12. I'm not sure why that is, but that being the case it seems Heerspink was not left out and being re-signed is still possible.

Breaking News: Dolphins assistant Todd Bowles reportedly finalist for Lions gig

According to Adam Schefter of NFL.com, Dolphins assistant head coach/secondary coach Todd Bowles is being brought back for a second interview with the Detroit Lions for their vacant head coaching position.

Bowles is believed to be one of three finalists for the job, joining Titans defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier.

A nine-year coaching veteran, Bowles joined the Dolphins in 2008 after serving as the secondary coach of the Dallas Cowboys the previous three seasons.

The Wise Words of Wes Welker

With the Eagles in the NFC Championship and cornerback Asante Samuel playing out of his mind, I thought now would be a fun time to reflect on the words of Patriots receiver Wes Welker in the offseason after Samuel left New England and signed with Philadelphia:
"Asante's a great player, so it hurts not to have a guy like that. But then again, it's part of the business of the game," Welker said. "He chose money over championships, and that's the way it goes sometimes."
Good call, Wes. Now who's the idiot?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Divisional Round Predictions

Went 2-2 in the Wild Card round last week, missing the Indy pick and the homer pick in Miami. Should've known better on that second one. Oh well. Gonna go 4-0 this week. Just watch.

Titans over Ravens - Baltimore's defense is ridiculous, but Tennessee's is good as well and I like their offense better than than the rookie-led Ravens' O.

Panthers over Cardinals - Arizona backed up my pick last week with a win over Atlanta, but I don't think their defense can handle Carolina's monster running game.

Giants over Eagles - Philly whooped the Giants late in the season, but I expect the Giants to get hot in the playoffs just like they did last year. And I just hope for his sake Donovan McNabb doesn't lead the Eagles to a tie in this game. ;-)

Steelers over Chargers - If there's any defense that can stop Darren Sproles, it's Pittsburgh's. The Chargers got some ref help late against Indy and had a pretty mediocre season, so I expect the much more sound Steelers to win this one.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Chris J. Nelson's 2008 NFL Awards

Football is a team game, which is why it makes perfect sense to hand out individual awards, right? But you know what? The playoffs decide the best teams, so I figure I might as well decide the best players.

That being the case, here are my picks for the 2008 NFL awards. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

2008 Wild Card Recap: Ravens at Dolphins

Yeah, this video is late. I was too busy crying after the Dolphins lost that I couldn't see the screen through the tears to type and stuff. Actually, it's just the first week of spring semester so I've been a little preoccupied, but yeah.

Anyway, the Dolphins' impressive turnaround season came to an end last Sunday with an ugly 27-9 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. The offseason is already under for the Dolphins and I'm sure I'll have a lot to talk about soon, but for now here's my recap of the Dolphins-Ravens game:

Offense



Defense

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Dolphins Odds & Ends...Upcoming Miami Dolphins Spotlight Schedule

Well the Dolphins' miracle season came to a heart-breaking end today with a 27-9 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.

As exciting as the run was and as hopeful as we all were after a playoff berth, I think it's important for everyone to remember just how great season it was for the Dolphins regardless of how it ended. Coming off a 1-15 year, no one could have (realistically) predicted this and to do what they did in a one-year span is phenomenal. As far as I'm concerned, the season was already a success by midseason and everything after was just a bonus.

Now that the offseason has begun for the Dolphins, I thought it would be a good time to provide some random notes on what's in store for the team this offseason:

Parcells staying or going?

There have been quite a few rumors lately about Parcells exercising an escape clause in his contract in the event owner Wayne Huizenga sells the team to Stephen Ross. Should Parcells exercise the clause within 30 days of the sale, he will receive the full $12 million remaining on his contract and will also be able to take another job, be it front office or coaching, with any other franchise.

According to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, Huizenga and Ross both said today that Parcells will remain with the Dolphins in 2009. As reassuring as it is, it's important to keep in mind that you can't take their word for it because the decision ultimately lies with Parcells and we can't know for certain what he might do. We won't know for sure until those 30 days pass.

I think I speak for all of us when I say that I definitely hope Parcells decides to stay. The biggest thing about Parcells leaving wouldn't even be the departure itself, but rather the threat that he might try to pry away the coaches and players he's brought to Miami just as he's done here. If Parcells goes and starts to take key people with him, this franchise could be back at square one. If Parcells moves on in a year or two (which is almost a lock given his nomadic history) but leaves the structure he built (Ireland, Sparano, etc.) intact, then we should continue to operate with a high level of success.

There have also been rumors than former Chiefs general manager Carl Peterson is buddies with Stephen Ross and that if Parcells were to leave at some point, Peterson might be heading to Miami. If Peterson becomes Miami's GM I'm going to shoot myself in the face.

2009 free agents

You can be sure I'll address all this in greater detail later in the offseason, but for now here's a list of Dolphins players with expiring contracts in the 2009 offseason:

Unrestricted free agents (four or more accrued seasons):
  • SS Yeremiah Bell
  • OT Vernon Carey
  • LB Channing Crowder
  • CB Andre' Goodman
  • FS Renaldo Hill
  • C Al Johnson
  • WR Tab Perry
  • LB Derek Smith
Restricted free agents (three accrued seasons):
  • None
Exclusive-rights free agents (zero to two accrued seasons):
  • TE Aaron Halterman
  • WR Brandon London
  • LB Quentin Moses
  • G Ike Ndukwe
Just a bit of a refresher:
  • Unrestricted Free Agents (UFAs) become full free agents when free agency begins on Feb. 27 and can sign with any team at any time after that point. Miami has no rights to them after that date and cannot block any move.
  • Restricted Free Agents (RFAs) must be tendered one-year offers by the Dolphins prior to free agency. The amount of the offer corresponds to a set compensation amount, meaning if another team signs a restricted free agent, the original team has the right to match the offer and retain the player. Should the original team choose not to match, they will receive the draft pick compensation determined by their tender offer amount.
  • Exclusive-Rights Free Agents (ERFAs) must be tendered one-year offers by the Dolphins prior to free agency.Unlike RFAs however, if tendered they cannot be signed by any team. Essentially, they have NO rights to sign elsewhere and must re-sign with their original team or not play football at all.
  • If RFAs and ERFAs are not tendered one-year offers before free agency, they become UFAs and can be signed by anyone.
2009 NFL Draft

As the Dolphins' 2008 season comes to a close, we now know where the team will be picking in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft.

With an 11-5 record, the Dolphins were assured to pick between the No. 24 and 27 spots. New England gets the No. 24 pick since they were the lone 11-5 team to miss the playoffs. Atlanta gets No. 25 because of it's easier strength of schedule than Miami. That means the Dolphins will pick 26th in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft.

In total, the Dolphins hold nine picks in the 2009 NFL Draft. They are:
  • First Round
  • Second Round (x2)
  • Third Round
  • Fourth Round
  • Fifth Round
  • Seventh Round (x3)
The Dolphins have an extra second-rounder from the Redskins for Jason Taylor. With Washington finishing 8-8, I believe their second-rounder will be between 12th and 15th in the round, which would make it 44th-47th overall. The Dolphins' own second-round pick will be later.

Miami also has two extra seventh-rounders from the Browns and Panthers for Travis Daniels and Josh McCown, respectively. The Dolphins have no sixth-round pick, as it was traded to Dallas in the deal for Jason Ferguson.

Miami Dolphins Spotlight Upcoming Schedule

The 2008 season may be over for the Dolphins, but the action never stops here as the offseason is always a busy time for this site with plenty of stuff to cover. Here's what the schedule is looking like in the coming weeks:
  • Jan. 5: Dolphins-Ravens recap videos
  • Jan. 6: My 2008 NFL Awards
  • Jan. 7: Position-by-position grading of the 2008 Miami Dolphins
  • January 2009: Coverage of all future contract signings
  • February 2009: Miami Dolphins offseason previews
It's likely that future contract signings will be a big thing in the coming days, as most players from the practice squad (if not all) will be re-signed to future contracts for 2009. Then there's always practice squad players from other teams (all practice squad players have one-year deals and instantly become free agents once their team's season is over) and current free agents that can be signed to future deals.

Keep in mind that any player not under contract with a team ending the 2008 season can be signed by any team at any time. (This is how we were able to sign David Kicus last offseason before free agency began.) Players with expiring contracts in 2009 won't be available until free agency begins on Feb. 27.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Wild Card Round Predictions

I ended up tying for first in my picks league with 164 correct. That means my overall record was 164-92, good for about 64 percent. Not bad, but could be better.

It's not for any picks leagues but I decided I might as well continue displaying my prognostication skills for the playoffs. So, here are my predictions for the four playoff games in the Wild Card round this weekend:

Last week's record: 11-5
Season record: 164-92 (64 percent)

Cardinals over Falcons - Quite an interesting matchup. The Cardinals have been playing like crap lately while Atlanta's hot, but Arizona has an experience playoff quarterback while the Falcons have a rookie in his first postseason show. It's a tough choice, but I'm going with the veteran Kurt Warner and the Cardinals.

Colts over Chargers - I've supported San Diego throughout the year and they finally rewarded me with a late playoff run. That being said, I think the NFL MVP Peyton Manning gets the best of them this time around.

Dolphins over Ravens - Baltimore already beat them head-to-head earlier in the season, but this Dolphins team is as hot as any in the league right now. I like Miami at home in what could be the last time I pick them this season, regardless of whether or not they advance.

Eagles over Vikings - I don't really know what to think of the Eagles lately and it feels weird to me that they're even in the playoffs. Still, they've been playing well and I like Donovan McNabb to lead them to a win.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Chris J. Nelson's 2008 All-Pro Team

The regular season is in the books, so I know you're all dying for my choices of the best of the best in 2008.

It was a long process (at least 15 minutes) and I used a variety of research methods and Bunsen burners, but I was able to narrow down the field of candidates to just these few players.

What follows is my 2008 All-Pro Team, where I select the top performers from around the league at each position. Enjoy!