Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Bittersweet Farewell

As you may have noticed, this site has gone without many updates over the past few months. My day job (I'm in production with Turner Sports) has taken up a large chunk of my time, and I no longer feel I have the ability to do the site justice with regular updates and analysis. That being the case, it is with a heavy heart that I announce I will no longer be posting here going forward.

Over the past 5+ years, I have thoroughly enjoyed providing updates and analysis on our favorite team. Discussing the Dolphins and interacting with my readers on a regular basis has been a pleasure, and writing these articles is something I'm certainly going to miss.

I began this site as a college kid posting analysis videos from a desk in my closet (literally) and I leave it as a married man and a sports broadcasting professional. This site was has always been such important thing to me and was something I was immensely proud of—so much so that I featured it prominently on my résumé in college as well as when I was interviewing for my current job at Turner.

For those with an insatiable thirst for my take on all things Dolphins (sarcasm), fear not! I will continue to tweet regularly @phinsspotlight and my discussion group (the largest for the Dolphins on Facebook) will remain active as well. Nothing will change in regards to those, so I look forward to continue to talk Dolphins football with everyone!

Additionally, I will say that my blogging career may not be quite dead yet, as there is a chance I will become a contributor at another existing Dolphins fan site in the near future. Such an arrangement could be ideal for me at this point in my life because it wouldn't put the burden on my to update daily but would still allow me to have a voice in the Dolphins blogger community and post from time to time. I can't speak further on this at the moment, but I will post here with more detailed if and when they become more available.

I want to thank everyone for all the visits, reads, comments, posts and tweets over the years. I'm certainly going to miss this site and you can bet I'll be back if I ever win a massive sum of money in the lottery.

Best wishes and Go Dolphins!
Chris J. Nelson

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Dolphins add special teams assistant, promote three coaches

The Miami Dolphins' coaching staff has undergone very few changes this offseason, with only assistant special teams coach Dave Fipp not returning in 2013 after becoming special teams coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Dolphins replaced Fipp on Thursday, hiring Marwan Maalouf to serve as assistant special teams coach under coordinator Darren Rizzi.

The 36-year-old Lebanon native spent one season as the Colts' special teams coordinator in 2012, although the parties "mutually agreed" to part ways a few weeks ago. (Translation: he was fired.) He previously spent four seasons (2008-11) as an assistant special teams coach with the Baltimore Ravens and three seasons (2004-06) as a special teams quality control coach for the Cleveland Browns.

Maalouf also has collegiate coaching experience, serving as an assistant at Baldwin-Wallace College (assistant offensive line), Fordham (assistant offensive line), Eastern Michigan (graduate assistant) and Rutgers (assistant offensive line/graduate assistant). He played guard at Division III Baldwin-Wallace.

In addition to Malouf's hiring, the Dolphins also promoted a few of their own assistants to new titles.

Zac Taylor becomes quarterbacks coach after one year as assistant quarterbacks coach. The 29-year-old came over with father-in-law Mike Sherman (the Dolphins' offensive coordinator) from Texas A&M upon Joe Philbin's hiring last year. A former starting quarterback at Nebraska, Taylor spent part of the 2007 offseason with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and later had a cup of coffee with the CFL's Winnipeg Blue Bombers before ending his playing career.

26-year-old Ben Johnson replaces Taylor as the assistant quarterbacks coach, having spent last season as an offensive assistant. Johnson was a quarterback at North Carolina before becoming a software developer and later serving as a graduate assistant for the football team at Boston College (2009-11).

Like Johnson, sophomore coach Charlie Bullen goes from a general assistant role to an assistant position coach role, moving from defensive assistant to assistant defensive line coach under highly-regarded veteran assistant Kacy Rodgers. Bullen, 28, was a quarterback at Harper College before volunteering at the high school level. He served as a graduate assistant at the University of Iowa from 2009-11, working with the defense as well as current Dolphins' receivers coach Ken O'Keefe.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Dolphins lose assistant coach Dave Fipp to Eagles

Entering the 2013 offseason, it looked as if the staff of second-year head coach Joe Philbin would remain completely intact.

While that has essentially remained true, the Miami Dolphins' staff saw one member depart this week as it was revealed that assistant special teams coach Dave Fipp has joined the Philadelphia Eagles as their special teams coordinator under new head coach Chip Kelly.

Fipp has spent the past two seasons assisting coordinator Darren Rizzi with the Dolphins' special teams unit, helping long snapper John Denney make his second Pro Bowl and punter Brandon Fields become one of the NFL's elite players at his position.

This will be the first pro level coordinator position for Fipp, who was an assistant special teams coach in San Francisco for three seasons before joining the Dolphins in 2011. He has college coaching experience with Holy Cross, Arizona, Cal Poly, Nevada and San Jose State, where he served as defensive coordinator in 2007.

The 38-year-old Fipp becomes the Eagles' fifth special teams coordinator in the last seven seasons. John Harbaugh, who is currently preparing his Baltimore Ravens for the Super Bowl, previously manned the post for a decade from 1998 to 2007.

Peelle joins Eagles' staff, too

It seems another man with connections to the Dolphins' organization has joined Kelly's staff in Philadelphia, as reports Wednesday indicate former NFL tight end Justin Peelle will became the Eagles' new assistant tight ends coach.

The former Oregon Duck spent the 2006 and 2007 seasons with the Dolphins, posting the most productive season of his 10-year career in '07 when he caught 29 passes for 228 yards and two touchdowns. He played in 151 career games with the Chargers, Dolphins, Falcons and 49ers, and attended camp with the Steelers in 2012 before being released.

The Peelle news comes just six days after former NFL receiver Ike Hilliard, who served as the Dolphins' assistant wide receivers coach in 2011, was announced as the Buffalo Bills' new wide receivers coach under rookie head coach Doug Marrone.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Dolphins work out two more CFL players

In addition to Hamilton Tiger-Cats offensive tackle Brian Simmons (which I covered Thursday), the Miami Dolphins worked out two additional CFL players Thursday as they continue to search for players to fill their 90-man offseason roster.

A native of British Columbia, Watt (#89) has played
three seasons for the CFL's Toronto Argonauts
Defensive end Lee Robinson of the Edmonton Eskimos and wide receiver Spencer Watt of the Toronto Argonauts joined Simmons in Thursday's workout with the Dolphins, though none of the three have been signed as of Friday, Jan. 4.

A star linebacker at Alcorn State, Robinson (6-2, 253) went undrafted in 2009 and signed with the Denver Broncos, only to be waived during final cuts. After stints on the practice squads of Arizona and Tampa Bay in 2009, Robinson wound up back with the Broncos on the practice squad in 2010. He was promoted to the active roster in December and recorded two tackles in three games.

Robinson failed to make the Broncos' roster in 2011 and spent the majority of the year on the practice roster of the CFL's Eskimos. In 2012, Robinson worked as a left defensive end but was limited to just nine games (two starts) and totaled six tackles and two sacks.

Watt (6-0, 185) was drafted 18th overall in the 2010 CFL Draft by the Argonauts and appeared in 11 games as a rookie, catching 14 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns. (Coincidentally, his first career touchdown was thrown by former Dolphins quarterback Cleo Lemon.)

In 2011, Watt started all 17 games for the Argos and caught 29 passes for 345 yards and a touchdown. He set career highs with 34 receptions and 424 yards in 2012, although he failed to find the end zone for the first time in his career.

Obviously, neither Robinson nor Watt stands out as someone the Dolphins should rush to sign, and it's curious that neither was really an impact player for their CFL teams this past year. Robinson, who has NFL game experience, profile would profile as a strong-side linebacker with the Dolphins and Watt as a slot receiver, though both would be more focused on special teams if they ended up in Miami.

For what it's worth, the Dolphins' current front office with general manager Jeff Ireland in place has never gone an offseason without signing a player with CFL experience. In addition to success stories like Cameron Wake and Marcus Thigpen, the Dolphins have made a constant effort to mine for talent north of the border, which is detailed in my Dolphins' CFL history here.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Dolphins roster casualty and extension candidates

The Dolphins enter the 2013 offseason with an enormous amount of cap room (estimated right now around $45 million), but that number could increase based on what the team does before the free agent signing period begins on March 12.

In addition to re-signing some of their own free agents (the list I outlined Wednesday), the Dolphins may very well try to work out contract extensions with some players while potentially releasing others for monetary or performance reasons.

In this article, I'll take a look at some players that may not be long for South Beach, and others the team might target to keep around well into the future. I'd like to thank Jason of nyjetscap.com for the detailed salary information that he compiles for all AFC East teams. I've never seen anyone as good at keeping track of and understanding those details as him. He might be a Jets fan, but you're doing yourself a disservice if you don't bookmark his site.

Roster Casualty Candidates

Karlos Dansby

Why he'll be cut: Dansby has certainly underachieved since signing a monster deal in 2010. He's been above average most of the time but never the elite linebacker and playmaker you look for at that price. He showed up to camp well overweight in 2011, wasting a half-season trying to recover. He's had a few big injuries that have limited his productivity. Oh, and he's a complete idiot that was critical of the Chad Johnson release and would swear on his mother that he's a future Hall of Famer.

Why he won't be cut: He's a "veteran leader" and part of that ridiculous council we saw on Hard Knocks, so it's possible the team values his impact on his teammates. Cutting him now would look like an admission of yet another free agent mistake and create a chunk of dead money on the cap. The team would be creating another hole to fill in the offseason.

The financial details: Dansby has completed three years of the original five-year, $43 million contract he signed as a free agent in 2010. The deal included $22 million guaranteed and at the time was the richest deal in NFL history for a linebacker. In 2013, Dansby has a cap hit of $8.575 million. Cutting him would create $4.65 million in dead money against this year's cap, but it'd free up a total of $3.924 million. Overall, it's a net gain for the Dolphins.

The verdict: I'm guessing he won't be cut, because I'm just not that lucky. The Dolphins have enough holes without having to find a new middle linebacker as well, so it's probably easier to just keep him. If he does stick around and doesn't have a career year in 2013, he'll be someone to watch as a casualty again in 2014.

Richard Marshall

Why he'll be cut: Struggled in the four games he played with the Dolphins this season and doesn't have a very impressive track record either. Landed on injured reserve with a back injury that he's still recovering from, so durability is a concern. A bit overpaid and not a quality long-term starting option, so cutting him could free up more money to land a better corner.

Why he won't be cut: Sean Smith is a free agent and may walk, so the team might need him. Also has some experience as free safety, where starter Chris Clemons is also a free agent. Was coming off his best season in 2011 when the Dolphins signed him.

The financial details: Signed to a three-year, $16 million contract in 2012, Marshall has two years remaining on his current deal. He has a cap hit of $5.766 million in 2013 and would create $2.333 million in dead money if released this offeason. However, he would net the Dolphins a cap space gain of $5.35 million.

The verdict: My guess is he stays. With Smith possibly walking and little depth at the position, the Dolphins can't really justify cutting him at this time. That could of course change if they land a big free agent and someone through the draft, however.

Davone Bess

Why he'll be cut: He's entering the last year of his current deal and is fairly overpaid for the lack of playmaking ability he provides. He's a pure slot receiver and there isn't any upside to be anything more. Multiple offseason acquisitions at the position could make him a very expensive fourth or fifth receiver.

Why he won't be cut: He's a fan favorite and a guy you root for as a former undrafted free agent. He's a good slot receiver with excellent hands and a knack for picking up first downs. The team lacks much talent at the position right now.

The financial details: Bess is entering the final year of a four-year, $9.35 million contract signed in 2010. He has a cap value of $3.433 million in 2012, while cutting him would cost the Dolphins just $750,000 in dead money and save the team $2.683 million against the 2013 salary cap.

The verdict: This one is actually harder to call than you might think, because I do suspect he's in danger. However, given the little talent the Dolphins have right now, I suspect a move (maybe a trade?) wouldn't come until the preseason, like they did with Greg Camarillo a few years ago.

Richie Incognito

Why he'll be cut: He's an average-to-above-average starter that's probably peaked. He may not have the athleticism ideal for the team's blocking scheme. He has a bad reputation and a history of dirty plays. The team would save a nice chunk of change by cutting him.

Why he won't be cut: He graded out pretty well in 2012 and was probably the team's best lineman after Mike Pouncey. The team already has a shakeup at the tackle spots coming and could replace John Jerry at right guard as well, so I doubt they'd look to have yet another new starter in 2013. Has a great personality and is presumably well-liked in locker room.

The financial details: Entering the final year of a contract signed in 2011, which was a three-year, $12.9 million contract with a $3.25 million signing bonus. Has a cap value of $5.383 million in 2013. Cutting him would cause $1.083 million in dead money but net the Dolphins a savings of $4.3 million.

The verdict: No, he won't be cut. The team already has too much to worry about on the line (Martin starting at left tackle, Jerry at right guard, no right tackle) so I don't suspect they'll cut a quality lineman just to save some money when they already have more than they can spend.

Dimitri Patterson

Why he'll be cut: He doesn't have starting upside and struggled to stay health in 2012 with the Browns and Dolphins. He's slightly overpaid and will be 30 next season. Cutting him saves the Dolphins a good chunk of money and causes no dead money against the cap.

Why he won't be cut: Like Marshall, Patterson probably sticks around because Sean Smith is a free agent and Patterson serves as an insurance policy. He's very experienced and had his best pro season as a nickel corner in 2011.

The financial details: Patterson signed a three-year, $16 million contract with the Browns in 2012 nearly identical to the one Richard Marshall got from the Dolphins. Since he was claimed off waivers, cutting him causes no dead money to the cap and would save the Dolphins $4.6 million against the 2013 cap. Nothing is guaranteed to him unless he makes the regular season roster.

The verdict: He's safe, at least until the preseason. If Smith walks, or even if Smith stays and the team doesn't add any real competition, I would assume Patterson would serve as the nickel corner. If the Dolphins do bolster this position, however, Patterson could become expendable.

Dan Carpenter

Why he'll be cut: He's entering the final year of his deal at a very hefty salary. He missed some crucial kicks early in the season and is three years removed from his best year in 2009.

Why he won't be cut: Overall he's very reliable and only missed one kick after Week 4 in 2012. He's got a great rapport with holder Brandon Fields and long snapper John Denney. It would create another hold on the Dolphins' roster and his replacement would be no sure thing to replicate his success.

The financial details: Carpenter is entering the final year of a four-year, $8 million contract signed in 2010. He has a 2013 cap value of $3.012 million, but cutting him would create just $312,500 in dead money and a net gain of $2.7 million in cap space for the Dolphins.

The verdict: Safe for now, but may face competition. Considering he is entering a contract year at a high salary, it wouldn't surprise me to see younger competition brought in, perhaps in the form of an undrafted free agent. However, I'd have to think Carpenter keeps his job in 2013 barring a disastrous camp and preseason.

Roster Extension Candidates

Reshad Jones

Why he's earned it: Did you watch this season at all? Jones was all over the place, stuffing the run, making hard hits and creating turnovers. He finished his career year with 96 tackles, a sack, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, four interceptions and nine pass deflections. After Cameron Wake, Jones was easily the Dolphins' defensive MVP in 2012.

What he's making now: Jones is entering the final year of his four-year rookie contract signed in 2009. He'll earn a base salary of $575,000 and has a cap hit of just over $615,000. He'll be an unrestricted agent in 2014.

What he deserves: He deserves much more than the four-year, $18 million contract the Bengals gave Reggie Nelson in 2012. Unfortunately, I suspect Jones will push for something in the neighborhood of Eric Weddle's 2011 extension with the Chargers, which was for five years and $40 million with $19 million guaranteed. If Jones can keep up his level of play, that's not unreasonable, but it's scary to give him such a deal after only one great season. I'd still try to lock him up this offseason so he doesn't get to anxious to get to the market in 2014.

Paul Soliai

Why he's earned it: After spending his early years in Miami in the doghouse with motivation and weight issues, Soliai kicked things into gear in 2010 and has been a dominant nose tackle ever sense. He's earned a solid extension after a team-friendly two-year contract signed in 2011.

What he's making now: After playing under the franchise tag for just under $12.5 million in 2011, Soliai re-upped with the Dolphins in 2012 for just $12 million over two years. He has a base salary of $5.7 million in 2013 and a total cap hit of $7.875 million.

What he deserves: After taking a well-below-market deal in 2012, I'm trying to get every penny I can and then some if I'm Soliai. He still has plenty of good football left at age 29 and has earned a long-term extension. If I'm his representation, I look for a five-year deal someone between that of the Saints' Brodrick Bunkley (five years, $25 million, $9 million guaranteed) and the Seahawks' Red Bryant (five years, $35 million, $14.5 million guaranteed). Perhaps a four-year deal worth $6 million or so would do the trick.

Dolphins work out CFL offensive lineman Brian Simmons

Update (1/5): In addition to Simmons, the Dolphins also worked out CFL defensive end Lee Robinson and wide receiver Spencer Watt on Thursday.

General manager Jeff Ireland and the Miami Dolphins have made it a point to look for talent north of the border since they arrived in 2008, and we saw two of their best CFL imports find great success in 2012 with defensive end Cameron Wake making his second Pro Bowl and Marcus Thigpen ranking as one of the league's top returners.

That search has continued into the early stages of the 2013 offseason, with President Paul Sheehy of ProStar Sports Agency (who also happens to represent Wake) tweeting that client Brian Simmons—an offensive lineman for the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats—worked out for the team Thursday.

I spoke with a representative from ProStar today and he indicated that Simmons has workouts with six NFL teams on his schedule, and they are working through that process now.

Simmons played college football at Oklahoma, redshirting in 2005 and working three seasons as a reserve guard while seeing the occasional start. He opened his senior season in 2009 at left guard before an injury forced him to miss five games.

After going undrafted in 2010, Simmons signed with the New England Patriots in August but was released prior to the regular season. He joined the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 2011 and worked himself into the team's starting left tackle, where he has opened 28 games over the past two seasons including every snap in 2012.

No word yet on of the Dolphins plan to offer Simmons a contract. It seems likely they would view him as more of a guard than a tackle, where they currently only have three players under contract—starters Richie Incognito and John Jerry and 2012 practice-squadder Chandler Burden. Second-year center Josh Samuda also saw some brief game action for the Dolphins at guard.

An interesting fact about Simmons, gleaned from his Oklahoma Sooners bio, is that he was born with a club foot and wheres a size 15 right shoe and a size 18 left shoe. It's obvious he's overcome this situation very well to get to this point, though no doubt this has scared some NFL teams off in their evaluation because footwork and balance are key aspects of the position.

You can keep track of the Dolphins' CFL history here, which is accessible through the Dolphins History section of the main menu.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Dolphins re-sign seven to future contracts

The Miami Dolphins concluded the 2012 season with just 40 players under contract. With offseason roster sizes increased to 90 players last offseason, the Dolphins are currently well short of a training camp roster.

Many of those spots will be filled by retained free agents, other team's free agents, trades, draft picks and undrafted rookies, but the team also did what all teams do Wednesday by re-signing a number of their practice squad players.

Seven players that ended the 2012 season on the Dolphins' practice squad have inked two-year deals with the team this week. Those players are offensive tackle Jeff Adams, defensive tackle Chas Alecxih, guard Chandler Burden, wide receiver Jeff Fuller, offensive tackle Andrew McDonald, cornerback De'Andre Presley and wide receiver Brian Tyms.

Cornerback Dion Turner has not been re-signed by the Dolphins as of yet. He is no lock to return considering he was just signed in December and didn't have much time to impress the coaching staff.

OT Jeff Adams

An undrafted rookie from Columbia in 2012, the three-time All-Ivy selection spent the preseason with the Dallas Cowboys and the first 10 weeks of the regular season on the practice squad of the Cincinnati Bengals. He closed out the season with the Dolphins' practice squad after signing on Nov. 20. Presumably, he will work at left tackle if he makes it to training camp, competing for a backup job behind likely-starter Jonathan Martin.

DT Chas Alecxih

A former walk-on at Pitt, Alecxih followed an impressive collegiate career by going undrafted and spending camp with the Dolphins. He received a bit of attention on Hard Knocks but was waived during final cuts. He spent the final 16 weeks of the season on the team's practice squad after re-signing on Sept. 11. I question how well his physical abilities translate to the NFL and I think he'll have a hard time making a roster, but he should at least have a chance to compete.

OG Chandler Burden

Initially a college defensive tackle who converted to offensive tackle at Kentucky, Burden was signed by the Dolphins early in camp after a brief stint with the Titans after going undrafted in 2012. He spent the entire regular season on the practice squad and even earned a healthy boost in pay from the minimum $5,700 per week at some point during the season. This says to me another team wanted to poach him for their active roster, so perhaps there's a little upside here. I expect him to compete for a backup guard role in camp.

WR Jeff Fuller

Once regarded as a potential high draft pick at Texas A&M, drops and lack of speed killed Fuller's stock and he went undrafted in 2012. Despite the Dolphins' weak receiving corps coupled with his extensive experience with coordinator Mike Sherman and quarterback Ryan Tannehill, Fuller failed to earn a promotion during the regular season. That probably says a ton about his upside right now and he'll need a huge camp to earn a roster spot in 2013.

OT Andrew McDonald

McDonald was signed in mid-May well after the initial class of undrafted rookie free agents. Nevertheless, the Iowa alum worked all camp as the backup right tackle and spent all 17 weeks of the regular season on the practice squad doing the same thing. I'm not sure how much upside there is here, but he'll have a chance to earn a backup job with Jake Long and Nate Garner heading for free agency.

CB De'Andre Presley

A former quarterback, wide receiver and defensive back, Presley switched to cornerback full-time when he signed with the San Diego Chargers as an undrafted free agent. He was released during final cuts and signed to the Dolphins' practice squad as the lone new face on Sept. 4. After a four-game stint on the active roster in October, Presley was waived to make room for Bryan McCann and remained on the practice squad the rest of the season. Presley will have a battle on his hands to make the roster as a final corner.

WR Brian Tyms

An undrafted rookie from FIU, Tyms has an incredible and heartbreaking backstory. He was rejected by FSU and walked on to FIU, where he really didn't make an impact until his senior season. However, his physical attribute earned him a training camp invite from the San Francisco 49ers and he later spent the final 16 weeks of the regular season on the Dolphins' practice squad. He even traveled with the team to New England for the season finale with Davone Bess injured, although he was not promoted. Tyms seems to have better stock than Fuller right now, but he'll still have an uphill battle to crack the 53 considering all the additions the team will presumably make to the receiver position in the offseason.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Wednesday radio appearance on The Ramblings Of A Die Hard Sports Fan With Eli!

Hey guys,

Tonight I appeared on my friend Eli's online sports radio show to talk Dolphins football. (You can follow Eli on Twitter here.) Give it a listen below as I cover the Dolphins' offseason team needs and free agency options. I come on around the 20-minute mark.

Listen to internet radio with NDB Media 3 on Blog Talk Radio

A detailed look at the Dolphins' 2013 free agents

The looming offseason for the Miami Dolphins can only be characterized as a make-or-break one, considering the team has five picks in the first three rounds as well as a roughly projected $45 million in cap room.

It goes without saying the Dolphins will have the cap flexibility to make a large splash in free agency, hopefully luring a playmaker or two away from other teams. But they would be wise to not go overboard with their new-found cap space and some of that will need to be devoted to re-signing the team's own free agents.

In this article, I take a look at every player on the Dolphins' 2012 roster with an expiring contract this offseason. That includes not only the high-profile unrestricted free agents, but restricted and exclusive-rights free agents as well.

But first, a refresher course on the types of free agents and how it all works...

  • Unrestricted Free Agent — A player with and expiring contract and at least four accrued seasons. An accrued season refers to any season with at least nine games on the active 53-man roster. These players are free to sign with any team once the free agent signing period begins in March
  • Restricted Free Agent — A player with an expiring contract and three accrued seasons. The Player is tendered one-year contract offer by the original team at one of four salary amounts, which can be signed by the player at any time. Other teams are free to make offers on these players, but the player's original team has the option to match any offer and retain the player's services. If another team signs an RFA and the old team does not match, the old team gets draft pick compensation determined by the level of the original tender (either a first- and third-round pick, a first-round pick, a second-round pick, or a pick from the round in which the player was originally drafted). If not tendered, the player becomes an unrestricted free agent.
  • Exclusive Rights Free Agent — A player with an expiring contract and between zero to two accrued seasons. The original team has the option of tendering a one-year contract offer to the player, in which case the player must accept the offer or not play. The player has no rights to negotiation with any other teams. If not tendered, the player becomes an unrestricted free agent.

Unrestricted Free Agents
  • RB Reggie Bush — Bush fell just short of his second consecutive 1,000-yard season, but he's been a tremendous steal for the Dolphins since being acquired in 2011 and has shown in Miami an ability to run between the tackles and stay healthy. In addition to his incredible physical tools and receiving ability, Bush is easily one of the veteran leaders and hardest workers on the team. I expect the Dolphins will try to re-sign him to a reasonable contract for three or four years, but my concern is that another team will overpay him. In that case I probably move on with Daniel Thomas, Lamar Miller and possibly some new acquisitions because I don't believe in overpaying for running backs. But I certainly can't imagine how someone could be against re-signing him for the right price.
  • FS Chris Clemons — A fifth-round pick in 2009, Clemons is coming off his best career season, starting all 16 games for the first time and setting career highs in tackles (99) and interceptions (2). I question Clemons' long-term upside and he's been a little inconsistent for my taste, but I would not be opposed to bringing him back on a reasonable two- or three-year deal. The question is what kind of market he'll have and if the Dolphins will entertain pursuing a high-profile guy like Jairus Byrd to pair with breakout strong safety Reshad Jones.
  • S Tyrone Culver — A quality special teams player and reserve defensive back for the previous four seasons, Culver was cut before the 2012 season and remained a free agent until rejoining the Dolphins in early December. He didn't make a noticeable impact and I suspect he'll have a hard time getting a deal with any team early in the offseason.
  • TE Anthony Fasano — Of any player on the Dolphins, Fasano is probably the most unfairly hated and criticized. He certainly lacks elite receiving skills and isn't a matchup nightmare like a Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham, but if anything I'd say Fasano is a solid and undervalued player. He's a solid, reliable receiver and an excellent blocker, which is why I'd be willing to pay him a couple million for two or three more years to serve as a short-term starter and No. 2 tight end in the event the team finds more of a pure receiving threat at the position.
  • OT Nate Garner — The Dolphins' most versatile backup for the past few years, Garner can play every position on the line. He was inconsistent but surprisingly productive at times late in 2012 when he started at right tackle after Jonathan Martin moved to the left side. Still, I question his pass protection abilities and I'd say he's far more suited for a "sixth man" role than he is a starting job. I'd certainly take him back if the price is right but I don't look to him to start in 2013 and I wouldn't overpay.
  • WR Brian Hartline — I'd said before the season that Hartline could be a 1,000-yard receiver on a good team. Turns out, he can be a 1,000-yard receiver on a bad team when he's the No. 1 receiver. Granted, Hartline should not be your top option in the passing game, but he has deceptive speed, good hands and incredible body control for sideline and diving grabs. I'd be willing to dish out $5-6 million per season to retain Hartline's services and I believe he could really thrive if the Dolphins find a true No. 1 wideout and Ryan Tannehill continues to develop.
  • K Nate Kaeding — Signed with two weeks left in the season thanks to a Dan Carpenter injury, Kaeding had a rough go of it in Miami, going 1-for-3 on field goals with one blocked. Carpenter may face competition in 2013 due to high salary, but I suspect Kaeding wasn't viewed as anything more than a veteran fill-in during the season and he probably won't be back.
  • OT Jake Long — Easily one of the most controversial free agent situations the Dolphins have this offseason, the former No. 1 overall pick and four-time Pro Bowler hasn't made Miami's decision easy with serious durability issues over the past couple seasons and an uncharacteristically bad 2012 performance. If Long comes to me and asks for Joe Thomas money (in the seven-year, $84 million range), I tell him best of luck in all his future endeavors and help him pack his locker. The franchise tag is an option and the Dolphins can afford it without issue, but I don't even know if there's a point. Long doesn't look like he can hold up over a 16-game season anymore and I honestly can't explain how bad he was in 2012, regardless of scheme change. It's an unfortunate turn of events for a guy that once looked like a lifetime Dolphin and future Hall of Famer, but the Dolphins would probably be better off moving on from Long in 2013.
  • DT Tony McDaniel — McDaniel battled an injury early in the season and saw his average snaps per game drop from 27.9 in 2011 to 23.2 in 2012. He also graded out negatively and hardly stood out when on the field. I wouldn't expect him to be greeted by a huge market and it's possible the Dolphins could try to bring him back for depth if Randy Starks walks, but my guess is the Dolphins will try to get younger at the position and move on.
  • QB Matt Moore — Moore led the Dolphins to a strong finish in 2011, but I have to believe the team just isn't that high on him when they skipped right over him after David Garrad's injury to Ryan Tannehill in the preseason. My guess is he'll look for a better backup situation elsewhere with the chance to compete for a starting job. Meanwhile, if the Dolphins are genuinely high on Pat Devlin, they could be looking to move on as well.
  • CB Sean Smith — After Long, Smith is probably the next most controversial free agent for the Dolphins this offseason. The pros to re-signing him are that he's got a ton of experience, he's 6-foot-3, and he's still young with ton of upside. The cons are that he may very well get overpaid because of the aforementioned attributes, when in reality he's been maddeningly inconsistent and at times just downright bad. The Dolphins are very thin at corner with the average and injured Richard Marshall, newcomer but nickel corner Dimitri Patterson and two guys with questionable upside in Nolan Carroll and Jimmy Wilson. I suspect the Dolphins will push to re-sign Smith to a good but not ridiculous contract and I do believe the franchise tag could be in play here. For those overreacting to the notion by pointing out that Smith isn't "worth" the franchise tender amount (around $10 million), my point remains that it's not going to affect the Dolphins' spending in 2013 and has no effect on the team's future years either, so it's simply a tool for keeping their best pure talent at the position around for one more season to see if he can put it together and earn an extension.
  • DT Randy Starks — I'm extremely torn on Starks, because he's been a great signing for the Dolphins and a Pro Bowl-caliber player for much of his stint here. He's still on the right side of 30 and doesn't seem to be wearing down. On the other hand, he could command good money and the Dolphins already have Paul Soliai locked up in 2013 and former first-rounder Jared Odrick waiting to move to his true position. As much as I hate to say it, it's probably most logical not to waste good money on Starks and instead let him walk, although I still believe he has plenty of good football ahead of him wherever he ends up.

Restricted Free Agents
  • S Jonathon Amaya — Dealt to New Orleans in the Reggie Bush trade in 2011, Amaya returned to the Dolphins this season and continues to be a special teams ace. His arrest for assaulting a cab driver late this past season won't help his stock, but it's good for him that he wasn't cut on the spot and thus may still be in the team's good graces. I think there's a chance he gets an original round tender (roughly $1.3 million but no draft pick compensation as he was undrafted), but at the very least the team could non-tender him and try to re-sign him for cheaper.
  • TE Jeron Mastrud — In his third season with the Dolphins, Mastrud played just 100 offensive snaps working behind Anthony Fasano and Charles Clay, catching zero passes. I honestly don't see any upside here, but my best guess is he'll be non-tendered and re-signed for depth/competition considering Fasano is a free agent, Clay is coming off a knee injury and 2012 third-rounder Michael Egnew is a waste of human tissue.
  • CB Bryan McCann — A depth signing in November, McCann worked his way into significant action due to injuries and actually held his own pretty well, seeing extensive playing time the final three weeks and grading out positively in Weeks 15 and 17. The 25-year-old is also a capable returner, and all things considered, I'd certainly bring him back to compete on an original round tender ($1.3 million) or even a second-round tender ($2 million) since he was undrafted. It seems like a lot, but none of it's guaranteed if he doesn't make the team.
  • WR Marlon Moore — Moore failed to take advantage of late-season injuries at the wide receiver position, instead seeing decreased snaps over the final three weeks and losing significant playing time to rookie Rishard Matthews and waive claim Armon Binns. He also struggled in his primary area of special teams, committing a team-high three penalties and missing three tackles. I suspect he won't be tendered, though re-signing for less remains a possibility.
  • LB Austin Spitler — A 2010 seventh-rounder, Spitler spent the 2012 season working purely on special teams for the third straight year and saw just 11 snaps on defense this past season. There really isn't any upside here and I'd probably non-tender him, but I would bring him back cheaper as a familiar face to compete in camp.

Exclusive-Rights Free Agents
  • OT Patrick Brown — In his second stint with the Dolphins, Brown spent four weeks on the Dolphins' roster but didn't see game action. I would expect him to be tendered and brought back in camp to work at either tackle spot.
  • QB Pat Devlin — Hard Knocks showed us that head coach Joe Philbin may be fairly high on Devlin as a project, and the Dolphins only have one quarterback signed in 2013 and that's Tannehill. Devlin is pretty much a lock to return on an ERFA tender and could even push for the No. 2 job if he continues to develop.
  • CB R. J. Stanford — A waive claim from Carolina before the season, Stanford spent most of the season as a backup corner and saw his defensive snap count drop over the final five weeks from 40 to 18 to 15 to five to zero. I don't see much upside here and he didn't show well in the field, but the Dolphins can retain him for cheap and usually bring 10 or so corners to camp, so I suspect he'll be back.

What I'd do

If I'm the Dolphins, I let Jake Long and Randy Starks walk, along with other UFAs like Matt Moore and Nate Garner. I re-sign Sean Smith if it's reasonable and possibly tag him if it's not. (You can argue with me all you want, but there is no downside to this.) I push to re-sign Reggie Bush, Chris Clemons (if cheap), Brian Hartline, and Anthony Fasano, although I fully intend to add playmakers to the wideout and tight end positions. The Dolphins can use quality players like Hartline and Fasano, but Hartline would be better served as a No. 2 or 3 receiver and Fasano as a second tight end.

I'm also willing to bring back all of the RFAs and ERFAs, although the only RFA that I'm really okay with paying the tender amount is corner Bryan McCann because of the promises he showed late in 2012. I might tender Amaya as well thanks to his special teams prowess. Other than that, I non-tender the other three RFAs and offer them take-it-or-leave-it deals around the minimum. The ERFAs are cheap to re-sign and thus should all return for camp.

It's certainly going to be an interesting offseason and Jeff Ireland will have plenty of cap room to add quality free agents and retain some key players of his own. I'm also curious to see if the team frees up any more cap space with roster cuts or contract extensions, which I'll take a look at on Friday so stay tuned!