Monday, January 27, 2014

2014 free agents with ties to Dennis Hickey

The Miami Dolphins enter the offseason with general manager other than Jeff Ireland for the first time since 2007, and as we all know coaches and personnel men often look at familiar talents when trying to build a roster

Just as I did with ex-Cowboys and Jets when Bill Parcells arrived in 2008, I'm going to take a look at some notable current or former Buccaneers players set to hit the open market to see if there is any talent that might attract new Dolphins GM Dennis Hickey.

CB Michael Adams (TB)

LeGarrette Blount rushed for over 1,000 yards
as an undrafted rookie with the Bucs in 2010.
Not to be confused with the Broncos' safety, this Mike Adams spent six years with the Cardinals before signing with the Bucs last June. A knee injury landed him on injured reserve after Week 11, however, and the 29 year old with seven NFL starts under his belt isn't going to be a free agent commodity.

DE Michael Bennett (SEA)

Despite a nine-sack season with Tampa Bay in 2012, the Bucs let Bennett walk in free agency last offseason. He actually visited the Dolphins before inking a one-year deal with the Seahawks. Despite rotator cuff surgery in the offseason and a few early-season injuries, Bennett has been a stud for the NFC-champion Seahawks with 8.5 sacks in just 617 regular season snaps.

Despite his talent, Bennett obviously isn't fit for the Dolphins. Cameron Wake is still going strong, Olivier Vernon is coming off an 11.5-sack season and 2013 third-overall-pick Dion Jordan certainly looks to have an expanded role in 2014.

RB LeGarrette Blount (NE)

A quality talent with maturity issues, Blount rushed for over 1,000 yards as a rookie with the Bucs in 2010, only to struggle the next two seasons. He was dealt to New England in 2013 for a seventh-round draft pick, shuffling between large and small roles in Bill Belichick's confusing backfield. He's entering free agency with a huge 4-touchdown game in the divisional round fresh in people's minds, so he should have a number of suitors in free agency at age 27.

While the offensive line is certainly more of a problem than Lamar Miller is, Blount would certainly be of use to the Dolphins as an ungrade over Daniel Thomas. However, I suspect the Dolphins wouldn't be willing to give him much guaranteed money and running backs are best found in the draft, anyway.

LB Jonathan Casillas (TB)

A former undrafted free agent, Casillas spent four seasons with the Saints before joining the Bucs in 2013. He wound up leading the team with 10 special teams tackles and while the defensive upside isn't there, he's a worthwhile cheap addition for any team, including the Dolphins.

LS Andrew Economos (TB)

He's been the Bucs' long snapper since 2006, but if the Dolphins are going to replace John Denney and his $865,000 salary (very unlikely) it'll be with a younger, cheaper player than the 31-year-old Economos.

QB Josh Freeman (MIN)

A former first-round pick of the Bucs, Freeman had a tremendous 2010 season (25 touchdowns, six interceptions, 95.9 passer rating) but has since tailed off. A rift between Freeman and former Bucs coach Greg Schiano ultimately led to the quarterback's release, and he didn't fare much better in Minnesota in 2013 after being thrust quite quickly into the starting lineup.

The Dolphins could certainly be in the market for an experienced backup given Matt Moore's age and potential $4 million cap savings, but Freeman isn't a fit. He's got upside, but he'll be looking for an opportunity to start right away and playing behind a young quarterback like Ryan Tannehill isn't the ticket.

DT Gary Gibson (DT)

A journeyman and former undrafted free agent, Gibson has spent time with the Ravens, Panthers, Rams and Buccaneers. He started all 16 games for the Rams in 2010, but has made just three starts since including one in 2013. The Dolphins are thin at defensive tackle with free agents Randy Starks and Paul Soliai, but Gibson would represent nothing more than a camp body and potential backup at the position.

LB Adam Hayward (TB)

The 29-year-old Hayward has been a backup and special-teamer with the Bucs since being drafted in the sixth round in 2007. There isn't defensive upside here, but he did finish second on the team behind Casillas with 8 special teams tackles.

RB/FB Peyton Hillis (NYG)

His 11-touchdown season with the Browns in 2010 a distant memory, Hillis has bounce around the league since with little success. That includes a stop at Bucs training camp in 2013, where he ended up making the team but was released in September without playing in a game. He later rushed for two touchdowns on a 3.4-yard average in seven games with the Giants.

Like I said on Blount, the Dolphins could certainly use more talent at running back, but at this point I'd take Daniel Thomas over Hillis. There's simply no upside here and the Dolphins should aim much higher.

C Ted Larsen (TB)

A Miami native and sixth-round pick out of NC State in 2010, Larsen has started 31 of 60 games played in four seasons, but opened just four contests in 2013 and has generally graded out poorly. He has the ability to play some guard as well, but would be nothing more than a depth signing in Miami and is probably no better than 2013 undrafted rookie Sam Brenner.

RB Brian Leonard (TB)

A hybrid sort of back, Leonard's Rutgers connections brought him to Tampa in 2013 under Greg Schiano. His performance in 2013 was par for the course with him, averaging 3.9 a carry and catching 29 passes out of the backfield. He's nothing more than a second or third back, but he does have value as a third-round back and a quality pass protector.

K Rian Lindell (TB)

The 37-year-old Lindell converted just 79.3 percent of field goals in 2013, and while that is better than the Dolphins' Caleb Sturgis (76.5), there's no way he's replacing Miami's 2013 fifth-round pick. The team will look elsewhere if they decide to bring in competition.

FB Erik Lorig (TB)

A seventh-rounder in 2010, Lorig has served a the Bucs' starting fullback for each of the past three seasons. He graded out poorly as a run blocker in 2013, but considering he'd come cheap and the Dolphins didn't use a true fullback for most last season (tight end Michael Egnew was forced into the role), it's not impossible he could be brought in to compete.

OG Jamon Meredith (TB)

Selected by the Packers in the fifth round in 2009, Meredith has bounced around with six teams in five pro seasons. He's started 20 games for the Bucs over the past two seasons (playing both guard spots), but he's routinely graded out poorly and the line-needy Dolphins can do much better.

WR Kevin Ogletree (DET)

The Cowboys had high hopes for the undrafted Ogletree, but he never really developed and spent time with both the Bucs and Lions in 2013. Dolphins' slot receiver Brandon Gibson is iffy coming back from a knee injury, but I don't suspect Ogletree could even supplant Rishard Matthews an thus I don't see any interest here.

QB Dan Orlovsky (TB)

A fifth-round pick in 2005, Orlovsky has played nine seasons for the Lions, Texans, Colts and Bucs. He's 12 games in his career and had 14 touchdowns against 12 interceptions as a pro, but he only threw seven passes for the Bucs in 2012 and did not attempt a pass. He's certainly an OK backup and would be much cheaper than Matt Moore, but the Dolphins might be better off with a more long-term option.

CB Aqib Talib (NE)

A former first-round pick of the Bucs in 2008, Talib's talent has never been in question. He picked off 15 passes in his first three seasons (including a career-high six in just 11 games in 2010) but he's also had his share of off-the-field issues with multiple arrests. He proved to be steal for the Patriots, who got four interceptions and a Pro Bowl selection out of him on a one-year deal.

The 27-year-old Talib could command a hefty contract his offseason and comes with a fair share of risk. However, it's possible he could be on the Dolphins' radar if they fail to re-sign Brent Grimes (and assuming Hickey wants anything to do with him).

DE Daniel Te'o-Nesheim (TB)

A first-round pick by the Buccaneers in 2008, Talib was
selected to his first career Pro Bowl with the Patriots in 2013.
A third-round pick by the Eagles in 2010, Te'o-Nesheim has just 6 sacks in four pro seasons and totaled just 1 in 2013 despite 12 starts and over 600 defensive snaps. I have no problem with him being brought in as a camp body, but don't expect anything out of the guy PFF graded the worst 4-3 end in football this past season.

WR Tiquan Underwood (TB)

A homeless man's Mike Wallace, the former seventh-round pick out of Rutgers had a career-high four touchdowns in 2013 but has never been able to put it all together. He'd be suitable camp competition but I question whether he'd even crack the Dolphins' top four (assuming a healthy Brandon Gibson).

LB Dekoda Watson (TB)

A seventh-round pick in 2010, Watson has primarily worked on special teams for the Bucs but did play 263 defensive snaps in 2013, totaling career highs in tackles (42) and sacks (2.0) and grading out positively according to PFF. He'd make for nice backup competition in Miami and honestly couldn't be any worse than Philip Wheeler, not that it's difficult to do that.