With the Miami Dolphins hiring of former Green Bay Packer offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, the fan base is beginning to teem with excitement. And after watching the press conference today, I can say that I am one of those fans. He spoke with confidence and with power and it just seems like he's a great choice for a head coach. At the press conference, the media asked Philbin, Ross, and Ireland about several things and one of those things was finding a franchise quarterback. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has stated that finding a franchise signal caller is the number one priority (as it should be when you don't have one). It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that some new quarterbacks will be vying for the title of "Franchise Quarterback for the Miami Dolphins" in 2012. The real question is who that will be.
The hiring of Philbin immediately invited the speculation that he will try to bring soon-to-be free agent Matt Flynn with him from Green Bay. There is a wide spectrum of feelings about this idea amongst fans, from excitement to frustration. I am one of fans leaning toward frustration (I'll get to that in a minute). However, Philbin is familiar with Flynn and if we sign Flynn, that will immediately open up our draft possibilities. We could address several different pressing needs with Flynn penciled in as the starter. Here is my mock draft that would be possible with a Matt Flynn signing.
As I have stated several times in various comments, I'm against signing Matt Flynn. I knew that as soon as he had a big game against Detroit, the idea would be floated around here and has now been amplified by the coach signing. There are several positives to Flynn: he's familiar with the coach and system that will be implemented here. He's had some decent production in his limited playing time. But, in my opinion, the downside is much higher than the upside. First of all, we have tried the free agent route before and it has never worked. I won't list all of the quarterbacks we have wasted time on over the past decade. Secondly, he has had only two starts. Though he put up big stats in those starts, he is still very much inexperienced. In those two starts, he passed very well against two very weak defenses (New England ranked 30th in pass defense in 2010, Detroit ranked 22nd in 2011). The biggest issue I have though is with money. Flynn just happened to have a career day in the last game of the season. That means what most people will have on their minds about Flynn is THAT game. That also means that Flynn made himself a ton of money. In order for the Dolphins to sign him, they will have to offer a big contract. I see comments here and there suggesting that we bring Flynn in as "competition" for Moore or a rookie. Well I hate to break it to you, but Flynn isn't coming to Miami for "competition" money. Flynn is going to get a deal similar to what Kevin Kolb got, which was a six year $65M deal with $20M plus in guarantees. Even if Flynn takes a slight discount for following Philbin to Miami, he is still going to get a deal ranging from $7-9M a year. He's not coming here for $3-4M like Matt Moore and he's not going to get paid $7-9M a year to be "competition" for anyone. A major deal like that would eat up most of our cap space and would not allow us to go after key free agents like Carl Nicks or Mario Williams. There will be no deals for Vincent Jackson or Laron Landry or any other wishlist free agent. We definitely wouldn't be able to resign any of our own free agents and may have to cut some key players. If Flynn becomes a franchise quarterback, then it would be worth it. But I would be very hesitant to make a big deal for a quarterback with only two career starts. I'm not a fan of this particular move. That being said, Flynn does have some potential and if Philbin thinks he can be a starting quarterback, then I'll give them my support.
Whether we like Matt Flynn or not, it still looks like a strong possibility that he will be a Miami Dolphin next season. If that happens, here's what I think our draft could look like.
Round 1: Riley Reiff, OT
This pick will most likely change once I learn what defensive scheme we are using. Outside of QB, getting a pass rusher is the biggest need. We have Wake and nothing else. However, since the defensive scheme is unknown at this point, I will post a player at another area of need: right tackle. Reiff is a top tier tackle prospect with good athleticism and technique. He could easily play left tackle, but will move to right tackle here. He will be able to neutralize the pass rush from the right side, meaning teams cannot move their pass rushers around like they did this past season. He will also be open huge running lanes for Bush and Thomas. In the event that Long is injured again, Reiff can move to left tackle without much drop in production. With Long, Pouncey, and Reiff, we would have a great foundation for an offensive line.
Round 2: Coby Fleener, TE
The tight end used to just be the quarterback's safety valve when he was in trouble. With rules favoring receivers now, the tight end has become more of a main threat for quarterbacks. Tight ends are becoming dangerous weapons for teams and are starting to have greater value. Miami will keep Anthony Fasano because he's a good all-around TE. Charles Clay will still around for his blocking and versatility. But everyone else will go and we will need another TE. Fleener would immediately become a receiving threat TE that would give Flynn another weapon in his arsenal. Fleener is a good route runner with plenty of speed to give linebackers problems. He has good hands and presents a big target to the QB. He's not a great blocker, but can add some strength. He has the potential to be a #1 TE, and at worse will be a solid #2 TE. Between Fleener, Fasano, and Clay, we'd have a nice set of weapons that will create some mismatches for teams.
Round 3: Brian Quick, WR
I've talked about Quick before, so I'm not going to give the complete breakdown. Philbin comes from a team that had a deep arsenal of wide receivers. While Miami has some good wide receivers, it can never hurt to add more weapons to help out your new QB. Julius Pruitt may have earned his roster spot based on his ridiculous special teams play, but has done nothing at receiver. Moore and Wallace have some upside, but injuries kept them off the field much of this season and they still haven't shown much production. Those guys have shown some ability, but may not have done enough to warrant a roster spot with the new coach. New coaches usually like to add their own players and Philbin could be intrigued by Quick. Quick would offer Flynn a big target down the field and especially in the red zone.
Round 4: B.J. Coleman, QB
Even with the signing of Matt Flynn, the Dolphins will still draft a quarterback to develop. Coleman is a senior QB from the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga. He transferred from the Tennessee Volunteers after falling down the depth chart. He was a productive QB for the UTC Mocs, ranking second all time in school history in passing yards (6871 yards) in only three years. He has the size and arm to be a good NFL signal caller. However, he needs work on his footwork and mechanics, and will have to make a big adjustment coming from Division I-AA (FCS). But he has some potential and could develop into a good QB working with some good offensive minds.
Round 5: Donta Paige-Moss, DE
We will most likely address pass rusher much earlier in the draft than the 5th round. But as mentioned, I'm unsure of the scheme we will use, so it's hard to project a pick at this point. Paige-Moss offers a good developmental pass rusher to be used in a rotation with Wake and Misi/Merling. He has potential to be a good 4-3 or 3-4 pass rusher. He has the size and strength to bull rush a tackle, but also has the athleticism to get low and bend around the tackle as well. The biggest issue with Paige-Moss is that he suffered an ACL injury in a bowl game in 2011, which means he probably won't be ready for action at the beginning of the season. However, he could be allowed to recover and then develop and may be one of the steals of the draft.
Round 7: Cliff Harris, CB
Now that we are getting into the developmental part of the draft, why not take a chance on a 1st round caliber talent? Harris was a projected as a 1st round pick before the 2011 season began. However, off the field issues have caused his draft stock to plummet drastically. He has the speed, athleticism, and ball skills to be a playmaker in the secondary, but he needs to mature in order to recognize that potential. The Dolphins have some needs in the secondary, especially at the safety position. However, this is a relatively weak safety class and we might be better off sticking with our current players instead of drafting one. At cornerback, we have our two starters, but we need some depth. Will Allen may not be back. Carroll is inconsistent and Wilson still needs some development (he might be better as a safety). Harris would be worth a shot here because the potential outweighs the cost. We have Bell, Dansby, and some other guys on the defense who can try to keep Harris on the straight and narrow. If he can't mature enough to contribute, then it's just a 7th round pick. If he keeps his act together, then we have a possible playmaker with enough ability to play inside at nickel or outside.