I've been considering the direction of the Miami franchise for a few months now, pretty much since the Phins were eliminated from playoff contention. My ideas started to come together, and I figured I better get them down in writing to get some opinions on it. So without further ado:
A couple under the radar roster moves, and Miami's front office can begin building their 2013 roster with about 60 Million in expendable cap room. It'll come at a hefty price, as the Dolphins will need to be dealing many marquee players a new contract or their walking papers. My whole concentration in this hypothetical offseason plan is continuity. Keeping the core of the team intact, while adding some finishing touches and injecting a bit of new blood through an abundance of draft picks, rather than targeting big name free agents, who come with just as high a price tag.
First and foremost, I am a strong believer that Jake Long needs to return to the franchise. As an All-Pro his first four seasons in the league, one rough season, in a new system with new coaches, is no reason to abandon our most consistent player for the past 5 years. Even if we have to spend 15 on a franchise tag, I believe it would be worthy investment. Fortunately, he shouldn't cost us 15 million. A 3-5 year deal at around 9 mil a season could bode well for us. Long is coming off his worst year and 2 back to back seasons that ended on IR. That gives the front office leverage in a new contract. Lets face the facts, starting Jonathan Martin at LT is a huge step back, and swapping out Long for a different LT in free agency is going to cost a pretty penny regardless. As for the draft, we consistently draft high linemen, its time to develop our talent for a year and cool off on the turnover in our offensive trenches. Let the group gel for another season in the zone blocking scheme. This starts by retaining Jake Long to keep that group intact.
Ireland and Co. then need to turn their attention to Reggie Bush. Say what you want about Reggie and his somewhat inconsistent play this year, but he's a player this offence could really benefit from, especially moving forward. He's taken to a "keep your head down and grind" mentality, and with his immense talent, that makes a lethal combination. He's a weapon that you can keep fresh by rotating through with Thomas and Miller. Realistically, if Reggie Bush recognizes the amount of players in need of a new contract, and the task the FO is taking on this offseason, he may agree to stay in Miami for less than we've paid him in his first two years. If we can lock him in for around 3.8 - 4.2 Mil range on a 2 year deal, I'll be ecstatic. That would keep the team at a relatively low price level for the RB situation moving forward, while still having 3 intriguing players on the roster. This contract may be wishful thinking, but it's by no means out of the realm of possibility.
Next in the pecking order has to be Sean Smith. His size and physicality is going to be important for a young secondary, giving them somebody who can lock down a #1. He's turned into a more consistent corner than his former partner, Vontae Davis, and while he isn't a week in and week out all star, he's about as close as you can get. I figure Miami would be able to sign him to a 4-5 year contract, similar to what Brandon Flowers signed for. If we can get him for 5.5 Mil a season when it's all said and done, I would be a happy camper. It may seem like a steep price, but corner is a money position, and I see Kevin Coyle's system taking a step back without the services of Sean Smith. Ireland didn't do himself any favours by not signing any of Miami's cornerstone players to extensions in the past couple years, and had he moved on Smith when he was the No.2 to Vontae Davis, we'd be talking about a 3-4 million dollar contract instead.
With these 3 players taking priority, the core of the roster wouldn't need rebuilding, and instead we could build off the team's success last year, oppose to replacing pieces we've lost. Of course, theres still the matter of Hartline, Starks, Clemons, and Fasano's contracts. I'll cut right to the chase on this one and part ways with Clemons and Fasano. They've been equally productive players, however Starks is making a great tandem on the interior of the defensive line paired with Soliai, and is going to be a higher priority for the Dolphins this offseason. Considering they let Kendall Langford walk last offseason, I don't imagine they'll let another valuable lineman follow suit this year. (more likely to part ways with Tony McDaniel for that matter). This years draft class is flooded with talent at the D Line, so I'm by no means opposed to taking a quality prospect in April and keeping Starks. Soliai is due for a new deal next year, so we could dump his high money and give a rookie one year in a rotation before he replaces big man Paul Soliai.
While Fasano's blocking prowess is a key to sealing the edge in our run game, I truly believe he's an expendable player. Clemons has been productive and has proven to be a reliable starter. That can't go overlooked, but I just don't see Miami retaining all their UFA's, and I see him as one of the lesser contributors on the list. That being said, I see Hartline returning to the Aqua and Orange next year. He got a lot of exposure this season, and proved to be an excellent fit in the Philbin/Sherman WCO, posting his first career 1,000 yard receiving season. Hartline and Bess were easily the most consistent targets for Tannehill in 2012, and I see the FO pushing to keep him in Miami for the foreseeable future, if not solely for Tannehill's benefit.
These moves would put the Dolphins in great shape to kick off the offseason. I cannot stress how important it is to keep these key members on the team in Miami. Losing Bell, Marshall, and Davis this past year was a substantial blow to the talent pool in South Beach, and it would be downright ridiculous to ignore the importance of keeping the majority of these players here, especially Long and Bush. We'll have a nice amount of cap room to play with, and if the money aspect is supposedly Ireland's strong suit, nows the time he show his true colours and get it done.
I'll finish up with a little Mock draft, which I know is early and even pointless. BUT HEY, its fun, so get over it.
1 - Keenan Allen, WR, Cal **(Damontre Moore if Allen is off the board before 12)
2a - Tyrann Mathieu, CB, NA (LSU)
2b - Robert Woods, WR, USC **(Justin Hunter if he looks real nice at the combine)
3a - Corey Lemonier, DE, Auburn
3b - Baccarri Rambo, FS, Georgia **(Ryan Swope if only 1 WR has been chosen at this point)
4 - Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
5 - Sean Porter, OLB, Texas A&M
6- Best avaliable OG
7 - Best available DT
And now that my chew is going to hell, its time to put a lid on the spitter and this article. #PHINSUP