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So it's Friday. More importantly, we are just two weeks away from the start of free agency. And during the course of these two weeks, the Dolphins have some key decisions to make regarding their own free agents.
And since I try to make Friday's posts - the least busy day of the week here at this site - on the simpler side. And today's premise is simple. I'll be laying out - for your approval - my ideal (but realistic - that's a key factor to keep in mind) pre-draft offseason - basically meaning how I hope to see free agency play out. I'll be be doing this more on the conservative side in terms of how much money the Dolphins will be able to spend to land these free agents.
So, depending on who you listen to, the Dolphins have anywhere between $23 million and $28 million in cap room heading into this offseason. But do take note that the Dolphins could create more if needed. Now - as I previously stated - because this is the final capped season (with 2010 to be an "uncapped" year as of now), teams can't no longer convert salary into a bonus and prorate it over the life of the contract, in turn lowering that player's 2009 cap figure. But they still can convert some salary to incentives that wouldn't get factored in until the 2010 offseason - therefore creating more '09 cap room.
With that said, here would be my conservative ideal offseason.
DOLPHIN FREE AGENTS
First, the Dolphins need to bring back Vernon Carey. And it seems like they want to - with some reports suggesting the Dolphins might even place the franchise tag on Carey if the two sides haven't reached a long-term extension by the franchise deadline of February 19 at 4 pm eastern. That would allow the Dolphins and Carey to continue trying to hammer out a long-term deal and, if nothing else, would guarantee Carey an $8.45 million salary in 2009 (if no contract is reached). But with there only potentially being one better tackle on the market, re-signing Carey is a must.
Bringing back Yeremiah Bell is another important move. There are grumblings that Bell might at least test the free agent waters to see what kind of bites he might get - and potentially forcing the Dolphins to spend more to re-sign him. But there's no question Bell has to come back.
I also think that the Dolphins should re-sign Andre Goodman. I know some people aren't as high on him as I am. But I think he's beginning to hit his stride and having more time under these coaches will make him even better. He was the team's best corner the 2nd half of the season and a reasonable deal roughly $3 million per year (the same amount Will Allen is getting paid in '09) should get him back to South Florida.
Renaldo Hill should also be brought back - and he likely won't be expensive at all. In all honesty, too, if he knows what's good for him, he'll stick around. He's far more valuable to the Dolphins in this particular systen than he would be to any other team. Therefore, no other team is going to offer him substrantially more money.
OTHER FREE AGENTS
Moving on to other teams' free agents. The one key, big-money free agent I most want to see in Miami is Karlos Dansby. He's the perfect guy to replace Channing Crowder. He does everything Crowder can do (make tackles, be the signal caller) and then some. He's a play-maker. It's that simple. And his versatility and skill set make this Dolphins' defense far more daunting than with Crowder at inside linebacker. Pay the $7 to $8 million annually and bring Karlos to South Beach.
Now, if this all played out, there wouldn't be too much money left for the Dolphins to go get another big free agent. Like all of you, I'd love to bring in Ravens' center Jason Brown. But he'll either remain in Baltimore or be on the market for a boat load of money. And I'd rather get Dansby than Brown.
The defensive backfield is another position of need. And as much as I'd love to see Bryant McFadden in Miami, all indications are that the Steelers will re-sign him. I'd also love to see Rams' safety O.J. Atogwe in Miami - but I'd be shocked if the Rams let him get away.
So who does that leave?
In my ideal offseason, the Dolphins would go out and sign either CB Jabari Greer or CB Leigh Bodden. Both are solid cover corners. Bodden, in particular, was stuck in a defensive scheme in Detroit that doesn't play to his strengths. He's a good man-to-man defender. And he'd look great playing with Will Allen and Andre Goodman as one of Miami's 3 top corners. The same goes for Greer - who has always impressed me for some reason despite being a Buffalo Bill.
I'd also love to see a nose tackle brought in to help take the load off of Jason Ferguson. Something tells me Paul Soliai is just not that guy. So I hope to see the Dolphins make a play for either the Cardinals Gabe Watson or the Packers' Colin Cole. Both are big bodies who, from what I've seen, would excel as Ferguson's backup and potential future replacement.
-Re-sign Carey, Bell, Goodman, and Hill
-Sign Karlos Dansby
-Sign either Jabari Greer or Leigh Bodden
-Sign either Gabe Watson or Colin Cole
Then, come draft time, I'd look for the Dolphins to go hard after offensive linemen, a wide receiver, a corner, a safety, and an outside linebacker.
The fact of the matter is the Dolphins still have many holes before being perennial contenders. All of them won't be filled this offseason. But a strong offseason in '09 could set the table for a Super Bowl run as early as 2010.
(Disclaimer: If the Raiders are dumb and don't franchise Nnamdi Asomugha, I'd concede all off the above to throw as much cash at him as he wants and get him down to Miami.)
So what would your ideal "pre-draft" offseason look like? And remember to keep it realistic.