When the New England Patriots' trade of outside linebacker Jamie Collins, to the Cleveland Browns, was announced on Monday, the transaction stood in stark contrast to the way the Miami Dolphins do business. The Dolphins, you see, generally opt to sign defensive players in free agency, then hang onto them for years, while spending the vast majority of their top draft choices on offense. Miami has used only four of its first round picks on defense over the past thirteen years, fewest in the NFL, and has only one winning season since finishing 9-7 in 2005.
A few days ago , the Phinsider ran an article raising the question as to whether defensive end Cameron Wake should be traded. NFL.com, last week, had suggested that he should be. Predictably, most of us were vehemently against the very notion of such a move. That's understandable, considering that Miami has so few star players on its defense. Other than Wake, the only other bona fide studs the Dolphins have on that side of the ball are defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and safety Reshad Jones. This is the same argument we've been making for years, regarding Miami's defense; in 2015, we declared that the defense was in great shape because we had players like Wake, and former Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes, on the team. Call it the 'Dolphin Way': sign one or two solid veterans, then fill many of the remaining positions on defense with undrafted college players or street free agents and go into the season with that. When, predictably, that approach doesn't work, go right back and do the exact same thing again next year.
Meanwhile, up in Foxborough, Massachusetts, the Patriots continue to show the rest of the NFL how business is done. When outside linebacker Jamie Collins reportedly wanted 'Von Miller money' during renegotiations for his next contract, New England didn't blink; they shipped him to Cleveland for a third-round pick in next April's draft. The Patriots, as you may know, are the odds-on favorite to win the Super Bowl this coming February. The Dolphins, however, apparently have no such plans for a player like Cameron Wake. The Dolphins don't draft defense, at least, not very much. The Patriots do draft defense, and when a player like Collins, or fellow defensive star Chandler Jones before him, approaches the end of his contract, New England moves him for draft picks/players, then replaces him. While Wake is signed through next season, NFL.com is correct in their assessment that Miami should trade him for whatever they can get in return, in our opinion. But, the Dolphins still have a shot at making the playoffs, you say? As what, the sixth seed? Is Miami going to become the 1980 Oakland Raiders, or the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers, and win three playoff games on the road in January? If you believe that, you're chasing exceptions, and if there's one thing we have little regard for in this column, it's placing excessive faith in exceptions. If you want to place your faith in exceptions, we politely suggest that you go out and buy yourself a lottery ticket, because we have the winning numbers right here, for you to play: 01-30-17. Those numbers represent the day, less than three months from now, that Cameron Wake will celebrate his 35th birthday.
So, in sum, the team with the NFL's best record has no problem trading one of their star defensive players, who just turned 27 two weeks ago, while a team with a losing record, the Dolphins, continues to keep an aging star, whose best days are behind him, on their roster, and Dolphin fans are perfectly fine with that. Denial is a powerful thing, folks.