Daugherty ranks 29 of the 32 team’s general managers, leaving out the three teams (Indianapolis Colts, San Francisco 49ers, and Washington Redskins), who have new GMs. Of the 29 GMs ranked, Miami lands in 26th position - and that is actually an upgrade over last year's 28th spot - for Vice President of Football Operations Mike Tannenbaum. Daugherty takes exception to many of the moves the Dolphins have made this offseason, particularly many of the re-signings the team made, while never mentioning positive things like trading for Julius Thomas, trading away Branden Albert when they were going to release him, adding Lawrence Timmons or trading for William Hayes. The Dolphins went into this offseason with a clearly established game plan, with all of the team’s decision makers on the same page.
But, Daugherty does not understand how Miami makes decisions. He seems stuck in the past with the Joe Philbin, Jeff Ireland power structure. Daugherty starts his blurb about the Dolphins and their 26th ranking writing, “Mike Tannenbaum presides over the most confusing power structure in football. Chris Grier has the title of general manager. Coach Adam Gase has final say over the 53-man roster. Who does anything in particular is never exactly clear."
Except, it actually is clear. Tannenbaum controls the purse strings and works contracts, with an overall eye on the franchise as a whole. General manager Chris Grier is responsible for the scouting of players and the Draft. Head coach Adam Gase has decisions over who makes the 53-man roster when cuts happen during the summer. So, Grier finds the players, Tannenbaum works the salary cap and contracts, and Gase decides which players work the best on the field once the season starts. Oh, ever so confusing.
And, not that uncommon a structure. But, I guess that would get in the way of the narrative about how confusing the Dolphins’ front office - a front office that seems to absolutely be working in concert for the first time in a long time - is structured.
Let’s also completely ignore the article from the Palm Beach Post’s Joe Schad this week that stressed, "It's important to the members of the Dolphins' organization that there is a clear understanding of roles." Apparently, it is particularly clear within the Dolphins organization who does what, so maybe it is just Daugherty who does not understand how the Dolphins work - and I am fairly certain that is not a Dolphins problem.
Of course, Daugherty was not done with his hit-job on the Dolphins and Tannenbaum. "Clearer is Tannenbaum's checkered track record, and devotion to big spending and draft daring." Except, the Dolphins were not big spenders this year. They were very deliberate in where they spent their money, and they did not overspend on free agents simply to spend the money.
There is no denying that Tannenbaum likes to make moves on draft day. He will trade up, trade back, add picks, spend picks, and look to make the team better however he can. We saw it last year with moves to grab players like cornerback Xavien Howard and wide receiver Leonte Carroo, but "draft daring" does not seem like it is a bad thing just on its own. Tannenbaum - and Grier as the man in charge of the Draft - are making the moves they think they need to make to get their player and get the Dolphins into a better position for the upcoming season, and the seasons down the road. If you want to say those moves do not always pan out - and Carroo is clearly stuck lower on the depth chart than you would want as a player for whom you traded up to grab - that is fine, but just because a GM - or in this case VP of Football Operations - is willing to make a move does not mean he is a bad executive.
Daugherty does give Tannenbaum one short, back-handed compliment in the middle of his write-up, "Tannenbaum has established a distinctly-Jets trajectory in Miami except for one key difference: Hiring Gase. That brilliant decision helped mask a lot of bad ones in 2016 (hello, Mario Williams).” Did I miss the part of the offseason where Tannenbaum signed Mark Sanchez to a giant contract? No? Then I would argue the Dolphins are not on a “distinctly-Jets trajectory.” Miami did miss on Mario Williams last year. Do you know what they did this offseason? Correct that by releasing Williams. Miami has not tied themselves into horrible contracts under which they cannot escape, even when they do sign a player like Williams. That does not seem like a "Jets trajectory" from Tannenbaum.
The bashing does not end there, however, as Daugherty wants to use examples of these “bad” contracts to show just how poor a front office Miami has. He writes, “Restricted free agent Kiko Alonso's extension was unnecessary and risky. Re-signing 2016 free agent bargain Andre Branch to a three-year, $24 million contract was one of the worst moves of the offseason. Good franchises don’t extend their Andre Branchs. They try to find the next one. Tannenbaum is going to make life hard on Gase. He could make things easier for both of them by letting Gase’s influence grow. The most promising NFL coaching prospect in years, Gase will almost certainly be the best decision of Tannenbaum’s tenure. Tannenbaum should maximize Gase’s impact by lessening his own."
Locking up a young linebacker who, admittedly was on a restricted free agent tender but is now signed for four years, while Miami avoids the possibility of Alonso overplaying his tender this year and wanting even more money next year or becoming a target for other teams next year. If it does not work out with Alonso, the Dolphins would cut him after the 2018 season, without a ton of dead money remaining on the contract. Yes, his 2018 salary cap number will jump to $9.6 million, compared to $2.8 million this year, but the Dolphins will have that already built into their planning for 2018. Miami has proven they are capable of managing the salary cap extremely well, so to worry about the 2018 cap right now seems premature.
Branch’s contract pays him $8 million on average over the three seasons for which he signed, making him the 18th highest averaging edge rusher in the league. His 2017 cap number is $5 million, though it will jump to $10 million in 2018, then Miami will be able to release him without a lot of dead money before the 2019 season.
Does the re-signing of Kenny Stills and Reshad Jones factor into Daugherty’s destruction of the Dolphins? Are they not mentioned because they were good moves? Was the addition of Julius Thomas, who starred in Adam Gase’s offense in Denver, a good move for Miami? Should we just ignore the fact that the Dolphins appear to be building a strong roster by keeping their own players and being smart in their decision-making during free agency?
The only teams and GMs that ranked lower than the Dolphins were the New York Jets and Mike Maccagnan, the Los Angeles Rams and Les Snead, and the Buffalo Bills and Doug Whaley. Just to add the fourth AFC East team to the article, the New England Patriots and Bill Belichick were ranked as the top GM in the league.