The NFL offseason officially begins on Tuesday afternoon at 4 p.m., but in the last week, Dolphins fans have already been hit by free-agent fever.
Of course, that fever is called the Manning-watch, and already, the Dolphins seem to find themselves behind both the Denver Broncos and Arizona Cardinals in their pursuit of the four-time NFL MVP, who was released by the Indianapolis Colts last Wednesday.
However there are other needs to be addressed by the Miami Dolphins this free agency, and while we'll discuss their attempt at signing Peyton Manning, we will also look at everything else the Miami Dolphins will attempt to do this free-agency period in order to compete for the AFC East title next season.
The NFL's salary cap for 2012 has been set at $120.6 million. Of that $120.6 million, the Miami Dolphins have about $13 million to spend. Even if they fail in the pursuit of Manning, odds are the Dolphins are going to be very frugal in free agency this season, although thankfully, not as frugal as the typically cheap Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
This means Miami will have to use its money wisely, targeting positions of need as opposed to any luxury items. The Dolphins have many needs other than quarterback, and while the draft is expected to be used to fill any of those needs, they will also have to augment that by spending money in free agency.
Here's a look at some of the storylines facing the Dolphins this offseason, and yes, we will look at their pursuit of their next quarterback.
3/14: ProFootballTalk is reporting that the Dolphins have signed CB Richard Marshall to a 3 year contract worth $16 million dollars with $6 million dollars guaranteed.
The website lists Marshall as one of the top 35 NFL free agents for 2012.
Marshall is a good pickup for the Dolphins. He comes at a decent price and can play nickle corner as well as taking some snaps at safety.
This is a boost for a Miami secondary that has in the past failed to create big plays. Despite a stellar run-stopping defense that finished third overall last season, Miami's pass defense was a meager 25th in the league, allowing 249.5 yards per game.
Last season with Arizona, Marshall played in all 16 games, starting nine of them. He finished the year with three interceptions and a career high 11 pass deflections.
Jay Glazer of Fox Sports reports right as the Free Agency period opens that the Miami Dolphins have traded star wide receiver Brandon Marshall to the Chicago Bears for third round picks in 2012 and 2013.
This will reunite Marshall with Bears' quarterback Jay Cutler, who was his teammate when both played in Denver.
This move didn't shock me at all. Why? Let's go back a month:
Before Miami does anything, it has to call the Chicago Bears and entertain the possibility of trading Marshall. I'd be very discreet about it and if the price isn't right, don't bother making a deal, but at least make a phone call and see if Chicago is interested in Marshall and how much it would be willing to give up. Anything less than two second-rounders gets shut down and the Dolphins would move on.
The Dolphins seemed to have listened to me save for the last part, however two third round picks isn't a bad haul, especially considering that the Bears were really the only option for the Dolphins to trade Marshall too. Trading Marshall also clears cap space, which the Dolphins plan on using to strengthen the right side of their offensive line.
In fact, Miami is already meeting former Texans OT Eric Winston, a product of the University of Miami who's brother serves as a scout with the Dolphins. Winston would help solidify the Dolphins offensive line.
Rotoworld.com reports that the Dolphins have re-signed restricted free agent defensive end Phillip Merling. The contract is reportedly worth $1.26 million for one-year. This deal isn't very surprising to me. Merling wasn't going to get a lot of offers in free agency and looks to be a key piece to the Dolphins new defensive schemes.
Rotoworld.com is also reporting that the Dolphins have re-signed Tackle Lydon Murtha to a one year $1.927 million contract. The Dolphins had been high on Murtha since he filled in for Jake Long at LT last preseason only for Murtha to get hurt for the season during the preseason. He will likely serve as a swing tackle behind Jake Long, but if the Dolphins fail to get Winston he will likely be their right tackle.
We have found our answer to this question, and it turns out that it was right under their nose to tackle all along.
(Insert comedic rimshot here.)
The Miami Dolphins have re-signed Nose Tackle Paul Soliai to a two year deal worth $12 million, with $6 million guaranteed.
Soliai is vital to Miami's front seven when it comes to stopping the run. Miami ranked third in the league in rushing yards allowed last season
Soliai made $12.5 million last season when the Dolphins franchise tagged him. Compared to his deal last season, this deal with Soliai is a bargain for the Dolphins.
Update: Adam Schefter of ESPN is reporting that the Rams have signed former Dolphin DE Kendall Langford to a 4 year, $24 million dollar contract with $12 million dollars guaranteed.
The Dolphins offensive line is a tail of two different lines. Well, at least somewhat.
On the left side, you have All-Pro former No. 1 pick Jake Long and the sometimes dirty yet effective play of left guard Richie Incognito. At center, you have last year's first-round pick, Mike Pouncey, who played very well in his rookie year.
Then, you go to the right side and you will see disaster. Vernon Carey was his usual decent self; however, next to him, the Dolphins didn't even have a right guard. Marc "Human Turnstyle" Colombo just happened to get the majority of the snaps.
While there was some improvement seen in John Jerry when he was plugged in at right guard, he still seemed to struggle at times and will likely remain a situational lineman next season.
To make matters worse, the Dolphins will likely let Carey go in free agency. Carey has already sold his home in the suburb of Southwest Ranches to a notable fellow University of Miami alum.
However the Dolphins do have some hope: Lydon Murtha impressed many within the Dolphins organization last preseason when he filled in for Jake Long at left tackle. His preseason was cut short due to injury, and Murtha is a restricted free agent. However, the Dolphins will likely re-sign him and will be Miami's right tackle next season (barring another injury of course).
As for the right guard position, the Dolphins will likely kick a few tires on the bargain level at the position. However, this need will likely be addressed in the draft as well. The 2012 NFL draft has plenty of guards available in the top three rounds, so it's likely that the Dolphins will draft at least one of them.
Of course, there is one more possible scenario for the Dolphins, but I will discuss that in a couple of slides.
UPDATE 3/16: Fox Sports' Alex Marvez has reported that the Dolphins have agreed to a one year $2 million contract with Artis Hicks. The deal also includes incentives worth $500,000.
Hicks, 33, will compete to start on the right side of the offensive line, and can also be used as a valuable swing backup. Last season with the Browns, Hicks appeared in nine games, starting three of them.
March 19, 2012: Adam Schefter of ESPN reports via his Twitter that the Dolphins plan to release safety Yeremiah Bell.
Jason La Canfora of NFL.com is reporting the Bengals have signed S Reggie Nelson.
The Dolphins have a glaring need from the safety position, which only tallied one interception in 2011.
Their new defensive coordinator is Kevin Coyle, who served as the defensive backs coach for the Cincinnati Bengals from 2003-2011.
Reggie Nelson is an impending free agent who the Bengals didn't stick the franchise tag on this offseason. He knows Coyle's system, and in fact, prospered under Coyle since he got to Cincinnati via trade in 2010.
This one seems to be a slam dunk; however, with the lack of help at safety in the draft, Nelson likely won't come to the Dolphins cheaply. And as mentioned earlier, it's not like Miami has a lot of money to spend considering that they will be making a play for a quarterback.
But the Dolphins will likely make some calls to Nelson's people once free agency begins on Tuesday. While not as high-profile as signing Flynn or Manning, if the Dolphins sign Nelson, it would make just as big of an impact. They will have a safety capable of making big plays, which they have been missing from their defense. He will also take some pressure off of Vontae Davis and Sean Smith, allowing them to grow more as players as they enter their fourth season in the NFL.
So while you're focused on the chase for a quarterback, keep an eye on the Reggie-watch.
Update: According to ESPN's Adam Schefter via his Twitter, the Indianapolis Colts have re-signed star wide receiver Reggie Wayne to a three-year deal.
This question is this much more important now than it was when I first posed it on Monday after the trade of wide receiver Brandon Marshall to the Chicago Bears.
As it stands right now the Dolphins have Davone Bess, Brian Hartline, Roberto Wallace and Clyde Gates as their wide receiving corps.
The Dolphins will be looking for pieces that fit into the soon to be implemented West Coast Offense of head coach Joe Philbin and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman.
There are few options available in free agency that Miami could pursue. Mario Manningham, who was a Super Bowl hero for the Giants last season, is one possibility, however he is visiting with the San Francisco 49ers and St. Louis Rams first while the Dolphins have had yet to invite him in for a visit.
Miami's answer to this question will likely come in the draft. If they sign Matt Flynn, it is likely that they'll attempt to trade down in the draft as Justin Blackmon of Oklahoma State will likely not be available with the number eight pick. Instead they'll look towards the later rounds with Miami's Tommy Streeter and Notre Dame's Michael Floyd.
As for right now the easier question to answer is who will NOT be the Dolphins quarterback in 2012.
3/19 Update: Jay Glazer of FoxSports is reporting that the Dolphins have signed David Garrard.
Chad Henne signed a two year $6.5 million deal with the Jaguars, obviously he was never considered to be in, but it is still worth noting that he's no longer an option for the Dolphins either.
Oh, you were wondering about Peyton Manning. Well now we can officially say he's out; he even told the Miami Dolphins this himself, since apparently Jeff Ireland and Stephen Ross couldn't seem to take a hint.
Then there's the Matt Flynn situation. On Saturday morning, I was sure that this one was a done deal. Then on Sunday afternoon we come to find out that Flynn signed with the Seattle Seahawks.
So now the Dolphins have a few options as to where to go. They can always pick up a quarterback in the draft and have him back up Matt Moore for the season. While this isn't the most exciting option, it's also the most prudent thing to do. It wouldn't even have to be a first round pick; there are plenty of gems out there in the later rounds, and Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill would be a reach at number eight (even though it looks like he will be gone by then).
Miami signing Alex Smith looked like a possibility, however Smith reportedly would prefer to stay with the San Francisco 49ers, and with Peyton Manning choosing Denver, that's what will likely happen.
Then there's the move that you know is going to be speculated. Tim Tebow. With the Broncos now attempting to trade the former Gator quarterback, the Dolphins seem like a likely destination. In fact, expect plenty of speculation about this in the coming hours, days and weeks.
So many questions abound for the Dolphins this offseason, but quarterback is their most important issue. Once that domino falls, the rest will fall into place in Miami. Keep watching, and keep coming back to this slideshow for updated news on Miami's signings and storylines.
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