Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland is preparing for St. Patrick's Day the right way—by making intelligent roster moves for the future of his franchise.
His reputation as a decision-maker coming into the 2013 offseason wasn't stellar, but it's steadily improving after a grouping of recent re-signings.
First, defensive tackle Randy Starks, one of the better pass-rushing interior defensive lineman in the game, was designated as the team's franchise player, which will pay him $8.45 million in 2013.
Starks isn't a sound run defender, but he's a penetrating defensive lineman who's averaged nearly 4.5 sacks over the last five years and is an integral anchoring piece to Miami's underrated defense. Also, his presence in the middle aids sack specialist Cameron Wake on the outside.
Tagging Starks was a smart yet bold decision by Ireland because it sent a message that he believes the Dolphins are closer to win-now mode than rebuilding mode.
After that, wide receiver Brian Hartline, Ryan Tannehill's top target, was re-inked to a five-year, $30.775 million contract before he hit free agency.
On the surface, the deal was a classic Ireland overpayment, but the guaranteed figure of $12.5 million is relatively modest.
The average of $6.155 million per year in base salary ranks him 22nd among wideouts, according to Ben Violin of the Palm Beach Post—which puts the deal into a logical perspective.
Sure, Hartline's 2012 stat line was significantly inflated by a monster game against the Arizona Cardinals—12 receptions for 253 yards and a touchdown—and he needed 128 targets to haul in 74 receptions.
But creating an atmosphere conducive to success for Tannehill is of utmost importance right now.
Miami already needs wide receivers, and losing Hartline certainly wouldn't have aided Tannehill's development.
Sometimes, giving a player slightly more than he would have received on the open market is a team-building necessity.
Don't forget that.
Most recently, quarterback Matt Moore was signed to a two-year, $8 million deal.
Dolphins get another one done: QB Matt Moore is sticking around. He has signed a deal to stay with Miami as Tannehill's backup, source says.— Jeff Darlington (@JeffDarlington) March 8, 2013
Moore competed for the starting job in 2012 and threw 16 touchdowns to only nine interceptions after Chad Henne went down with a season-ending injury in 2011—Moore is definitely a viable backup option.
It's Tannehill's franchise to lead, but having a capable second-stringer is important.
Most importantly, even after these three moves, the Dolphins still have more than $35 million to spend in free agency and to sign their draft picks.
It'll be interesting how Ireland handles the next few months, but thus far, he's led a great offseason.
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