The 2013 season doesn't have to be a make-or-break season for Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland, but it's hard not to view it as such.
Just know that whatever happens, it didn't have to be this way. That's in the words of Ireland himself, who said that he doesn't feel this is a "make-or-break" or a "do-or-die" offseason for him, while also saying that the team's abundance of cap space and draft picks were not a coincidence, but were by design:
I'd say neither ["make-or-break" or "do-or-die"]. I think it's very, very important time period for this off-season. We've put a lot into getting into this position so we obviously are in this position by design. We plan to use some of our money and plan to obviously draft the best players available if we can and try to address some of the needs and musts we have on our football team.
[...] I feel like I've been aggressive where I need to be aggressive. There have been some decisions that have been smart. I think the decisions that we've made up to this point to get us where we're at in terms of our cap space, in terms of our draft picks, that's all by design. We've got a clear vision of how we are going to help this football team moving forward."
The Dolphins spent $248.02 million total this offseason to bring in new talent, including $157.9 million on free agents. Several of the team's free-agent signees were brought in on one-year deals. They selected nine players in the 2013 NFL draft, and traded up to the No. 3 pick to grab defensive end Dion Jordan to immediately bolster the defense.
They executed their vision, and now, the true test is whether they improved the team. With all the additions, certainly, someone has to pay if things don't work out immediately, right?
The Philadelphia Eagles went through a little free-agency binge of their own a couple of years back, and while they recently underwent a major house cleaning that saw them fire their head coach and general manager, both were considered safe following the 2011 season despite falling well short of their "dream team" expectations.
In that light, it wouldn't be shocking for Ireland to retain his job even if the Dolphins fall short of their expectations.
The Dolphins still have all seven of their original 2014 draft picks.
Even though they have spent money like like it's going out of style this offseason, they still have a reasonable amount of cap space for next year—around $20 million according to Spotrac, and that's not including a potential $12 million the team has left on their 2013 salary cap which they could roll over to 2014.
Plus, the structure of many of the contracts gives the appearance that this is a two-year deal for Ireland. The contracts are mainly frontloaded in terms of guaranteed money, but several of the team's biggest investments this offseason will earn a majority of their guaranteed money in 2014.
At that point, if things still haven't panned out, the team could cut bait from those players and Ireland in one fell swoop, to allow the next GM freedom to do as they wish with the roster.
Give Ireland credit for pushing his chips to the middle, but it looks like he's still got a few left, even if he loses this hand. Whether he's the one who gets to use those chips or not, that will be up to owner Stephen Ross at the end of the season.
Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Boston.com. Unless otherwise noted, all stats obtained from Pro Football Focus' premium section, and all quotes obtained firsthand or via team press releases.