The 12 Best Free-Agent Signings in Miami Dolphins History

Scott AltmanCorrespondent IMarch 13, 2012

The 12 Best Free-Agent Signings in Miami Dolphins History

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    The Miami Dolphins brass is about to buckle down in their facility as the 2012 NFL Free Agency period commences. 

    These next few days will have an insurmountable impact on the future of this franchise. The 'Fins have immersed themselves in pursuit of Peyton Manning, and once free agency officially begins, they'll probably pursue Matt Flynn just as heavily. 

    Regardless of what transpires, the Dolphins can only hope that their signings make the kind of impact that the players on this list did. 

    Great free-agent signings like these can propel teams to a championship. Hopefully, whomever Miami signs in the coming weeks will do just that. 

No. 12: Karlos Dansby

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    Is this premature?

    Karlos Dansby has only been with the Dolphins for two years, but he is already starting to prove himself as a domineering team leader who frustrates offensive coordinators with his combination of intelligence and athleticism. 

    In two seasons, Dansby has racked up 198 tackles and five sacks, and those numbers only figure to improve as he grows into his role as the centerpiece of the Dolphins defense. 

No. 11: Joey Porter

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    In retrospect, Joey Porter is actually one of the biggest free-agent busts in team history. But, if it weren't for him, the Dolphins might not have made the playoffs in 2008. 

    Cam Cameron and then-general manager Randy Mueller signed Joey Porter to a massive five-year contract in 2007, but the eccentric pass-rusher only justified his income for one year. 

    In the midst of the Dolphins' epic 2008 turnaround, Porter registered 17.5 sacks, earning a Pro Bowl selection. He was the emotional heartbeat of that team, and he quickly became a fan favorite and the face of the franchise.

    Age or a lack of desire caught up to Porter the next season, and his production cut in half. He totaled only nine sacks and appeared to have simply quit on the team. He was let go prior to the 2010 season.

No. 10: Keith Jackson

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    Trivia time: When's the last time the Dolphins sent a tight end to the Pro Bowl?

    Answer: Keith Jackson in 1992.

    Yes, it's been 20 years since a Dolphins tight end has earned a Pro Bowl selection, and that makes Keith Jackson look even greater in retrospect. 

    When Miami signed Jackson in 1992, he was already a three-time Pro Bowler and three-time First Team All-Pro. Jackson had already established himself as a stud during his first four years with the Philadelphia Eagles, and he brought that great production with him to Miami. He was with the team from 1992 to 1994, compiling 146 receptions for 1,880 yards and 18 touchdowns.

    Jackson might be the best tight end in team history.

No. 9: Cameron Wake

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    Back in 2009, Bill Parcells sent his scouts north of the American border to scout Cameron Wake, a former NFL castoff who was wreaking havoc in the CFL. 

    The Dolphins soon signed Wake, and it might be the crowning achievement of Jeff Ireland's young general managerial career. 

    Wake has become a preeminent pass-rusher in the NFL. In just three seasons, he's already racked up 28 sacks and a Pro Bowl appearance. Even though he's already 30, great things may lie ahead for Wake's future. 

No. 8: Brock Marion

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    After winning a Super Bowl with the Dallas Cowboys in 1995, Brock Marion came to Miami as a free agent in 1998. He became the safety blanket for a Dolphins defense that featured players such as Sam Madison, Patrick Surtain, Zach Thomas and Jason Taylor. 

    Marion arrived in Miami the same year as Patrick Surtain, allowing the duo to grow with corner Sam Madison to create arguably the league's best secondary from 1998 until Marion's departure in 2003.

    Marion intercepted 20 passes during his five-year stay in Miami. He also racked up 372 tackles and made three Pro Bowls rosters, enough to mark his legacy as one of the best safeties in team history. In fact, the 'Fins haven't been able to replace him. Hopefully, this will be the year that the team finds a franchise free safety. 

No. 7: Chad Pennington

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    There's a real chance that the Dolphins won't land Peyton Manning or Matt Flynn. It'd be devastating, yes, but you never know who else might unexpectedly come along. 

    When the Dolphins signed Chad Pennington weeks before the 2008 season began, the team was hosting a quarterback competition between Josh McCown, Chad Henne and John Beck—this was the worst quarterback competition in NFL history. 

    Although he started only one whole season for the Dolphins, Pennington led the biggest turnaround in NFL history, resurrecting the Dolphins from an NFL-worst 1-15 record to an AFC East best 11-5.

    Pennington quietly posted a remarkable statistical season as well. He threw only seven interceptions, posted a league-best 67.4 completion percentage and amassed 3,653 passing yards.

No. 6: Jay Fiedler

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    Jay Fiedler is no household name, and his statistics are nothing to admire. But Fiedler actually had an admirable career with the Dolphins.

    The Ivy League product (Dartmouth) led Miami to the playoffs in 2000 and 2001, the team's last postseason appearance until 2008. Fiedler posted a 7-3 record in 2002 and a 7-4 record in 2003, but was sidelined by injuries, and the Dolphins failed to make the playoffs without him. He eclipsed 3,000 yards passing in 2001.

    Fiedler was never Miami's most popular player, but he always put the team in position to win, which is more than can be said for all of the quarterbacks who proceeded him. 

No. 5: Garo Yepremian

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    Garo Yepremian has to be the goofiest player in NFL history. After he famously botched the Dolphins' Super Bowl VII shutout, his legacy as so was cemented.

    Yepremian may be most famous for that debacle of a play, but he still had a stellar career with the Dolphins. Upon joining the Dolphins as a free agent in 1971, Yepremian quickly became one of the league's best kickers, notching a First Team All-Pro selection that season.

    Yepremian played in two Pro Bowls and earned another First Team All-Pro selection during his eight years in Miami. Most notably and impressively, Yepremian was named to the NFL 1970s All-Decade Team and won Pro Bowl MVP honors in 1974. He finished his career as the leading points scorer in team history, and his record was broken by Olindo Mare almost 30 years later.

No. 4: Earl Morrall

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    By the time Earl Morrall came to Miami, the quarterback had already played for five different teams over a 17-year span. It'd be like the Dolphins signing Jeff Garcia or Mark Brunell. 

    Anyway, when Don Shula took the Dolphins job and began searching for a backup to Bob Griese, the savvy veteran Morrall made for an obvious choice. Despite Morrall's wild success filling in for an injured Johnny Unitas in Baltimore, Shula claimed his former quarterback off waivers for just $100. It was the best $100 the team ever spent.

    During the Dolphins' 1972 perfect season, Earl Morrall filled in for an injured Bob Griese, going 9-0 in the process. His unlikely success is often overlooked, but without him, the perfect season may have escaped Miami's grasp.

No. 3: Manny Fernandez

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    Manny Fernandez epitomized the rag-tag, blue-collared persona that characterized the Miami Dolphins 1970s championship teams. Despite his shaggy appearance, the undrafted free agent's play was nothing short of elite.

    Fernandez clogged up space as the Dolphins starting nose tackle from 1968 to 1974, but his athleticism and nose for the ball carrier made him a special player. His most memorable performance came during Super Bowl VII, when he racked up 17 tackles and a sack. Jake Scott was given MVP honors for the game, but Fernandez deserved it.

    Fernandez was never elected into a Pro Bowl or a First Team All-Pro team, but he clearly deserved more praise than he received.

No. 2: Bob Kuechenberg

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    Like so many of his 1970s Dolphins teammates, Bob Kuechenberg came out of nowhere. Literally.

    One year after the Philadelphia Eagles drafted him in 1969, Kuechenberg quit football. He proceeded to play one season in the semi-pro Continental Football League, whose games were played in empty stadiums.

    Don Shula scooped Kuechenberg up as a free agent in 1970, and the rest is history. Kuechenberg earned six Pro Bowl and one First Team All-Pro selections in his 14-year career, spent entirely with the Dolphins. 

    Kuechenberg is every team's dream come true, and his story serves as a reminder that in the right situation, any player can realize his potential. 

No. 1: Jim Langer

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    Is it too late to rehire Don Shula? Maybe he could teach Jeff Ireland a thing or two about finding diamonds in the rough like Jim Langer. 

    Langer was just one of the many castoffs Don Shula scavenged prior to the Dolphins early 1970s dominance. Cut by the Cleveland Browns in 1970, Langer found a new home on Miami's roster and earned a starting job in 1972.

    Paving rushing lanes for Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick and Mercury Morris, Langer earned six consecutive Pro Bowl selections from 1973 to 1978. He was also selected four First Team All-Pro rosters, three of which came consecutively from 1973 to 1975.

    Langer was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1987, polishing off one of the most decorated careers in franchise history.