The Miami Dolphins' 2010 season officially came to an end yesterday, punctuated by an embarrassing 38-7 loss to the New England Patriots as the team limped to their second consecutive 7-9 season.
While some teams still have something to play for, the Dolphins have officially begun their 2011 offseason. The team looks to get back on track and contend for the AFC East title, which they won during Head Coach Tony Sparano's first season in 2008.
Tony Sparano's job security
Whether or not Sparano himself will be around in 2011 is a matter of debate right now, as plenty of Dolphins fans are fed up with the teams mediocrity and owner Stephen Ross may look to make a change.
I personally am a fan of Sparano, and I also believe Sparano has done his job more effectively than general manager Jeff Ireland (and Bill Parcells before him) did theirs.
Unfortunately for Sparano and myself, the firing of Ireland would almost certainly result in the new general manager canning Sparano as well and bringing in his own guy.
The only person I'd be happy about the Dolphins hiring in place of both Ireland and Sparano would be Bill Cowher. Cowher reportedly had a wish list of the Dolphins and two teams that have opted to keep their current head coaches—the Houston Texans and the New York Giants.
Cowher would be a quality hire by the Dolphins and would seemingly fit Ross' flashy, big name style, but Cowher would almost certainly require control over personnel decisions and there's been no indication that Ross is ready to fire Ireland.
Furthermore, NFL.com's Jason LaCanfora reported this morning that Cowher was an unlikely fit in Miami and that Ireland may remain while Sparano is fired.
Dolphins to draft 15th in April
The 2011 NFL Draft order for the non-playoff teams has been revealed, and the Dolphins will draft 15th overall after going 7-9 in 2010.
The St. Louis Rams, who also finished 7-9, earned the 14th spot in the 2011 draft by having an easier strength of schedule than Miami.
Here is the full draft order for the non-playoff teams:
1. Carolina Panthers
2. Denver Broncos
3. Buffalo Bills
4. Cincinnati Bengals
5. Arizona Cardinals
6. Cleveland Browns
7. San Francisco 49ers
8. Tennessee Titans
9. Dallas Cowboys
10. Washington Redskins
11. Houston Texans
12. Minnesota Vikings
13. Detroit Lions
14. St. Louis Rams
15. Miami Dolphins
16. Jacksonville Jaguars
17. Oakland Raiders
18. San Diego Chargers
19. New York Giants
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Dolphins, who also went 7-9 in 2009, earned the 12th overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, but traded out of that spot in a deal with San Diego.
The Dolphins eventually chose defensive end Jared Odrick with the 28th overall pick despite already having good depth at the position, so there is really no telling where they'll go with this pick.
Quarterback is an obvious choice, though the two elite prospects—Andrew Luck and Ryan Mallett—will be gone before Miami chooses.
Running back is also a possibility, as is an offensive lineman, pass-rushing linebacker or a play-making defensive back.
Practice squad contracts expire
As always, the contracts of practice squad players have expired at the conclusion of the team's season. All seven of the Dolphins' practice squad players are now free agents and eligible to sign with any team, including teams in the playoffs.
The players that are now free agents include quarterback Tom Brandstarter, wide receivers Patrick Carter and Brooks Foster, linebacker Mortty Ivy, cornerback Terrail Lambert, offensive tackle James Marten and defensive end Rob Rose.
Wide receiver Julius Pruitt, who was promoted to the active roster prior to the season finale, remains under contract with the Dolphins.
Teams often re-sign most or all of their practice squad players after the season ends, so look for that news in the coming days.
Three of the six players re-signed by Miami from their 2009 practice squad appeared in regular season games in 2010—guard Ray Feinga, tight end John Nalbone and cornerback Nate Ness.
Be sure to check back later today and the rest of the week, as I'll have more coverage on the Dolphins' free agents this offseason, as well as the Dolphins' 2011 slate of opponents!
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Chris J. Nelson majored in journalism at Georgia State University and is currently a programming coordinator for Turner Sports in Atlanta. He operates his own Miami Dolphins website, The Miami Dolphins Spotlight, and he can be followed on Twitter here.