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Miami Dolphins

Minor League Miami Dolphins

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins truly are a pathetic organization. This isn’t about Ja’Wuan James “worth” and if he was paid more than his value dictates. That aspect can be debated thoroughly; but when you finally do come to a conclusion, you realize he wasn’t one of those players that was absurdly “overpaid”.

Regardless, what’s the point of drafting talented players if you aren’t going to retain them?

Do any of you have any hope that your Miami Dolphins are going to re-sign Laremy Tunsil or Xavien Howard? And if you do believe Miami isn’t that stupid and they will actually re-sign them, do you think they’re going to get it right?

There’s a common theme with the Dolphins. They have the ability to identify talent in the draft, but they refrain from trusting their judgement enough to pay them “early”. As if paying someone for their current accomplishments and future performance is too risky for them.

There’s also one common theme with the organization throughout that time. You can say it’s Stephen Ross (though he wasn’t around when Bill Parcells took Jake Long #1 overall), but no, that person is Chris Grier.

I’m not sure what his actual role was this entire time, but it seems to be uncovering “acorns” in the draft and then allowing them to walk away. Did he not have a say in the players he scouted? Did he believe players like Andre Branch and Kiko Alonso were worth more money than Jarvis Landry?

What exactly did we get ourselves into by promoting Chris Grier? Which successful decisions can we attribute towards him and which mistakes can we blame on Mike Tannenbaum or Joe Philbin?

Here are the draft picks Miami has offered extensions to since Stephen Ross became 95% owner of the Miami Dolphins in 2009:

Note: this doesn’t include players who have received a 5th-year option; these are players that have received a brand new, multi-year extension from the Dolphins

  • Brian Hartline
  • Koa Misi
  • Reshad Jones
  • Mike Pouncey
  • Ryan Tannehill
  • Walt Aikens
  • Bobby McCain

Here is a (long yet incomplete) list of draft picks that have gotten away since Stephen Ross took over:

  • Jake Long
  • Kendall Langford
  • Vontae Davis
  • Sean Smith
  • Jared Odrick
  • Nolan Carroll
  • Charles Clay
  • Olivier Vernon
  • Lamar Miller
  • Rishard Matthews
  • Dion Jordan
  • Jamar Taylor
  • Dion Sims
  • Mike Gillislee
  • Caleb Sturgis
  • Jelani Jenkins
  • Ja’Wuan James
  • Jarvis Landry
  • Jay Ajayi

This list doesn’t include (every) draft “bust” like Jordan Phillips or DeVante Parker. Nor does it include undrafted free agents (like Cameron Wake), but even if we did, it’s fairly obvious which list is more alarming that the other.

We can blame Bill Parcells, we can blame Jeff Ireland, and we can blame Mike Tannenbaum, but there’s one underlying constant and that’s the current GM of this football team.

Now that he has his opportunity, we watch a franchise right tackle walk away, even though he could have been retained a year or two ago for a price you actually would have wanted.

We might watch a cornerback get traded or walk away next season because Miami is too scared to pay him one year “too early”.

It’s possible we watch the best emerging left tackle in the game walk away in two years because his price skyrockets far above anything the team expected.

Look at all of the “stupid money” floating around in free agency this offseason.

  • Trey Flowers for over $80m
  • C.J. Mosley for $85m
  • Landon Collins for $84m
  • Nick Foles for $88m!
  • Tyrann Mathieu for $42m
  • Justin Coleman for $36m
  • Jamison Crowder for $28.5m

Now look at what Trent Brown – a converted offensive guard that had one successful season at left tackle – made with the Oakland Raiders: 4-yr, $66m ($36.75m guaranteed).

If you say “who” to anyone on this list, it only further exasperates the point. Other than Flowers, Mosley and Collins, who are all very good players, the rest of the free agents are nowhere near the caliber of player Laremy Tunsil or Xavien Howard are.

If you think Laremy Tunsil is going to sign for anything close to what Brown just made you are most certainly mistaken. Again, this isn’t about if the money is “stupid” or not, it’s taking into account the current market, mixed with the influx of available cash/cap, paired with an increasing cap each year – which means Laremy Tunsil is going to cost far more than any left tackle is making currently. Especially if you decide to wait two more years.

The Dolphins might be sacrificing current cap space if they sign these players early, but they’re saving themselves future cap space. Foresight….it’s a crazy concept.

The main reason the Dolphins can’t afford to spend early on their draft picks is because they’re always putting themselves in cap hell with the horrendous free agents they sign. Extending Reshad Jones, Mike Pouncey, Ryan Tannehill and signing players like Ndamukong Suh and Mike Wallace forces you to a tight cap space which means you can’t allocate extra money to players that actually deserve it.

So now that you can take all of the players the Dolphins have released and pit them against the current Dolphins roster and win, I’d say Chris Grier has a lot on his plate.

Is he going to let Tunsil, Howard and eventually players like Kenyan Drake and Minkah Fitzpatrick just walk away (or traded for pennies on the dollar)? Then you have a building case for why Grier shouldn’t be running this team, and why it’s probably more-likely that he’s a spy for the New England Patriots than a productive general manager for the Miami Dolphins. Maybe he can manage that 33rd NFL team he’s sending all of these draft “finds” to each offseason.

While we should all be cheering the fact that the Miami Dolphins haven’t unnecessarily splurged on players “just cause”, we have to wonder why it gets to the point where Miami either overpays or has to be honored for not overpaying.

Because seriously, this year’s free agency victory was “Miami didn’t do something stupid!”

How do we change that narrative? Is it with Chris Grier as the general manager? Right now, I’m not so sure about that one….

Growing up a passionate Dolphins fan in Jets territory, Jason learned from an early age that life as a Dolphins fan wasn’t going to be easy. Previously the Sports Editor for his university newspaper, Jason has experience writing columns, creating game recaps and conducting interviews with Hall of Fame athletes (Harry Carson and Yogi Berra are two of his proudest interviews). When he’s not dissecting the latest sports news, you can find him perplexed over the Dolphins offensive line woes or involuntarily introducing music to his neighbors.

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17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. Kevin Chapman

    March 12, 2019 at 9:12 am

    Keep it positive bro-seph.
    Hang in there, the climate change is in full swing!

    • Jason Hrina

      Jason Hrina

      March 12, 2019 at 1:03 pm

      That change is definitely coming, Kevin! Glad to see this team hold off on splurging for the FA. Now if only they begin to sign their own top players before they become too expensive. Fingers crossed that comes with the climate change as well

  2. Mojo

    March 12, 2019 at 10:04 am

    “Franchise Right Tackle”? Is there such a thing? If there is it certainly isn’t James. James is an average right tackle getting paid elite money. I’m overjoyed they let him walk at that price. He will be easily replaced. And we will get a compensatory pick in 2020.

    • Jason Hrina

      Jason Hrina

      March 12, 2019 at 1:08 pm

      Right tackle certainly isn’t on the same level as LT, CB, QB or even DEs, but James could have been your right tackle for an extended period of time.

      The compensatory pick will be very nice for Miami, that’s true. Just wish they took the risk and signed him earlier in his career rather than waiting until his value ballooned higher than his worth.

      Then again, hard to predict that when he was coming off of a year in which he played in only 8 games.

  3. Herb

    March 12, 2019 at 12:26 pm

    It’s fair to critique the Dolphins for how they handled their draft picks in recent years, but you can’t fault this individual decision based on where they were entering free agency. This was the smart move given where this team. (cough: they don’t have a QB if you think tannehill is getting cut.) I feel like somehow James has improved exponentially over the last few months, as there was not this kind of fire about his play at Week 17.

    • Jason Hrina

      Jason Hrina

      March 12, 2019 at 1:07 pm

      This FA period certainly hyped up James more than his play was warranting at season’s end. That said, I still believe he was a good RT for us. My biggest complaint with this move is that Miami had the ability to re-sign James going into 2018 and held back due to the uncertainty he provided (which, can’t deny, was there coming into 2018 with his injury history). If they would have taken the risk it’s possible they have James at a 4-yr/$36m deal ($9 per year) rather than paying the 5th-year option at around that price and now losing him to Denver. It will require additional assets (spending $ on lesser talent or using a draft pick) just to replace him.

      Wonder if Jesse Davis is their answer.

      Can’t fault them for letting James go on that contract, just wish they would have nabbed him a littler earlier.

  4. Ken Booker

    March 12, 2019 at 4:12 pm

    I know how you feel. Been a fin fan for over 46 years. They were the only sports team in Fl. I love my fins, but the team has been run badly since Shula was run out of town. But i could never turn my back on them. I pray to holy God that this team can turn it around before i friggin die.

    • Jason Hrina

      Jason Hrina

      March 13, 2019 at 1:55 pm

      It’s been some dark times – if only I was able to experience those prime Shula and/or Marino years. They will eventually turn it around, and it’ll feel very sweet when they do. Hopefully that comes sooner rather than later.

  5. Marchcool

    March 12, 2019 at 4:47 pm

    The Dolphins are indeed pathetic since S. Ross became the owner. All the miscues you mentioned on extending contracts are the fault of the stupid FO. They overpay millions to players like M. Wallace, but let go players like Landry, Vernon, Miller, etc etc.
    No hope that this team can regain the excellency that once enjoyed as far as this moronic and dilettante owner remains in the (dis)organization…sadly for us the faithful and all-time Dolphins fans.

    • Jason Hrina

      Jason Hrina

      March 13, 2019 at 1:59 pm

      Have to like that Ross is always willing to spend, but it took him awhile to acclimate to being an NFL owner (if he’s even there at all) and in that time the Front Office has built this team terribly. Have to just hope that they turn it around this time.

  6. Miamimanman

    March 12, 2019 at 4:59 pm

    While I totally understand your frustration with past FO’s letting some in house talent walk, I see this as Grier/Flores and Co. trying to bring a bit of the Patriot way down south via the compensatory draft pick model.

    If Miami hones in on some low tier free agents, and especially dudes who’ve been cut (since they won’t count against the comp. pick formula), we can net a 3rd and a 5th potentially. We’ll survive the loss of James, although it would have been nice if we signed him a year ago at a slight discount.

    I just messed around with Spotracs salary calculator for 2020, and with a bit of tinkering its not out of the realm of possibility that we can have over 100 mill in cap space by then as well. Plenty of funds to bring back X, Tunsil and even Drake if he excels this year.

    Now if Grier decides to let X walk, then I’ll be a pissed as well. If we hit on a second CB this draft we can have Surtain/Madison 2.0 (or 3.0 depending on if you count Smith and Vontae lol).

    • Jason Hrina

      Jason Hrina

      March 13, 2019 at 2:02 pm

      I agree and do believe that this team is setting their cap up nicely for 2020 (have a piece coming out on that in the future). Between Grier getting his own grip on the show and with the input of Flores and the rest of the Patriots staff (along with Jim Caldwell and other experienced coaches coming over), Miami may finally be building it right.

      Hopefully this regime learned from past mistakes and don’t let Tunsil or Howard out the door. Would absolutely love that shutdown tandem at corner (especially with Fitzpatrick back there as a safety or in the slot)

  7. Jhary

    March 12, 2019 at 5:02 pm

    So let me get this straight…PFF ranks James tied for 34th in the NFL…there’s only 32 teams in the league, which puts James in the bottom half of the league…and the Ponies just made him the highest paid RT in the league??? So in a contract year, James busts his butt to be the very best he could be, and average was the very best he could achieve…and that’s worth $13 mil a year??? Denver paid him TWICE what he was actually worth…and now that James got the big bucks, do you REALLY think he’s going to bust his butt to get any better??? If I was a gambling man, I’d wager good money Denver cuts him in 2 years when they realize just how much they over-paid his average at best butt.

    • Jason Hrina

      Jason Hrina

      March 13, 2019 at 2:07 pm

      There are a few things that irk me with James walking. Is he “overpaid”? Yes. That’s not the kind of money I want to pay James. But, if we are looking to build around a young quarterback this year or next year you’re going to want to protect him. By letting James go, you now have to spend $ on lesser talent or use a valuable draft pick on a replacement (or find a replacement lower in the draft, but Miami hasn’t been able to uncover that in the past – with Grier as director of college scouting or “general manager”).

      If Miami looked into extending him last year, coming off of a season in which he only played in 8 games, they could have had him for $8-$9m/year. It’s risky, of course, but it’s the kind of risks Miami takes and seems to get wrong (Hartline, Tannehill, Jones, etc).

      James may have been ranked 34th, but it’s something to take with a grain of salt. Todd Gurley is the 18th-ranked RB and I’d rather have him over anyone except Barkley, Zeke or maybe Chubb (contract plays a huge part). I do think James is a very good RT – good enough that he isn’t necessarily elite, but you don’t have to worry about him.

  8. PapaPickett

    March 12, 2019 at 10:26 pm

    This is a severe overeaction. I dont know why your acting like his performance was something that was worth what he was paid. Juwuan James is not an impact player. He is simply replaceable yet is now the highest paid RT in the NFL. His work in the run game was also atrocious every single year he was in the league.

    Alot of the players you mentioned that we let go made sense to let go of, but lets just focus on James. If we sign James to anything near what he was offered, he continues to be mediocre while costing top dollar, which restricts our ability to resign key difference makers like Howard and Tunsil.

    Your arguement goes against your own logic. James is not a great player. He was above average to average and will not see the end of his contract. See Olivier Vernon/Jarvis Landry. In the mean time we can pay real play makers.

    • Jason Hrina

      Jason Hrina

      March 13, 2019 at 2:14 pm

      Depends which playmakers we’re deciding to pay? We didn’t extend guys like Vernon or Landry early because we were too busy extended Branch or Kiko or reworking Tannehill or Suh’s contracts because we needed the cap space.

      It’s the poor overall cap management and the inability to retain/extend the right players is what gets me. Although James is not worth the money he received, he could have been retained for $8-9m/year if the team jumped on signing him early (coming off of a season in which he only played 8 games). Now, Miami needs to spend $ on lesser talent or spend draft picks on his replacement.

      As for others, it’s safe to say there are a bunch that didn’t/won’t “earn” the contracts they received; it’s just that Miami never finds a way to retain them. If you sign Olivier Vernon a year early you don’t extend Andre Branch, spend a 1st-round pick on Charles Harris, and then send a draft pick to eventually use the same amount of cap space on Robert Quinn….that’s the repercussions of letting good players walk.

      Miami replaced Jarvis Landry with Albert Wilson and they were only able to get 7 games from him and who knows if he’ll be the same player last year.

      Miami spent 2nd and 3rd round picks on Jamar Taylor and Will Davis to try and replace Vontae Davis and Sean Smith and they weren’t all that great. Then Miami sends Taylor to Cleveland and he becomes a viable starter (at worst, a really good depth player).

      Why does Miami constantly extend the wrong players?

  9. Mike

    March 13, 2019 at 9:31 pm

    The future is here! Can anyone say 3-13 or 3-12 for the next dozen or so years? A good season is going to be 7 or 8 wins. The Dolphins front office has made some big mistakes over the years, by not signing players early enough, spending too much on free agents and making just plain stupid mistakes. Top all of these moves off with the amazing incredible and completely moronic idea of signing a coach that has NEVER been a coordinator and guaranteeing his contract for 5 years! That is the ultimate in stupid decisions. And hiring a guy from the Cheatriots makes it even worse.

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins Sign Chris Reed

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Looks like the Miami Dolphins have begun replacing the plethora of offensive linemen they either released or let walk this past offseason.

According to the Dolphins official social media account, the team signed offensive guard Chris Reed.

Details of the contract are currently unknown, but with the losses of Ja’Wuan James, Ted Larsen, Josh Sitton and possibly even players like Jake Brendel and Travis Swanson, the Dolphins need bodies to fill out their roster.

After signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars as an undrafted free agent out of the 2015 NFL draft, Reed was placed on the team’s practice squad and wasn’t activated until September, 2016. Over the past three seasons, Reed has been active for 25 games and started 8 of them.

You can’t expect too much from this signing, as Reed is simply expected to compete for depth on the offensive line and it’s possible he doesn’t even make the team out of training camp. Then again, Ted Larsen was originally supposed to be offensive line depth and he ended up playing 1,272 snaps over the course of his two-year Dolphins career.

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Miami Dolphins

Rebuilding Previous Rebuilds

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Now that we have accepted the notion that the Miami Dolphins are going to start rebuilding their franchise in 2019 (and as a result, a lot of losing will incur), we have moved on to the optimistic hope that this team is going to build their foundation “right”.

Hope is about the only thing that will temper the frustration that comes with going 6-10 with freshly signed Ryan Fitzpatrick as our starting quarterback, so over the next calendar year, you’re going to hear how most decisions are geared towards 2020.

Sure, Fitzpatrick will dazzle us with a couple 400-yard passing games and a few offensive performances that trick us into believing that we don’t need to desperately grab a franchise quarterback, but don’t let those extremely inconsistent anomalies fool you. Miami most definitely needs a franchise quarterback – one that leaves us with minimal doubts at the top of the draft.

Are they going to trade up for one in 2019? Or are they going to, um, conveniently lose in 2019 and attempt to save their assets for 2020, where there’s a chance that four starting-caliber quarterbacks come out of college – all of whom are possibly better than the top-2 quarterbacks in this class: Dwayne Haskins and Kyler Murray?

As Travis echoed on Sunday, the Miami Dolphins are building a treasure trove of draft picks that will allow themselves to navigate the murkiest of trade waters in either 2019 or 2020. With the trade of Ryan Tannehill to the Tennessee Titans netting Miami an extra 4th-round draft pick – along with the assumption that losing Ja’Wuan James to the Denver Broncos will return an extra 3rd-round pick as a compensatory selection – Miami will have the ability to tack on whichever mid-round picks are required to seal the deal for a top-3 draft pick.

But with all of these assets in mind, can we confidently assume that the Dolphins are just one year away from being a relevant franchise that can sustain success? No, not one bit.

Since Chris Grier took over as the Director of College Scouting in 2007, Miami has had 5 drafts in which they have had at least 9 draft picks to work with. Although it’s obvious that not every draft pick is going to pan out, the assumption is that a team should be able to identify enough cheap labor to fill their roster. You don’t need superstars in every round, though it would be nice if the Dolphins drafted even one of them.

Before you get ready to soak in the success of 2020, I’m going to remind you of the somber past we have together. Hopefully, Grier doesn’t allow history to repeat itself:

2007

Chris Grier’s first year on the job yielded Miami with multiple draft steals, but came with an ample amount of draft busts as well.

Whether the selection was general manager Randy Mueller‘s, head coach Cam Cameron‘s, Grier’s, or a combination of the three, the Miami Dolphins shocked everyone by selecting Ted Ginn Jr with the 9th-overall pick in the draft.

Choosing Ted Ginn Jr over Brady Quinn proved to be the correct choice, but was Ginn really the player you wanted to commit a top-10 pick to? Especially when he was coming off of an injury and was seen more as a dynamic kick returner than an elite, #1 receiver?

Here are a few players taken shortly after Ginn was picked #9: Patrick Willis (11), Marshawn Lynch (12) and Darrelle Revis (14). I was going to include Lawrence Timmons (15th-overall), but I don’t think Miami fans are going to think too fondly of that linebacker (though let’s be honest, he was still a better pick than Ginn).

But the Miami Dolphins had 10 draft picks in 2007, and should have been able to build a team with more than just a failed 1st-round pick, right? Alas, this is what they graced us with that year:

Paul Soliai in the 4th-round and Brandon Fields in the 7th-round ended up being phenomenal choices for the Dolphins, as both players combined to play 227 games with Miami. Even Samson Satele was a good selection in the 2nd-round; Miami just doesn’t understand their own talent and allowed Satele to be a good starting center for two other teams instead of their own.

The rest of that draft class? Combined to be active for 32 games with the Dolphins. All of which were off the team by the start of the 2008 season.

2008

Coming off of a 1-15 season that felt less like a rebuild and more like a purgatory, the Dolphins were now poised to genuinely begin their ascension with the 1st-overall selection in the draft.

The thing is, Miami’s biggest mistake wasn’t selecting Jake Long with the #1 overall pick, but bringing an archaic Bill Parcells on board to build a team for the future.

Parcells figured there was no sense having a franchise quarterback if there was no one to protect him (the opposite logic of what the Dolphins did with Ryan Tannehill throughout his career), and selected Jake Long to protect whoever’s blindside.

You might be able to excuse Parcells for selecting a potential hall of fame left tackle (for the first four years of their career) over Matt Ryan, since Miami did have 8 more draft picks that year. Instead, this is how the draft shook out:

Kendall Langford was a solid player on the Dolphins defensive line throughout his rookie contract, but other than Jake Long he was the only player to plug a hole on the roster. You can say Chad Henne played prominently for the Dolphins, but we all know he was a detriment more than a solution, and even forced Miami to pick yet another quarterback in the 2nd-round the following draft.

Phillip Merling gave us that exciting interception against Brett Favre and the New York Jets the year Chad Pennington led the team to the playoffs, but other than that, he was basically an extra 1st-round pick that ended up being a complete bust.

After two years and 19 draft picks, the Dolphins should have set themselves up to be a young team worth reckoning with. Looking back, there were really only 5 players that filled a capable roster spot: Satele, Soliai, Fields, Long and Langford. For reference, NFL rosters held 52 players…

2009

After two failed drafts and nearly 19 wasted draft picks, the Miami Dolphins actually got a draft right. This comes with the caveat that it’s the third-consecutive year in which the team is selecting a quarterback in the 2nd-round, so it tells you just how lost the Dolphins really are.

Pat White was a fascinating college athlete to watch, but he had no business being a quarterback in the NFL. The football community was stunned to see White selected so high, but the Dolphins envisioned a quarterback that could complete their wildcat offense and keep opposing defenses confused at all times.

The only confusion White caused was on Miami’s offense, because the playbook was extremely small for the limited quarterback, and the offense was stale at best.

Miami’s best selections came from Vontae Davis and Sean Smith. The team also envisioned having a pair of young, cheap, shutdown corners to give Tom Brady, Brett Favre and whoever the Buffalo Bills had hell. And they were really onto something for a little bit, but Joe Philbin‘s inability to handle egos mixed with some immaturity on the player’s side “forced” the Dolphins to trade Davis and allow Smith to leave in free agency.

At the time, this was a very good draft, but looking back at it, it’s just some more disappointment:

Brian Hartline received a contract extension with the team and probably outperformed all of our expectations. Maybe it speaks to the lack of playmakers the Dolphins have had over their history, but Hartline has the 7th most receiving yards and 9th most receptions in Dolphins history. We can knock the extension as a separate topic, but selecting Hartline in the 4th-round was a very good draft pick.

Chris Clemons ended up playing 80 games with the Dolphins and served as a valuable depth player for 5 seasons.

This can be deemed a good draft for the Dolphins, but the problem is, we’re excited the team was able to find 3 starters. While every team would love to say they found 3 starters in each draft, the Dolphins didn’t have much of a roster around those guys, which meant the team hadn’t rebuilt much of anything up to this point.

A budding franchise looking to sustain success is going to need more than a good #3 receiver to escape mediocrity.

2012

2012 was another very good draft for the Dolphins that saw virtually no sustained success going forward. This is the point where you have to wonder if the Miami Dolphins legitimately try to win or if they’re fine creating media headlines and bringing in ad revenue.

Ryan Tannehill was the first 1st-round quarterback the Dolphins selected since Dan Marino back in 1983. Between all of the excitement and optimism, fans were sold on the fact that Tannehill was going to turn the team around (after he firmly learned the quarterback position). His old coach at Texas A&M, Mike Sherman, was set to be his offensive coordinator, so you know Miami was really building this thing right because, you know, “chemistry”.

7 seasons later, and there are no surviving members of the 2012 draft class. In fact, only one of them made it past year 4 (Tannehill) – which also happens to be the same number of players eventually arrested from this draft class (Jonathan Martin).

How can a team sustain success when the team doesn’t sustain any of their successful players?

Olivier Vernon and Lamar Miller proved to be great risks that Jeff Ireland took. Coming right out of the Dolphins backyard from the University of Miami, Vernon and Miller were underclassmen that Ireland saw potential in. And he was right.

Both outperformed their draft status and earned themselves wealthy contracts in free agency. This goes back to the argument that the Dolphins are incompetent when it comes to signing their own draft picks, so overall, this draft doesn’t seem like much, but this draft could have been much more than a free agent payday for 3 of their selections.

Rishard Matthews was one of the best 7th-round picks in Dolphins history, but Philbin’s deadpan personality placed Matthews on the bench for most of his rookie contract rather than the starting lineup ahead of players like B.J. Cunningham and Legedu Naanee.

As of 2019, the Dolphins are still looking for a player at every position from the list of 2012 draft picks (QB, RT, DE, TE, LB, WR and DT). You can say Miami doesn’t need a running back, but that’s also the easiest position to find and it’s not even like the team currently has a solidified running back room anyway.

2013

Identifying a “can’t-miss” athlete in an inactive market, Jeff Ireland made one of the best draft-day trades of the century and traded the team’s 1st-round pick (12th-overall) and 2nd-round pick (42nd-overall) to move up to #3 overall. That kind of trade would be unheard of today, where those top picks are commodities that you have to pry away with current and future draft capital.

So what did the Dolphins do with their robbery? Select a stellar athlete with a history of demons that rivals that of Josh Gordon.

Dion Jordan was built to be a football player, but he never actually wanted to be a football player. He wanted to escape reality and realized this was a profession he was good at. Fortunately for Jordan, but unfortunately for the Dolphins, Jordan took 5 years to mature past all of those inner turmoils and emerge as a defensive threat.

But like the theme of this article, his success doesn’t benefit the Miami Dolphins one bit.

Dion Jordan wasn’t the only player to fail Miami’s expectations yet perform better elsewhere.

2nd-round pick Jamar Taylor was always hampered by injuries and was shipped to the Cleveland Browns for a 27 slot draft boost in the 7th-round (a farcry from #54 overall). Dion Sims was a solid backup and blocking tight end before cashing in with the Chicago Bears. Mike Gillislee was a decent kick returner who has seen a good amount of success as a running back with the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots. Even Caleb Sturgis was viewed as a “bust” and has since played 36 games for other teams.

You could argue that Don Jones was Miami’s best draft pick behind Dion Sims that year, and that’s only because he was a very good gunner on special teams.

Truth is, the Dolphins have had plenty of opportunities to rebuild and yet, years later, here we are, still trying to rebuild. So now that Chris Grier has ultimate control, will this be the rebuild the Dolphins finally turn it around? 6th time’s a charm, right?

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Miami Dolphins

Free Agent Analysis: Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick

Travis Wingfield

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Buckle up, Phins Fans – the Fitzmagic Roller Coaster is coming to your town

Ryan Fitzpatrick is on his eight NFL team following a circuitous route that spans 14 seasons as a professional football player. The journeyman stopgap heads to America’s retirement home on a two-year contract that starts at $11 million and could escalate to $20 million if unspecified incentives are met.

Though details of the contract’s structure are not yet available, it’s a near certainty that the bulk of the money will be paid out in year-one. With the Dolphins eating a chunk of dead cap, and pushing assets down the road, this move not only helps Miami get closer to the salary floor, it secures a sturdy backup quarterback for the 2020 season.

Whether it’s Kyler Murray, Dwayne Haskins, Tua Tagovailoa, Jake Fromm or any other quarterback prospect, Fitzpatrick has been heralded for his calm demeanor and approach to providing this very important element to his past teams.

Barring a trade-up for one of the top two prospects in this draft Fitzpatrick will be under-center when the Dolphins open the season on the second Sunday in September. Only one September ago, Fitzpatrick was on an unprecedented roll for a quarterback of his caliber – of any caliber, really.

After the three-game stretch of consecutive 400 yard outputs, Fitzpatrick throttled into a nosedive throwing for less than 250 yards in four of his next five starts. Cumulatively, his passer rating on the season was 100.4, but he failed to eclipse the 90.0 mark in all but one of his final six starts.

The strengths and weaknesses of Fitzpatrick’s game are abundantly clear. Where the flashes with Ryan Tannehill provided false hope, Fitzpatrick is an open book – it only takes a couple of games of all-22 to figure out exactly who he is.

First, the strengths. I’ve talked at length about the importance of a backup quarterback providing the locker room and huddle with a sense of comradery. Whether it’s this season or next, Fitzpatrick will eventually be relegated to the number-two QB. The Ewing Theory suggests that the rest of the roster can elevate its game when the backup enters the lineup, but that typically only applies when said backup is likable.

That clip also showcases the gamer-mentality of Fitzpatrick. With reckless abandon, he’ll take a hit for his team in a way you’d never want your franchise quarterback to play.

As for Fitzpatrick the starter, the strength of his game is also his biggest weakness. He trusts his eyes as much as any quarterback going right now and will let ‘er rip without hesitation. There’s a hint of Matt Moore in his game where he evaluates pre-snap and makes quick decisions based on the leverage of the defense.

The first touchdown of the season for Tampa Bay provides a terrific example of Fitzpatrick’s ability to move the defense with his eyes and hips. The clip also showcases his strength as a play-action passer when given a comfortable pocket.

There’s a reason he’s been on eight teams in 14 years, however. That anticipation, coupled with sloppy mechanics, gets him into a lot of hot water. If the defense is at all nuanced, and capable of disguising coverage, he’s going to turn the ball over a heck of a lot.

Randomly, the ball will sail as he is prone to rushing his setup and spraying bullets all over the field. Pressure in his face only amplifies this shortcoming.

All things told, this was the best veteran option available both in terms of playing time and veteran mentor to the inevitable draft pick coming in a year or two. There will be equal parts excitement and sheer frustration with Fitzpatrick playing in Miami.

As far as the Tank for Tua conversation, this signing likely solidifies that Miami will not be the worst team in football. I’ve argued that they would never reach those valleys to begin, even with a rookie or Luke Falk under-center. I believe too strongly in Brian Flores and the staff he has assembled for this team to lose a number of games in the teens. Fitzpatrick at least gets Miami out of the massive hole of unworthy NFL quarterback territory.

Ideally, the Dolphins find their quarterback straight away and never have to start Fitzpatrick. The more likely outcome is that he starts the season and puts the Dolphins in a tough spot regarding the playing time incentives in his contract.

This signing is great from a financial standpoint right now, but if the Harvard product (had to get it in) starts hitting those contract escalators, that would not be ideal.

@WingfieldNFL

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