Posted: 11:57 am Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

Dolphins sign GM Jeff Ireland to multi-year contract extension 

By Post Staff

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has awarded general manager Jeff Ireland a multi-year contract extension, keeping Ireland and head coach Tony Sparano under contract through at least the 2013 season.

Tony Sparano (left), Jeff Ireland and Stephen Ross will be leading the Dolphins for the next three seasons

Tony Sparano (left), Jeff Ireland and Stephen Ross will be leading the Dolphins for the next three seasons

Sparano earned his contract extension two weeks ago after Ross publicly flirted with Jim Harbaugh for the Dolphins’ head coaching job. Ireland earned his because Ross is pleased with the way he has overseen a “complete overhaul” of the team’s roster since joining the Dolphins before the 2008 season.

“The decision to extend Jeff’s contract as our General Manager was an easy one,” Ross said in a statement. “The young talent that Jeff has assembled during his three years with the Dolphins has made a profound impact on our franchise’s recovery from the 1-15 season of 2007. Jeff has my full support moving forward as we pursue our goals to build the best and brightest front office in the National Football League and ultimately to win a Super Bowl Championship for all of South Florida and Dolphin fans around the world.”

The team’s football operations appeared to be in complete turmoil just three weeks ago, after the Dolphins finished their disappointing 2010 season, which included a 1-7 home record. Ross and Ireland flew across the country to interview Harbaugh while remaining secretive with Sparano about his intentions. The episode caused friction between Sparano and Ireland, who came to the Dolphins in 2008 after four years together in Dallas. Meanwhile, rumors swirled that Ross’ good friend Carl Peterson, the former football boss of the Kansas City Chiefs, would become the Dolphins’ new GM.

But Ross switched course once he spoke with Harbaugh, and said in a press conference two weeks ago that he believes in Ireland and Sparano to turn the team around. The two had one more year left on their original contracts, and Ross has now put them in charge for the next three seasons.

“Together I think they form a young, formidable team,” Ross said. “I don’t think you’ll find an organization that has two harder-working and dedicated people.”

The team highlighted Ireland’s successes in free agency and the draft in building the current Dolphins team — which has finished 7-9 the past two seasons — though it is unclear if Ireland or former VP of football operations Bill Parcells was ultimately responsible for the roster moves.

From the press release:

In his three drafts, Ireland added 10 starters to the team, including Jake Long, Phillip Merling, Chad Henne, Kendall Langford (2008), Vontae Davis, Sean Smith, Brian Hartline, Chris Clemons (2009), Koa Misi and John Jerry (2010). Long went on to make the AFC Pro Bowl team each of the last three years while many of the others earned All-Rookie and other accolades.

Ireland also added talent via trades such as Anthony Fasano (2008) and Brandon Marshall (2010) along with Karlos Dansby and Richie Incognito through unrestricted free agency. Following his own mantra of “leaving no stone unturned,” Ireland also unearthed “street” free agent gems such as Davone Bess and Pro Bowlers Cameron Wake and Dan Carpenter.

Ireland has also made a few blunders along the way. Henne has not developed as planned and may have set the team back several more years, while the Dolphins whiffed on 2009 draft picks Pat White (second round) and Patrick Turner (third) and free agents Ernest Wilford and Jake Grove. He also had a bit of bad press last summer when word leaked that he had asked wide receiver Dez Bryant if his mother was a prostitute in a pre-draft interview.

“I appreciate the support of the entire Dolphin organization, from Steve Ross all the way down, and I’m going to continue to work as hard as I can with Steve, Tony Sparano, and the rest of the team to bring the Dolphins back to their long-time position as one of the elite teams in the NFL,” Ireland said in a statement. “We have a young and talented nucleus to build on, and as we continue to add quality players through all the means available to us, we will give our fans the type of team they deserve.”