Posted: 12:02 pm Thursday, February 24th, 2011
Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland talks Chad Henne, Bill Parcells, Paul Soliai, Jeremy Shockey, Cam Newton and more at NFL Combine
By Post Staff
INDIANAPOLIS – Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland held a press conference this morning at the NFL Combine. He didn’t get too specific about individual players or team needs – “I think that just gives away a little too much,” he said right off the bat – but he did provide some newsy nuggets.
Here are the highlights:
• Ireland reiterated once again that Chad Henne remains the team’s starting quarterback for now. But Ireland didn’t exactly give Henne a ringing endorsement, either. “He’s the guy on our football team that we have to be committed to, because he’s the only one we have right now,” Ireland said. “We’re committed to him right now, and that’s where we’re at.” Henne is under contract for one more season, and Ireland said quarterback “is obviously a position that we’re going to look hard at, no doubt about it” in the draft and free agency.
• Nose tackle Paul Soliai, an unrestricted free agent, is probably the team’s biggest priority in terms of players they must re-sign. Talks haven’t been too serious yet, but Ireland realizes he needs Soliai in the middle of his defense. The CBA talks and 30 percent rule – in which a player is not allowed to get a raise of more than 30 percent of his previous year’s salary – are holding up the negotiations. “There’s been some talks back and forth. It’s obviously a big need, to have him back,” Ireland said.
• Ireland said Bill Parcells doesn’t have a defined role in the organization, but said Parcells still consults with Ireland and owner Stephen Ross. “We haven’t talked in a little while, just played phone tag in the last couple of weeks,” Ireland said. “I usually talk about his golf game, first off and how he’s feeling physically. But it can be anything. It can be ‘Hey, have you see this guy? Did you see the Senior Bowl? Did you see that guy and how do you think he’s going to transition?’ It’s more specifically about players maybe he’s seen, but he doesn’t have the access to the film I do. But he sees things differently than most people, and I always like to see what his eyes are seeing.”
• Ireland spent his first three years focusing on building the team’s offensive and defensive lines, and now realizes that he didn’t pay enough attention to speed and skill position players. “It’s something you become a little more sensitive to, because we’ve put so much onus on the offensive line, defensive line, linebacker positions, that it’s become apparent we need more speed on the field, at all different positions,” he said.
• Agent Drew Rosenhaus made news this morning when he said on WQAM 560-AM that tight end Jeremy Shockey, recently cut by the Saints, is “very interested” in coming to the Dolphins.” Ireland said he hasn’t had any contact with Rosenhaus about Shockey, but Ireland said “if you know me, I’m gonna look at every acorn that falls off the tree.” Add (4:21 p.m.): ESPN just reported that Shockey passed a physical today with the Dolphins. So Ireland obviously DID have contact with him before today.
• Ireland gave a very curt response when asked about the relationship between him and Tony Sparano after Ireland and Ross interviewed Jim Harbaugh for Sparano’s job in January. “We have a great relationship.”
• Quarterback Tyler Thigpen, who wants to be on a team that will give him a shot to play, might have to return to the Dolphins, after all. It depends on the new CBA language. If Thigpen is a restricted free agent, the Dolphins will bring him back next year, Ireland said. If he’s unrestricted, the Dolphins will probably let him walk.
• Ireland wouldn’t get specific about his plans at offensive line, but did say, “we had some issues there this year. I feel we have to fine-tune some interior stuff.”
• Ireland told the NFL Network he’s had preliminary discussions with Cam Wake’s agent about restructuring his contract after Wake made the Pro Bowl last year, but doesn’t expect anything to get done before the March 4 lockout.
• Ireland said the Dolphins will look for tight ends in the draft, but “I like the young group we have on the team right now.” The Dolphins had three rookies – Jeron Mastrud, Mickey Shuler and Dedrick Epps – on last year’s roster behind Anthony Fasano. Only Shuler caught a pass last year (two).
• Ireland said the deepest position group in the draft is the defensive line, and the Dolphins won’t just ignore their defense in the draft, even with last year’s No. 6 overall ranking. “You don’t ignore the defense, you have to build that strength and get better where you can,” he said.
• Ireland said Auburn quarterback Cam Newton is “a great player, so we’re going to look at him hard.” But Newton won’t be coming to Miami unless the Dolphins mortgage the farm to trade up and get him. Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said Newton is one of 8-10 players the Panthers are considering with the first overall pick, and Newton probably will be drafted among the top five players.
• Ireland said he doesn’t pay too much attention to the other AFC East teams when deciding who to draft. “We’re obsessed with winning the division. We’re obsessed with finding out how to beat our opponents. So we pay attention to them. They pay attention to us,” he said. “But it’s not going to dictate how we do business.”