Posted: 10:08 am Monday, June 18th, 2012
By Post Staff
Dolphins coach Joe Philbin smartly has avoided placing any expectations on his team this year, his first as an NFL head coach. And that goes both ways – he’s not saying anything publicly about making the playoffs, and he also won’t say that his first season will be a rebuilding season.
“I think it’d be a disservice to the players to say we’re in a rebuilding mode,” he said earlier this offseason.
And he’s right. Who thought the 2008 Dolphins, coming off a 1-15 season, would go 11-5 and win the AFC East? So no question, the Dolphins will try to be competitive this year and win as many games as possible.
But if 2012 isn’t a “rebuilding” year – and they are “rebuilding” both the offense and defense with new schemes – then it’s definitely a “bridge” year to 2013 and beyond as a season for Philbin to examine the roster and assess which players will and won’t be a part of the future.
For proof, look at what the Dolphins did in free agency this offseason. Of the 10 veteran free agents that are new to the team, only two got more than a one-year deal: Cornerback Richard Marshall, a player in his prime (27) who is considered one of the best run-stopping cornerbacks in the NFL and got a three-year deal, and fullback Ryan Mahaffey, a 2011 undrafted free agent who was let go by both Indianapolis and Baltimore and got a two-year deal worth the minimum salaries (with $0 guaranteed).
Otherwise, every other new free agent got a 1-year deal, and almost all of them for the veteran minimum. See for yourself:
New Veteran Free Agents
CB Richard Marshall: 3 years, $16 million
FB Ryan Mahaffey: 2 years, $1.02 million*
QB David Garrard: 1 year, $3.35 million
OL Artis Hicks: 1 year, $1,490,625
WR Chad Ochocinco: 1 year, $925,000*
LB Gary Guyton: 1 year, $700,000*
S Tyrell Johnson: 1 year, $700,000*
WR Legedu Naanee: 1 year, $700,000*
DE Jamaal Westerman: 1 year, $615,000*
DB Quinten Lawrence: 1 year, $465,000*
* Denotes the NFL minimum salary for a player with his experience level.
Garrard, Hicks, Ochocinco are on the wrong side of 30 and were brought in to compete for starting jobs for this year only. Same with Naanee, who will be 29 in September. All of the other signings are backup types and special teamers.
Of the players on that list, only Marshall and Hicks are locks for the roster this year (although Garrard, who got a $1 million signing bonus, is a decent bet). Other than Marshall and Mahaffey (who is more likely to be cut than make the team), the only free agents to get multi-year contracts from the Dolphins are the undrafted free agents, all of whom got standard three-year deals.
Of course, the Dolphins also gave multi-year contracts to a couple of their own free agents. Obviously, management decided that Cameron Wake and Paul Soliai are part of the long-term future. But several players were discarded that the coaching staff decided weren’t, including Brandon Marshall, Yeremiah Bell, Chad Henne and Vernon Carey.
DE Cameron Wake: 3 years, $17 million
DT Paul Soliai: 2 years, $12 million
OL Lydon Murtha: 1 year, $1.927 million**
RB Steve Slaton: 1 year, $700,000*
CB Jonathan Wade: 1 year, $700,000*
DE Ryan Baker: 1 year, $615,000*
LB Austin Spitler: 1 year, $540,000***
* Denotes minimum salary
** Was a restricted free agent
*** Was an exclusive rights free agent
And of course, the Dolphins also have a huge list of key players entering the final year of their contracts. Some of these players will be brought back, but several won’t be.
Impending Free Agents
LT Jake Long
RB Reggie Bush
QB Matt Moore
WR Brian Hartline
CB Sean Smith
DT Randy Starks
TE Anthony Fasano
P Brandon Fields
SS Chris Clemons
FS Tyrone Culver
OL Nate Garner
OL Ryan Cook
Add it all up, and the Dolphins currently have 25 veterans with expiring contracts after the 2012 season, including many of their key pieces. It certainly explains why they have a ton of salary cap space for 2013 – approximately $60 million worth.
And it certainly explains why 2012 is a “bridge” year to 2013 and beyond, when franchise quarterback Ryan Tannehill will be ready to take over.