Just what is Jeff Ireland’s off-season strategy this year? I’ll let you in on a little secret, no one truly knows except the man himself. This is the time of year where smoke screens run rampant, false information trails heat up, bait-and-switch moves take place in truly cloak and dagger fashion. Rumors will fly in the coming weeks, players will visit that Ireland has no interest in, signings will take place out of the blue where no contact seemingly took place. Being a general manager in the NFL is the NFL’s answer to the CIA in these times, and I’d lie if I didn’t find it both exciting and heartbreaking all at once.
Not everyone has a large amount of faith in Miami’s GM, but he’s truly building something special in South Florida, and is in a prime position to bridge the gap between the Dolphins and the elite teams of the NFL in a single offseason. With the rumors floating around, and with the moves that have already taken place, one can piece together a picture of the potential for what the offseason strategy truly looks like.
What do we know:
- Brian Hartline: Hartline was re-signed to a 5 year deal
- Matt Moore: Moore is back, and with the RFA tender to Pat Devlin, the quarterback position appears set
- Randy Starks: The Dolphins used the franchise tag on Starks, and it appears they will attempt to work out a mult-year deal to keep one of their defensive cornerstones in place.
- Austin Spitler & RJ Stanford: Two young role-players on the Dolphins defense, Miami has placed low-round RFA tenders to retain these two
- Reggie Bush: The Dolphins have barely flirted with the idea of bringing Bush back to South Florida, and his departure is a foregone conclusion
What appears to be likely:
- Anthony Fasano: It appears the Dolphins and Fasano are working on a contract, most likely 2-3 years in length to keep “The Bear Jew” in Aqua and Orange
- Mike Wallace: From all reports, Miami will be pursuing an all out blitz on Mike Wallace. Contract demands appear to be in the 5 yr $60M range, and by all accounts the Dolphins won’t let Wallace go another minute more past the 4 pm start of Free Agency on Tuesday if they can help it.
- Sean Smith: While the Dolphins appear to want to re-sign Smith, it appears that he will get the money he’s seeking elsewhere.
- Tony McDaniel: While he’s a key member of the Dolphin’s depth on the defensive line, he’s quietly been a solid contributor to the Dolphins success up front, and could be a starter for many teams in the league. It is unclear if the Dolphins have attempted to re-sign him at this point.
- Brandon Gibson (St. Louis): Reports are surfacing that Miami is in discussions with Brandon Gibson to possibly join the team, adding yet another weapon for Ryan Tannehill in the passing game.
- Charles Woodson: Several reports have linked the Dolphins to Charles Woodson, who would take over the starting safety spot. If this occurs, expect the Dolphins to allow Chris Clemons to explore other options in free agency.
- Chris Clemons: All is quiet on the western front when it comes to Clemons. Because he isn’t expected to be in high demand, I expect that the Dolphins will most likely see how their pursuit of Woodson or one of the other free agent safeties shakes out before they turn back to Clemons.
Looking at this list, I can’t help but feel like the strategy, unless there is a drastic amount of “behind the scenes” going on (there usually is), that Jeff Ireland is approaching the offseason with the following formula:
- Existing components: re-sign any of the integral players if the price is right, such as Hartline, Moore & Fasano
- Skill/Weapon/Impact Players: It appears that Ireland is approaching Free Agency as a key attempt to sign experienced players to the roster that will have an immediate impact at the skill positions, particularly in adding extra tools to the offense.
- Defense: All indications are that most of the moves to fill the holes on the defensive side of the ball, particularly at Cornerback, will come through the draft. With the Dolphins currently in possession of the 12th, 42nd, 54th, 77th, 82nd, 108th, 139th, 201st & 208th pick in the draft, they will have a number of options to find players that can make an immediate impact.
Any GM in the NFL would be salivating at the opportunity that Ireland has to finally re-tool this team while keeping the key players on offense and defense. Given the room under the salary cap, the players currently under contract, the bevy of draft picks and the fact that Miami appears to finally have found the Franchise Quarterback to pull it all together, we could be in for some special things indeed.
As a player who shall remain nameless would say (we’ll call him Jerelle Jowens, for anonymity’s sake), “Get your popcorn ready!”