Tuck: Dolphins Make Free Agency Splash
Miami wasn't shy walking into the casino. They found a table, sat down, and started gambling big bucks. Jeff Ireland had a plan, and went out and executed it. Very little hesitation in completing the goals on the checklist.
Mike Wallace, check. What competition for thebestwide receiver on the market? Miami made Wallace an offer he couldn't refuse and no other team would match. I think it's too much money, now it's up to Wallace to prove me wrong. He'll line up as the Dolphins top receiving threat in 2013.
Dannell Ellerbe, check. This one was kept well under wraps, but it became obvious Miami wanted to get younger at linebacker. So 31-year old Karlos Dansby and 30-year old Kevin Burnett, both coming off of solid seasons, were expendable if Ireland could find replacements. Ellerbe played very well as Ray Lewis' injury replacement and continued to be productive when Lewis returned. He'll be a 2-down linebacker, very good against the run.
Philip Wheeler, check. Less fame, but more fortune with this investment. A year ago, the Dolphins nearly signed Wheeler, who went from the Colts to the Raiders. He played very well, and cashed in this year. He'll play outside, but can shift inside in 3-4 alignments and is an all-around good player.
Chris Clemons, check. The lone resigning on the first day, and a 1-year deal. I think it's too early to assume he'll be the starting free safety again. First, there are some great to interesting options still available and the Dolphins still have money to spend. Dashon Goldson, Ed Reed, Louis Delmas, Kenny Phillips, and Charles Woodson are all still out there, and the draft could produce options as well. Miami's secondary play was too weak to assume they'll start Clemons again, but he's a safe fall-back option.
There is still a long way to go for Miami and they still have quite a bit of money to spend. Cornerback and offensive tackle must be addressed. Corner was a weakness last year, and is only worse off with the expected departure of Sean Smith. I'd imagine a move could made to bring in one or two lower priced options and the draft could produce one or two as well. I'd attack that position with multiple guys because you need multiple corners anyway. Tackle could be picked up in free agency still or the draft.
Those don't have to come first because the draft could help there, but they must be fixed. Another running back could be added to compete with Daniel Thomas, and compliment/back-up Lamar Miller. Tight end was an issue before Anthony Fasano left, and is more so now. They wisely didn't overpay for Jared Cook, and are now looking at the productive, but less threatening Dustin Keller. A pass-rusher is needed and maybe even another wide receiver. Davone Bess and Rishard Matthews can be upgraded.
I keep getting asked what I think or what I'd grade Miami, and I keep thinking the same thing: I don't know yet. I like the players they brought in, but they need a lot more help. I mean, consider they lost or will lose Reggie Bush, Sean Smith, Jake Long, Karlos Dansby, Kevin Burnett, and Anthony Fasano. Those guys were all strong and important starters. They'll need the rest of free agency and the draft to fill holes, and still may not get them all filled. This is a team with a lot of money to spend and a lot of draft picks, but with many holes, and not on the verge of playoffs or more than that. They'll start a second year quarterback, and it's on him that their hopes and dreams primarily hinge. All I can do is hope he develops into a championship-type player and takes the rest of the team along with him.
Even if you hate Jeff Ireland as the GM, you must admit that he is clearly prepared and in attack mode out of the gates.