NFL Team Report - Miami Dolphins - INSIDE SLANT
The Dolphins received plenty of attention for spending big money on offensive weapons who can help out quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
But the team is also undergoing big changes at cornerback, and several veterans may be out of work come September.
Former Falcons Pro Bowler Brent Grimes was signed for one year and $3 million guaranteed to hold down one starting spot, assuming he can return fully from a torn Achilles suffered last September.
And the Dolphins spent three of their nine draft picks on cornerbacks --Boise State's Jamar Taylor in the second round, trading up to get Utah State's Will Davis in the third round and taking athletic prospect Don Jones in the seventh round.
Already the Dolphins traded former first-round pick Vontae Davis last year and let his running mate Sean Smith walk away in free agency in March. Now fourth-year pro Nolan Carroll, third-year veteran Jimmy Wilson and eight-year vet Richard Marshall will have tough competition for their jobs.
"Everybody has to earn their keep," Philbin said. "There's no preconceived notion that you're going to play X amount of snaps for any player. People earn play time by how they perform day-in and day-out on the practice field."
The Dolphins' cornerbacks had just three interceptions in 2012 by the entire unit -- two by Smith (both in Week 4) and one by Marshall, who suffered a back injury and sat out the final 12 games.
The Dolphins also have changed philosophy -- they liked the physical traits of Smith and Davis to play a lot of bump-and-run coverage under previous coordinator Mike Nolan, but now play a lot more zone coverage under Kevin Coyle.
While Smith was 6-3 and 220 pounds, Grimes, Taylor, Davis and Jones are all listed at 5-10 or 5-11 and between 183 and 192 pounds.
Other cornerbacks who will be competing for five or six total roster spots: Dimitri Patterson, R. J. Stanford, De'Andre Presley and Julian Posey.
"Coach will always say it's an open job, and if you come out and compete, you'll land wherever you're supposed to land," Davis said.
NFL Team Report - Miami Dolphins - NOTES, QUOTES
Miami Dolphins CEO Mike Dee suggested Sunday the Dolphins may have to relocate at some point as a result of Friday's decision by the Florida legislature to reject hearing a referendum that would have provided public renovations to the Dolphins' Sun Life Stadium.
Dee had said last month owner Stephen Ross would not renovate the stadium without a public-private partnership. Ross reiterated that there will be no renovation in an interview with CBS4 in Miami, saying it would be "difficult" to do the renovations on a more limited basis.
Regarding the team's future in Miami, Dee said, "I wouldn't want to prognosticate what the future holds, but it's clearly bleak."
Although Dee said Ross won't move the team, Dee said the next owner could move the team, possibly to Los Angeles. Ross has said he won't sell the team in his lifetime, but Dee didn't rule out a sale during Ross's lifetime.
"The Dolphins are one of the only franchises in the NFL that don't have a long-term lease with their community," Dee said, according to The Palm Beach Post. "At some point, somebody's going to buy the franchise from (Ross), and clearly the stadium is the first thing they would need to address."
--Two of the Dolphins top three picks didn't participate much at rookie minicamp, and will miss most of the offseason program. DE Dion Jordan, picked No. 3 overall, and OL Dallas Thomas, picked in the third round (77th overall), are both recovering from surgery to repair a torn labrum in their right shoulder.
Thomas had surgery shortly after suffering his injury at the Senior Bowl in January, while Jordan suffered his during the 2012 season and finally decided to have surgery in late February.
Both were working with trainers on the sideline during rookie camp, and Thomas will continue to do so without the spring. Jordan, meanwhile, wouldn't be able to participate anyway -- NFL rules prohibit players from practicing until they are done with school, which for Jordan will be June 17.
"The main thing is taking care of my body and doing what I can while I'm here as far as soaking everything up and just being around the guys," Jordan said.
--The Dolphins like the duo of Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas at running back. They like the position depth even better after drafting Florida's Mike Gillislee in the fifth round.
Gillislee will contribute immediately on special teams, but the Dolphins like his decisive running style and his skills in pass protection, which isn't Miller's strong suit.
Gillislee wasn't a starter at Florida until his senior season, but broke out for 1,152 yards and 10 touchdowns.
"He's a guy that earned his stripes there. He played on special teams and contributed to the team in a number of different fashions. Then when his opportunity came we thought he took advantage of it well," coach Joe Philbin said. "You know how we feel about pass protection here at that running back position, and then we thought he was a guy that had good all-around skill for the position."
--The Dolphins finally solidified their offensive line by signing former Falcons RT Tyson Clabo on Friday to a one-year, $3.5 million deal. Clabo, 31, was a starter for seven seasons in Atlanta, and though he was released for salary cap reasons, was still ranked by Pro Football Focus as the fifth-best right tackle in the NFL last year.
The Dolphins chose Clabo over fellow veterans Bryant McKinnie, Eric Winston and Winston Justice, all of whom visited the Dolphins last week. Clabo has started 80 consecutive games and doesn't have an injury history.
His signing also officially moves second-year pro Jonathan Martin to left tackle to replace Jake Long, who signed with St. Louis. Martin started 37 games at left tackle at Stanford, 12 games at right tackle last year as a rookie and the final four games at left tackle after Long suffered a triceps injury.
"I'm a pretty tough critic on myself, and I don't feel like there's been much drop in my play to date," said Clabo, 6-feet-6 and 329 pounds. "I'm not here to prove anything. I'm here to play football and have a good time and win."
--The Dolphins entered the NFL Draft thinking offense, with wide receiver Tavon Austin and tight end Tyler Eifert in mind with the No. 12 pick. They also were about to take wide receiver Josh Boyce in the fourth round before the Patriots nabbed him two spots earlier. Instead, the Dolphins focused heavily on defense in the draft, trading up to No. 3 to take Dion Jordan and using four of their first five picks overall on defensive players: cornerback Jamar Taylor (second round), cornerback Will Davis (third round) and linebacker Jelani Jenkins (fourth round). "It just so happened to kind of fall that way," general manager Jeff Ireland said. "Our plan going into every draft is draft good football players, and that's what we did."
--The Dolphins are using two players to replace departed tight end Anthony Fasano this year -- Dustin Keller as an upgrade as a pass-catcher, and rookie Dion Sims to replace Fasano's excellent blocking skills. Sims, a fourth-round pick out of Michigan State, only had 36 catches for 475 yards and two touchdowns last year, but his dedication to losing weight this offseason impressed the Dolphins. Sims played last year at 6-5 and 285 pounds, but is now down to 262 and should enter training camp as the favorite to be the No. 2 tight end, ahead of Charles Clay and Michael Egnew. "That's what really intrigued us about him is he lost some weight, showed us some discipline in that regard and moved around very well in the spring," Ireland said. Sims is also the only receiver taller than 6-2 other than Egnew.
--The Dolphins traded one of the few remaining pieces from their last division championship team in 2008 when they traded wide receiver Davone Bess to Cleveland during the second day of the draft. Bess had 321 catches for 3,447 yards in five seasons with Miami, and became a fan favorite after joining the team in 2008 as an undrafted rookie. But he also only scored 12 touchdowns in five seasons, and had friction with the new coaching staff at the end of the season over the severity of his back injury, which kept him out of the final three games. The Dolphins signed Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson to be their top three receivers, and saved $2.7 million of salary-cap space by trading Bess.
"Obviously we did some things in the offseason that made us feel a lot better about the position," Ireland said. "We feel very good about the group we have with Mike (Wallace) and Brandon (Gibson) and Brian (Hartline) and Rishard (Matthews), so it felt like we had a little bit of value there that we could move on from."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're looking for guys that are good people number one. Number two they want to be great football players. Number three, they want to win. Number four they want to make a difference on and off the field. Then we have a specific set of criteria for size and speed and those types of things, but the intangibles are probably as important as the other part." -- Joe Philbin, on what he's looking for when evaluating players.
NFL Team Report - Miami Dolphins - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
A closer look at the Dolphins' picks:
Round 1/3 - Dion Jordan, DE, 6-6, 248, Oregon
The Dolphins had him rated as the highest player on their board, and were able to acquire him for the low price of the No. 12 and 42 overall picks. Jordan will be a third-down pass-rush specialist to begin with but the Dolphins love his athleticism and versatility.
Round 2/54 - Jamar Taylor, CB, 5-11, 192, Boise State
The Dolphins need to revamp their secondary after parting ways with Vontae Davis and Sean Smith in the last year, and began that process with Taylor, one of the most consistent corners in the draft who had four interceptions in his senior season. Taylor will compete for the No. 3 cornerback spot behind starters Brent Grimes and Richard Marshall, and will eventually replace the two older veterans in the lineup.
Round 3/77 - Dallas Thomas, G/T, 6-5, 300, Tennessee
The Dolphins need to find better pieces for their zone blocking scheme, and Thomas could be a better fit at left guard than incumbent Richie Incognito. Thomas is a versatile player who started 25 straight games at left tackle for the Vols and 12 at left guard his senior season, earning second team All-America honors. He's currently rehabbing a torn labrum, but could be the Dolphins' new left guard this season.
Round 3/93 - Will Davis, CB, 5-11, 186, Utah State
The Dolphins traded into the back part of the third round to ensure they didn't miss out on another cornerback, and used that pick to draft Davis, a raw player who doesn't have much football experience but has risen up draft boards over the past year. Davis played at three different colleges, but had a great senior season with five interceptions. He will compete with Jamar Taylor and Nolan Carroll for the No. 3 and 4 cornerback spots.
Round 4/104 - Jelani Jenkins, LB, 6-0, 243, Florida
Jenkins is an undersized but incredibly fast linebacker who can chase ball-carriers from sideline to sideline and excels in coverage, as well. His senior season was derailed by a broken bone in his right thumb, a pulled left hamstring and a broken bone in his right foot, but the Dolphins view him as an immediate special teams competitor and someone who can compete with Koa Misi for a starting linebacker job.
Round 4/106 - Dion Sims, TE, 6-5, 262, Michigan State
The Dolphins need a tight end to replace the blocking production of Anthony Fasano, who departed for Kansas City, and drafted one of the best blocking tight ends in the draft in Sims, who played at 285 pounds at Michigan State. Dustin Keller will be the main pass-catching tight end, and Sims, who had 475 receiving yards and two touchdowns in 2012, will likely be ahead of Michael Egnew and Charles Clay as the No. 2 tight end.
Round 5/164 - Mike Gillislee, RB, 5-11, 208, Florida
The Dolphins let Reggie Bush walk away in free agency this offseason, and replaced him on the roster with Gillislee, who rushed for 1,152 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2012, his only season as the Gators' primary running back. Gillislee will play special teams behind Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas on the depth chart, but is a solid blocker and gives the Dolphins good depth in case either player is injured or ineffective.
Round 5/166 - Caleb Sturgis, K, 5-10, 188, Florida
The Dolphins took their third Gator of the day in Sturgis, the second kicker off the board in this draft. Sturgis has a big leg, connecting on 6-of-8 field goals from 50-plus yards over his past two seasons, and almost certainly will replace current Dolphins kicker Dan Carpenter, who was 4-of-9 from 50-plus yards over the last two years.
Round 7/250 - Don Jones, DB, 5-11, 191, Arkansas State
The Dolphins clearly want to revamp their secondary after drafting Don Jones, the third defensive back they have taken this draft. Jones is raw as a defensive back, playing safety for two years at Arkansas State after arriving as a running back. He had a tremendous Pro Day, recording a 4.4 in the 40, a vertical leap of 42 inches and 17 reps on the bench press, and the Dolphins will look to use him as a slot cornerback and special teams contributor.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: DT Randy Starks (tendered at $8.45 million; signed tender March 19).
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (1)
--S Tyrone Culver was signed off the street at the end of the season to shore up the secondary and special teams units, and likely won't be re-signed.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)
--OT Patrick Brown (not tendered as ERFA) was inactive for the final four games after being signed off the street, and likely won't be back in 2013.
--TE Jeron Mastrud (not tendered as RFA) is a good blocking tight end, special teams contributor and emergency long snapper, and will likely be brought back on a one-year deal to fight for a roster spot.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
--S Chris Clemons: UFA; $2.75M/1 yr, $1M guaranteed.
--QB Pat Devlin: ERFA; $480,000/1 yr.
--G/T Nate Garner: UFA; $4.875M/3 yrs, $500,000 SB/$700,000 guaranteed.
--WR Brian Hartline: Potential UFA; $30.775M/5 yrs, $12.5M guaranteed.
--QB Matt Moore: Potential UFA; $8M/2 yrs, $4M guaranteed.
--LB Austin Spitler: RFA tendered at 1.323M with third-round pick as compensation); $1.323M/1 yr.
--CB R.J. Stanford: ERFA; $630,000/1 yr.
--DT Randy Starks: FFA; $8.45M/1 yr.
--T Tyson Clabo: FA Falcons; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--LB Dannell Ellerbe: UFA Ravens; $35M/5 yrs, $7M SB/$17M guaranteed.
--WR Brandon Gibson: UFA Rams; $9.78M/3 yrs, $3M SB/$3.75M guaranteed.
--CB Brent Grimes: UFA Falcons; $5M/1 yr, $2.25M SB/$3M guaranteed.
--TE Dustin Keller: UFA Jets; $4.25M/1 yr, $2.25M guaranteed.
--G Lance Louis: UFA Bears; $1.603M/1 yr, $100,000 guaranteed.
--DT Vaughn Martin: UFA Chargers; $4M/2 yrs, $750,000 guaranteed.
--WR Mike Wallace: UFA Steelers; $60M/5 yrs, $11M SB/$30M guaranteed/$27M fully guaranteed.
--LB Philip Wheeler: UFA Raiders; $26M/5 yrs, $7M SB/$13M guaranteed.
--S Jonathon Amaya: Not tendered as RFA/Cardinals; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--WR Davone Bess (traded Browns).
--LB Kevin Burnett (released/post-June 1 designation).
--RB Reggie Bush: UFA Lions; $16M/4 yrs, $4M SB.
--LB Karlos Dansby (released/post-June 1 designation).
--TE Anthony Fasano: UFA Chiefs; $16M/4 yrs, $4.5M guaranteed.
--K Nate Kaeding: UFA Buccaneers; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--T Jake Long: UFA Rams; $34M/4 yrs, $5M SB/$20M potentially guaranteed/$12M fully guaranteed).
--CB Bryan McCann: Not tendered as RFA/Cardinals; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--DT Tony McDaniel: UFA Seahawks; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--WR Marlon Moore: Not tendered as RFA/49ers; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--CB Sean Smith: UFA Chiefs; $18M/3 yrs, $12M guaranteed.