Free agency: Dolphins splash with Wallace

Free agency: Dolphins splash with Wallace
April 2, 2013, 11:45 am
Share This Post

Miami caused immediate free agency commotion by signing Mike Wallace. The 26-year old was probably the most coveted receiver on the free agent market. It was no secret the Dolphins wanted him and they shelled out $60 million ($27 million guaranteed) to get their man for five years. Wallace's 2013 cap hit is just $3.25 million.

In addition to Wallace, Miami added former Jets tight end Dustin Keller, former Rams receiver Brandon Gibson, and re-signed Brian Hartline. Davone Bess, coming off a 61-catch, 778-yard season, is still under contract for another season.

This group, along with Armon Binns, Rishard Matthews, Brian Tyms and Jeff Fuller made the loss of Marion Moore (to San Francisco) simple as a shrug.

Anthony Fasano may be a different story. The tight end had 41 catches and a team-high five touchdown catches for Miami last season, and his blocking was as valuable as his hands. Keller might be a better receiver than Fasano, but the swap isn't an upgrade otherwise.

Bottom line: Second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill has weapons. Does this mean the Dolphins are done acquiring pass catchers? No. They have far too many draft picks (more on that later) to avoid that temptation.

Miami's biggest free agency ding was Reggie Bush's departure.

The tailback was a locker room leader, an every-down player, and the 'Fins biggest offense threat. Despite falling just short of recording back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons, he signed with Detroit for four years and $16 million. Only $5 million of that contract is guaranteed and the base salary for 2013 is just $1 million.

Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas will shoulder the load in the backfield.

Another notable roster loss is left tackle Jake Long.

Miami tried to re-sign their former No. 1 overall pick from 2008, even after St. Louis came for him. Makes sense, considering the Dophins' moves to otherwise upgrade the offense. All those moves cost money, however, and it was reported Long wanted $11 million a year. He got $36 million (with incentives) from the Rams and $16 million guaranteed.

Long's absence will have to be addressed. Jonathan Martin, 23, at least provides some versatility. The tackle played 12 of 16 games on the right side in 2012 but may be better suited for the left.

As for the need at right guard, Miami can improve on John Jerry. He started every game last season, but not because the fit was perfect. A lighter, more athletic guard would better suit the Dolphins offense and its zone-blocking scheme on the line.

On the other side of the ball, the Dolphins are lacking at corner.

Look at the group and what do you see? A bunch of guys. Richard Marshall (who missed 12 games last year with a back injury), Dimitri Patterson (not a lock to make the roster), Nolan Carroll (in a contract year) and the unproven R.J. Stanford, De'Andre Presley, and Julian Posey.

Six-year veteran Brent Grimes -- if healthy; he missed 15 games last season with an Achilles injury -- lends depth for both man and zone coverages. Still, this team owns five of the first 82 draft picks and could use one to pick up a decent corner.

Offseason movement at linebacker has been more interesting.

When the Dolphins switched to a 4-3 defense last season it gave them the chance to plug in younger (cheaper) players. Then they surprised everyone this spring by acquiring Dannelle Ellerbe. It cost $35 million (over five years) to snatch he fifth-year player from Baltimore. Karlos Dansby was cut to make room for Ellerbe at the Sam linebacker spot. Miami then grabbed the 28-year old Philip Wheeler from Oakland to replace Kevin Burnett at Will. If the high-motored Koa Misi isn't plugged into the middle, a new one could be drafted.  

The pass rush should be more of a priority, however. Cameron Wake, a first-team All-Pro defensive end in 2012, could use some help. Jared Odrick is a solid presence in the run game, but Olivier Vernon and Derrick Shelby, rookies last season, don't exactly round out the group with certainty.  

Randy Starks is a plus. Entering his 10th NFL season, he's played in all 16 regular season games for Miami over his five year tenure there. Starks' versatility to play both tackle and end makes him an important piece of the puzzle, and he was slapped with the team's franchise tag on March 4.

The price for the one-year deal is $8.45 million guaranteed. The Dolphins have until July 15 to work out a long-term deal with Starks and could manipulate it in a way that clears up even more money for 2013.

This team has somewhere in the neighborhood of $13 million left in cap space, and another $9M will become available June 1 when Dansby's and Burnett's contracts clear out. According to Overthecap.com, Miami might need around $12 million for in-season negotiations and rookies. How many rookies? There could be as many as 11. The Dolphins are slated to pick at No. 12 overall and have four more picks in the first three rounds (42, 54, 77, and 82).  

Good news for a team that's made the playoffs just twice since 2001.

COMINGS
Brent Grimes, CB, Atlanta Falcons
Dustin Keller, TE, New York Jets
Brandon Gibson, WR, St. Louis Rams
Philip Wheeler, LB, Oakland Raiders
Vaughn Martin, DL, San Diego Chargers
Mike Wallace, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Dannell Ellerbe, LB, Baltimore Ravens
Lance Louis, G, Chicago Bears
 
GOINGS

Karlos Dansby, LB
Kevin Burnett, LB
Anthony Fasano, TE
Jake Long, LT
Reggie Bush, TB
Sean Smith, CB
Tony McDaniel, DT
Jonathon Amaya, S
Marion Moore, WR
Nate Kaeding, PK

RETENTIONS
Nate Garner, OL
Brian Hartline, WR
Matt Moore, QB
Randy Starks, DT
Chris Clemons, S
Dimitri Patterson, CB
Richard Marshall, CB
Austin Spitier, Special teams
R.J. Stanford, CB
Lee Robinson, LB

IN LIMBO
Jeron Mastrud, TE
Tyrone Culver, DB
 
UNADDRESSED
Offensive tackle, pass rusher, cornerback, right guard