Monday, February 17, 2014

Miami Dolphins 2014 Franchise Tag

The first major off-season event has arrived!  Teams can begin the process of tagging a franchise player.  I really don’t have any interest in the whole bully scandal. The whole thing is a joke, there are players in the NFL that have beaten their wives as well as been involved with shootings.  All the media attention over the “scandal” will soon die down.  What does matter to me is how the 2014 will shape up after this.  It looks like there will not be any penalties for Philbin and I don’t think there will be any loss of draft picks to the team.  I don’t have any interest in Incognito, Jerry or Martin. None of these guys will play for the Dolphins in 2014.  I do think Mike Pouncey will play for the Dolphins in 2014, however, there is a chance he will get suspended, for sure he will get fined.  I am concerned about his off the field pattern right now.  His tie to Hernandez, mention of drugs in text, and now racial slurs in the locker room.  I have a feeling Goodell is going to give him a Wyatt Earp “It all ends now” type wake up call.  So we will have to watch what happens to him. If he does get suspended for a few games, I would think Nate Garner would be the logical answer until he is back. There are simply too many holes to use up precious draft picks or cap space on another center.  Also, I am looking for Philbin to take control of his coaching staff this year. His inability to take play calling away from Sherman as well as Turner texting Johnathan Martin after he left the team, tells me Philbin has been unable to manage his coaches.  This will have to change if the Dolphins are going to be able to succeed.

Now back to the tag. I have mentioned in the past that players typically have 3 major contracts.  The 3rd contract is something Ireland always avoided. Giving a player in his early 30’s a big deal is a very high risk to end up as dead money long term.  Dolphin’s players wanting a 3rd major contract are Paul Soliai, Randy Starks, and Brent Grimes. All of these guys have performed at pro bowl levels in their career and are in their early 30’s.  Most people are always looking at the upcoming year and want them back because they fill a hole very well on paper. However, what these guys are looking for is money over 3-4 years. I would guess they will be looking for 30-40 million over 3-4 years with at least 50% of it guaranteed. Always pay attention to the guaranteed part. That part is spread over the contract in some fashion and that total amount comes off the cap at some point in time.  Anytime you give guaranteed money to a player it is risky.  Players that have had serious injuries or are advancing in age are much more risky. The nightmare scenario is the player having a serious injury early in the contract. Think of Jake Long. The Rams gave him a large contract and he is now seriously hurt.  I think it is unlikely Jake Long will return to a top 15 tackle level. He has had multiple severe injuries the last several years.  However, you will see him taking a chunk of the Rams cap for the next couple seasons.  I don’t expect the Dolphins to tag Soliai or Starks. Starks was tagged last year and is now 31. He would be a huge cap expense to tag and I think he will move on. Was it the right move to not sign him longer term last year? It is still too early to tell. He played last year at a high level and I would expect he will do the same this year. However, I am very skeptical he will be playing at that level when he is 33 or 34.  I do know this, money does not get hurt, and the Dolphins have cap space right now rather than Starks. They also have more flexibility. Maybe the best way for Miami to improve is to sign a free agent O Tackle and draft a D Tackle. If they had given Starks the big contract then they would not have that option. They would have to draft the O Tackle.  Soliai did not perform as well last year as in the past. I know he had troubles with a knee and was playing too heavy.( a problem he has had in the past).  Miami will offer him a reasonable contract. Which will probably have a low guarantee but solid on the salary if he performs.  Despite people assuming Miami is cap strapped, they are actually in the top 10 in league in salary cap space. This means they can sit back on 3rd contract players. After the first couple weeks of free agency the money just won’t be there for guys like Soliai. He can sign early to make sure he has a job or he has to sit and wait until after the draft and maybe into training camp until someone gets hurt. At that point there will only be 1 year prove it deals available as teams won’t have the cap space to hand out large deals.
That leaves Brent Grimes… He was probably the best player on the team last year. We have not had a corner since Surtain or Madison who we could match up on the #1 wide out and feel good about it. We have two young corners that we are hoping can fill into the nickel and dime with Taylor and Davis. That means we have to have a solid veteran corner. I don’t think it makes sense to use a high draft pick on one since we have two young ones right now. Grimes is a risky 3rd contract player. He is 30 and has had a severe injury in his career. This means it is not that appealing to give him a large 3-4 year deal.  I will say this, Brent seems to keep himself in phenomenal shape and he just seems to be one of those guys that could play at a high level into his mid 30’s. Finally, there is the need to win factor. Miami has not had a playoff appearance in years and the whole scandal does not help the image. Rolling the dice on a young unproven corner and letting Grimes go is a great way to go 0-2 against the Patriots and 8-8 on the year. So if I were the one making the call on Brent Grimes. I would offer him a reasonable 3 year deal. Something along the lines of 25-30 million with 11 million guaranteed spread over those 3 years. If he will not take that deal, then I would use the tag on him. Take the cap hit this year(about 11 million) and see how the young corners develop this year. He would be getting paid like a solid corner if he can continue to perform and hopefully he will be able to hold up in 2015 and 2016 to avoid a dead money hit. Either way I would make sure he is playing for Miami in 2014.

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Good idea gofins4sb!
I think Grimes and his wife love Miami and could live very comfortably for 6-7 million a year for 4 years and that is what he will sign. He knows the risks at his age.