Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Off topic: Crowd sourcing

I came across this site this morning - if anyone wants to get their geek on and help look for the Malasyian airliner that went missing, there's a crowd sourcing site that has satellite imagery for you to explore.

And now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Our Long National Nightmare Is Over

To borrow a quote from President Ford in his inaugural address after taking office following the resignation of Richard Nixon, our own national nightmare is finally being put to rest.

Jonathan "Please stop touching me!" Martin has been traded to the 49ers for a 2015 conditional draft pick.

"El Sensidiva" goes from "Bullygate" to the Golden Gate in his home state to play back up to LT Joe Staley if he doesn't first run to his ex college coach Jim Harbaugh to complain that he got wedgied by a stewardess on his flight to San Fransisco.

We are left eating close to a million bucks of dead money against the salary cap this year but that is a mere pittance in expense compared to a slugfest of a embarrassing law suit we would surely have had to defend.

So at least we can now put this episode behind us and speaking of behinds:

Jonathan Martin....Don't let the door hit yours!

Phins Up

Carl Leone
Dolfan since 12/25/1971

Miami Dolphins Day One Free Agency Thoughts

As expected the Dolphins came out as players in Day 1 of free agency. Landing Brandon Albert was imperative as the Dolphins are in desperate need of help on the O-Line.  As expected it was a big contract with a big guarantee.  I would say they overpaid a little bit but all the other top left tackle prospects signed with other teams today as well.  Plain and simple, it was something Miami had to do. If he stays healthy, Brandon Albert is a very solid tackle. I wish he was a bit younger with a better injury track record but in Miami’s situation I am a happy fan.

Also as expected the Dolphins did not sign big Paul back for DT.  I will say I liked Paul Soliai as a fan. He was always a Dolphin, and he had a couple years where he was one of the top D-Tackles in the league. However the guy is 30 and he has had several seasons where he was not able to control his weight. This year he clearly was not able to get the up field pressure needed to redirect running backs or pressure the QB. I really think this was because he was playing too heavy. He also had some knee issues at times as well.  Atlanta paid a mint for Soliai considering those variables and I am glad the Dolphins did not do it.  I think there is a very likely chance Soliai will be dead money on Atlanta’s cap number 2 years from now.   Miami has that same risk with Albert so getting younger at D-Tackle seems like a wise move to offset it.  The departure of Soliai created a clear need for a DT. It sounds like Earl Mitchell is going to be one of the guys to fill that need.  Mitchell is only 26 years old and Miami signed him for the about ½ the cost of Soliai.  It remains to be seen if he can perform at the same level but on paper this is a good move.  It saves a lot of cap space and gets a younger player at the same time. That is not easy to do! Mitchell is pretty athletic and I think he will be better at getting into the backfield and causing disruption.  However, I am not so sure he will be able to anchor against the run at the same level as Soliai. I still expect the Dolphins to add another DT into the mix. You need a good rotation when you are playing in the Miami humidity and heat.

Finally the Dolphins signed safety Louis Demas which likely signals that Chris Clemons will not be back. I absolutely love this move.  For those of you that don’t know Louis Delmas, look up some highlights on him. In short, he is one of those guys that hits very hard and intimidates wide receivers. Miami has lacked an enforcer at safety since the days of Louis Oliver. Delmas also has good range and speed to cover and get some interceptions. Delmas paired with Jones will give the Dolphins more ability to send some creative blitzes. They also got him for a very reasonable one year deal. Very similar to what they did last year with Grimes. The reason he was affordable is he has history of getting hurt. (Using your body like a rocket tends to do that)  If he is able to stay healthy this will be a steal for them.  They will have Jimmy Wilson already as a backup and I would not be surprised to see them draft a safety still in the mid rounds to develop for future seasons. Overall three solid additions to start off free agency.

Oh and the Dolphins managed to trade J Martin.  I assume it was for a case of beer and conditional draft pick.  I am shocked they got anything out of him. Really feeling good about Hickey so far!

Stadium Improvements: Round 97

You all know that I am not a fan of the owner, and I am an opponent of using public funding for stadia.

And then I heard the report yesterday that Mr. Ross is considering financing improvements himself.  And wow, that sounds great! Way to go Mr. Ross!


All isn't quite as simple as it seems. The deal is that in exchange for doing it himself, he will transfer ownership of the stadium to the county, and will avoid paying taxes on it in the future.

Sounds like an fair trade-off right? Of course, as the Herald reports, the $4ish million in taxes that supports the local community (schools and city) would now be gone.  But I'm curious about something else - what happens to the debt load on the stadium?  The low and no interest loans totaling around $200 million. Would the county now be on the hook for that?  It belongs to the stadium, so presumably they would have to take that as well....right?

I sure hope the county financial people study this thoroughly, to ensure that don't suddenly take on something unintentionally that turn out fiscally irresponsible.

And there's another piece to this puzzle that bothers me a bit.  The main thing keeping the Dolphins in town was the stadium.  If they don't have that "problem" anymore, who's to say that they won't bolt after handing over the keys?  The Dolphins have been careful to tell the press they would transfer ownership AFTER they do improvements. But a handshake isn't worth much these days.  Again, the county needs to consider it carefully. 

And if they did do things right, you can bet that in the next 5 or so years, they'll be back asking for improvements to the stadium that the county owns.

Oh and just one more thing: the Dolphins are once again making a push to get the state tax break that they sought last year. And they want another subsidy from the county in taxes (on top of the amount that they would save from not paying the taxes).

So the deal could be okay if they can work out these details.  Its certainly better than the last deal in any case...

Monday, March 10, 2014

Will Hickey Make Big Splash As He Dives Into His First Free Agency

Dennis Hickey, Miami Dolphins newly minted GM, is just 24 hours away from his first free agency period with the team and all indications are that he is willing to sign some big names for some big bucks.

And three words come to mind as to why I can see this happening...Two Year Contract!!

That's right...two year contract.

Hickey is under contract for two years, that's all. No time to build through the draft. No time to sit on your hands.

Stephen Ross has given Hickey exactly 48 months and Dawn Aponte has set him up with a pile of cash to work with.

So why not go beyond tire kicking and test drives.  You know what you want. You know what you need. You know what is on the lot.

Hickey is ready to drive off the lot at approximately 4:10 PM Tuesday with a Honda SUV in the name of LT Branden Albert.

He likes the reliability and the torque. He can live with the cracked leather seats and the extra miles as long as the vehicle starts 16 times this fall and gets him through the day without needing a tow truck for his QB.   

Then Hickey will drive down the street for a couple miles and pull into the Porsche lot and drive off with a 911 with a few miles on it but it handles real well and can go from 0-40 in 4.5 seconds which is truly needed in center field on defense.

Yep, look for a hard top convertible playing safety in the name of Jarius Byrd.

Now Dawn Aponte, the salary cap guru, will show Hickey how cheap these easy payment plans can be with signing bonuses and 3-4 year contracts of which Dennis "If you are not completely satisfied, you only have to bring the car back after 2 years and we can work out a new payment plan then."

So Dennis Hickey will get his get his 2 new toys in his first 24 hours of free agency.  He will park them out front in Davie and show them off to the world. 

Friends will stop by to peak inside. They will ask about the mileage and reliability and the kinks and the tires and the paint jobs and the engines upkeeps.

But at the end of his first day in free agency, Hickey will just smile and begin to work on the draft.

After all, it ain't his money!

Good luck Dennis Hickey and don't forget to get them blessed.

Phins Up!

Carl Leone
Dolfan since 12/25/1971

Free Agency Primer Offensive Line

The excitement of free agency is only a few days away. A few weeks from now teams will have a clearer picture of what the 2014 edition of their teams will look like. For Miami it is no secret at all they are in need of MAJOR help on the offensive line.  I don’t recall a season where Miami needed help on the O-Line so badly. It is by far the reason the team was not in the playoffs in 2013. Before you go shopping you first have to look in the cupboard and unfortunately Miami’s is quite empty.  For 2014 I expect the following players to be on the roster. Mike Pouncey, Nate Garner and Sam Brenner.  Of those three only Pouncey will be a starter. Garner can play all positions on the line at an average level so his value is in his ability for Miami to carry less backup players. Sam Brenner proved last year he can play guard at least at an average level in the league and you have to assume he has some upside yet. He also costs peanuts against the cap so assuming he busted his butt in the offseason I expect he will be in line for a back-up guard spot on the line, with a real chance to break the starting lineup if he progresses. I know the team spent a high pick on Dallas Thomas however, I don’t think he will even make the team. Hickey did not draft him and the fact the Dolphins had people off the street practically playing line and not Thomas tells me the guy is probably a bust. 

Miami is now in the daunting situation of needing two starting tackles and two starting guards. Tackles are not cheap, especially Left tackles.  It requires a special skill set of being massive enough to block power rushing 280 pound defensive ends like Odrick as well as being quick enough to get out of your stance to block a blitzing corner back. On top of that you need to be able to read a defense and know who is responsible to block who.  I would rate OT as the 3rd hardest positions to start a rookie on opening day behind defensive back and quarterback.  Keep in mind EVERY time a right handed quarterback drops back in a non-shotgun formation his back is to the left tackle “the blindside”.  If you skimp at the left tackle position I hope you are expecting to see your QB’s name as a frequent flyer on the injury report.  Guard is an easier and lower cost position to fill. Guards vary greatly on scheme. If you want to run a power running game then massive and powerful guards capable of moving defensive tackles is what is desired. If you want to run an offense that runs a lot screens, stretch runs, and traps. Then a more agile guard is desired that is capable of getting out into space.  Of course every team wants a guard that can do both well.  Expect Miami to go after some guards that are more in the 290-300 pound range and not 350 pound mammoth types.

The free agent market will offer several possibilities. The hot names being Albert, Monroe, and Veldheer. None of these guys have me jumping saying “they have to get this player”. In my amateur opinion Brandon Albert has the highest talent of the group. IF (a big if) he is healthy. He has missed games in recent seasons and everyone knows the Chiefs would not let the Dolphins give him a physical. Monroe is a 2nd contract guy in his prime. However, I only view him as a decent tackle not a guy that can be dominant like Albert.  I also find it odd that Jacksonville traded him for some mid round picks. People are saying this is because they did not want to get anything in return? The jags have a pile of cap space and a couple mid round picks are not going to get you a new left tackle.  More likely that Jags knew they wanted to go in a different direction and would not pay him as a top tackle. So they took what they could get. Veldheer is a player that has not performed consistently at a high level but has the talent to do so. Again a red flag is the Raiders have a huge amount of cap space but are letting him test market. So what I see available is a higher risk higher reward player in Albert. A steady but not spectacular guy in Monroe, and an unproven guy with talent in Veldheer. Despite all of these players having some concerns. They will probably all get a contract in the 8-10 million per year range.  Expect Miami to come right out the gate after one of these three guys. Not because any of them are great options to invest 8-10 million in rather because they have no choice. They HAVE to get someone capable of playing left tackle at a consistent high level.  They also may make a play early for someone like Davin Joseph or Rodger Saffold. However, I don’t think they have the same urgency because I think they will be able to get some guards in the draft as well as some bargains after the drafts that are solid.  With that be said I would not be opposed at all to using some of the cap space to lock up a solid guard early on.

I don’t really do speculating, I know it is being reported, that they are closing in on Albert. It makes sense of course because they tried to get him last season, he spends a lot of time in Miami and the Chiefs will not be competing to keep him. However, just keep in mind this is the time of year agents lie through their teeth to drive up the price on players. So it would not surprise me the reports are designed to try to entice a team like Arizona into a bidding war. I do get a chuckle out of the news reports listing the top offensive line prospects as “targets”. Ya think? SMH. They need FOUR starters on the line!
I do think in the end the player already knows where he wants to play and just want to get the offers from their desired location in the ballpark.  So I do think the Dolphins have a better chance to land Brandon Albert compared to other tackle prospects tackle who may very well get a matching offer from their own team and are just using other teams to up their contracts.