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I have refrained from delving into who I'd like to see Miami go after in free agency simply because it is much too early to speculate. Inevitably, players that we hope for in January are re-signed long before the start of free agency. And players we never thought would be available find themselves on the open market. I just wait until the start of free agency before diving into the issue. But over the last week or two, a lot of information (read: rumors) have been circulating around the Internet. So, against my better judgment, I figured I'd give a few thoughts on the latest free agent news that is coming out of Miami. The following are bits and pieces from the Miami Herald and the Sun-Sentinel over the last day or so. (Those that are underlined are from the Herald. The rest are from the Sentinel.)
"Don't expect Buffalo's Peerless Price or Arizona's David Boston to wear a Dolphins uniform in 2003.
Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt said the team isn't willing to offer the kind of lucrative contract that would be needed to land Price or Boston in free agency. Price and Boston are considered the top receivers slated to become free agents when the signing period begins Feb. 28......More likely, the Dolphins will try to sign a veteran receiver, such as Ike Hilliard of the New York Giants or Kevin Dyson of Tennessee and then draft another receiver.
Gadsden and Cris Carter are both slated to become unrestricted free agents, with the latter telling Wannstedt that he would only be interested in returning if promised a starting spot.
The Dolphins also have to decide whether to keep wide receivers James McKnight and Dedric Ward.
Jamar Fletcher will receive competition for the nickel cornerback position. "I think Jamar got better, but he's going to have to come in and compete," Wannstedt said.
The Dolphins want to re-sign Mark Dixon but are unsure whether he will remain at left tackle. The Dolphins are strongly weighing whether to pursue a left tackle in free agency, which would affect Dixon's situation.
He is optimistic that middle linebacker Zach Thomas will sign a contract extension before the start of the signing period. The Dolphins already have held initial negotiations with agents Drew and Jason Rosenhaus.
Strong safety Arturo Freeman may have a reduced role on defense next season. "I probably assumed too much with Arturo," said Wannstedt, who promoted Freeman to replace the departed Brian Walker (Detroit).
Wannstedt said he spoke with offensive lineman Mark Dixon, who told Wannstedt he would like to play next season. Dixon, who can become an unrestricted free agent at the end of February, had mentioned retiring after the end of last season, but has obviously backed off that.
''We certainly want to re-sign Mark,'' Wannstedt said. He said Dixon could return to left tackle, but the plan is for the team to sign a left tackle and move Dixon back to guard.
Wannstedt also said, ''I plan on [linebacker] Derrick [ Rodgers] being back.'' However, he said he didn't want to discuss Rodgers possibly being asked to take a pay cut.
Rodgers was troubled all season after committing battery upon another man at a South Beach restaurant in July and over a troubled relationship with his wife, Kareff. Rodgers was not at Wannstedt's home recently when the team leaders were invited over."
Ok, seems like we are getting both good news and bad. I can understand not paying top dollar for Price or Boston, and I actually like the idea of signing Ike Hilliard and then drafting a receiver in April. I'd probably show Ward the door, and then see if I could get McKnight to redo his contract to save us some cap money. I wouldn't mind Gadsden coming back for a decent price plus incentives. But with his history of toe problems, I wouldn't give him a high dollar or long term deal. As for Cris Carter, I got one word, "Bye." Dave isn't going to promise him a starting job, and neither would I. If he doesn't want to compete, then take your place back on the stool at HBO studios.
Competition for Fletcher....it's about damn time! As long as we don't use our first pick in the draft to do it! It also looks like Freeman will get competition as well. I think Freeman did alright last year, but he certainly didn't make us forget Brian Walker. I keep hearing rumors about Rodney Harrison! So stay tuned.
So Dixon might be coming back and not retiring. Did anyone really think he'd retire? Now resign him and put him back at LG where he belongs! But keep the salary cap hit reasonable and don't give him more than 2 or 3 year deal.
Sure hope the Zach deal gets done quickly. I just don't understand wanting to bring Rodgers back. Oh well. It is still too early to get worked up over all of this.
For a while now, I've toyed with the idea of putting together a list containing my thoughts and opinions on the Dolphins and the NFL. Kind of a "Best Of/Worst Of" type list. So here goes. You may agree with me, and you may not. Feel free to post your input over on the message board. The Fin Forum
Most Underrated Dolphin Player - RB Travis Minor
Minor averaged over 4 yards per carry in limited action last season. He played well enough to take over the 3rd down RB duties half way through the season. But Minor made his mark on special teams as a kick returner. Minor averaged over 23 yards per return, which statically, is just average. But that stat is marred by the fact that many of his huge returns were negated by stupid penalties. Runner-up - Jay Williams. 22 tackles and 6 sacks in limited playing time.
Most Underrated NFL Player - WR Chad Johnson - Bengals
Here's a guy that averaged over 16 yards per catch, (1169 receiving yards on the year) had 5 100 yard receiving games, caught 5 TDs and had zero fumbles. And he did it all on the worst team in the NFL. Runner-up - Dwight Freeney. 13 sacks and 9 forced fumbles. This guy is Pro Bowl worthy!
Most Overrated Dolphin Player - LB Zach Thomas
Ok, before you storm my house with pitchforks and torches, hear me out. I love Zach Thomas. He is a great player. But let's face it, he is a product of our system. He puts up great stats partly because of players like Tim Bowens. If our DL struggles, he struggles. And over the last year or two, more and more of his tackles have come downfield instead of at the line of scrimmage. Yes, he's in the Pro Bowl. Yes, I think he should be there. But would he be considered an elite LB if he played where Takeo Spikes plays? Or where Brian Urlacher plays?
Most Overrated NFL Player - WR Keyshawn Johnson - Bucs
If he played the game the way he ran his mouth, he'd be a Pro Bowler every year. Last year, he made only 1 TD catch. This year, he doesn't even rank in the top 15 in receiving yards. "Give me the damn ball?" No, give me a damn break! Runner-up - Edgerrin James. He's averaging only 3.6 yards per carry and had only 2 rushing TDs this year. It is obvious that he is still struggling from his surgery.
Most Valuable Player to the Dolphins - Ricky Williams
The Dolphins have never had a RB that has led the NFL in rushing. Just imagine what our overall record would have been if we didn't have a RB that gained 1853 yards on the ground?
Most Valuable NFL Player to Their Team - QB Mike Vick - Falcons
Think Atlanta would have made the playoffs, let alone win in Green Bay without Vick as their starting QB? As long as he is healthy, the Falcons have a shot at the playoffs. (And he's only 22!)
Dolphin Player I'd most Like to Meet - QB Dan Marino
Yes, he's a former player, but what Dolphin fan wouldn't want to shake his hand and say thank you for 17 great years?
NFL Player I'd Most Like to Meet - OL Kyle Turley - Saints
I've raved about this guy many times before. I love his "in your face" attitude. This is the type of player that Bill Romanowski and Warren Sapp wishes they were! Runner-up - Jack Lambert. Another "in your face" player and probably my all-time favorite linebacker. Second Runner-up - Ronnie Lott. He cut off his finger to play football for Christ's sakes!
Dolphin Player I'd Like Use as a Tackling Dummy - Coach Keith Armstrong
Ok, he's not a player, but still. This is the guy that took one of the best special team units in the league and is literately trashing it. He is quoted in Alex Marvez's article in the Sun-Sentinel as saying, "That's the stuff that burns you up. If the stuff happened to me that I see on TV happening to other teams, there would be a lynch mob at my door. We don't give up touchdowns. You don't see us having foolish plays constantly week in and week out." Wrong! We see foolish penalties on special teams EVERY week! If those sorts of things happened from time to time, I'd blame the player. When they happen every week, I blame the coach! Runner-up - Jim Bates. 5 Pro Bowlers on defense and we struggle on the road?!?!!
NFL Player I'd Like to Use as a Tackling Dummy - K Martin Gramatica - Bucs
Am I the only one who is tired of the "Gramatica on-field dance routine?" All he needs is a pillbox cap with a chin strap and a man out there playing on an accordion. Tony Kornheiser once said he looks like a hand-puppet. I think he looks more like a rat with a football helmet on. Sure, the guy can kick. But he talks way too much trash for a guy that us only 5'8 and 170 lbs!
Best NFL Fans - Tie Packers/Raiders
It says a lot when your season tickets are sold out not for years or decades to come, but for centuries. And what other stadium would be packed with fans at night in 20 degree weather? On the flip side, what else is there to do in Green Bay Wisconsin?
Say what you want about the Raider faithful, but you gotta love their intensity! They are the reason that teams hate going to "The Black Hole". Runner-up - Bengals. To even admit that they are Bengals fan, let alone showing up to their games says a lot about those seventeen individuals and impresses the hell outta me.
Worst NFL Fans - Raiders
Is this a football game or a Marilyn Manson concert? I wonder what this freak show does on Halloween? Oakland fans have been voted the most likely to riot if the Raiders win the Superbowl. They were also voted most likely to riot if they lose the Superbowl. They are the reason that other fans (and their medical insurance providers) hate going to "The Black Hole."
Team (Other Than Miami) That I'd Like to See Win the Superbowl - Saints
Originally, I was going to list the Bengals. Who doesn't deserve to be there more than their fans? But Cincinnati has been there before. So I went with the Saints, who've won only one play-off game their entire existence. And you think Miami fans are sick of missing the Big Game? Runner-up - Seahawks Moving them into the same division as the 49ers and Rams hurt them, but they've never been there either.
Team I REALLY Don't Want to See Go to the Superbowl - Jets
Like I really need to explain this? Runner-up - Bills. They had their chances!
And finally, Happy Superbowl!