Dolphins cut WRs Hartline, Gibson

February, 27, 2015
Feb 27
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The Miami Dolphins released wide receivers Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson on Friday, the team announced.

Hartline, 28, had started 69 games for the team since 2009, including every game last season. Gibson, 27, started five games last season.

The two moves clear $6.4 million in salary-cap space for the Dolphins, who were less than $3 million under their projected adjusted salary cap for the 2015 season.

Hartline, who signed a five-year deal in 2013, was due to count $7.35 million against the Dolphins' salary cap next season. Gibson, who signed a three-year deal in 2013, was set to count $4.26 million against Miami's cap.

Hartline posted back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons in 2012 and 2013 before a drop-off last season, when he was limited to 39 catches for 474 yards.

Gibson caught 29 passes last season for 295 yards and one touchdown.

The Dolphins could also release or trade wide receiver Mike Wallace, who is due to count more than $12 million against the team's salary cap next season. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported Thursday that Wallace is not willing to restructure his lucrative five-year, $60 million deal, signed in 2013.

Wallace led the Dolphins with 10 touchdowns in 2014 but was unhappy not to be targeted more. Coach Joe Philbin benched him in the second half of the final game after an argument between the star receiver and coaching staff.

Jarvis Landry, who led Miami with 84 receptions as a rookie last season, is expected to move into a starting role. Receiver might also be a priority in free agency and the draft.


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The Miami Dolphins are coming off back-to-back 8-8 seasons and enter a playoff-or-bust year in 2015. In order to accomplish that goal, they must fill several key needs.

ESPN.com’s Dolphins page wraps up its rankings of Miami’s top-5 needs.

No. 1: Linebacker

2014 starters: Philip Wheeler, Koa Misi, Jelani Jenkins

Top free agents: Justin Houston, Jason Worilds, Pernell McPhee

Why it’s an issue: Miami’s linebackers could not stop the run, missed too many tackles and didn’t make enough game-changing plays last season. At times, this group also struggled to cover slot receivers and tight ends, although the coverage was improved from 2013. It was just a below average year overall for this group with the exception of Jenkins, who was a nice find after replacing the injured Dannell Ellerbe in Week 1.

Walker’s solution: The first order of business is to create cap space. Therefore, I am cutting the high salaries of both Ellerbe ($8.59 million) and Wheeler ($3 million) before I do anything else at linebacker. That will provide some wiggle room to make improvements on the roster. I like Jenkins, who led the team in tackles last year with 110. Misi is decent, but the coaching staff loves him. So I doubt he’s going anywhere. Misi’s versatility to play inside or outside allows Miami the freedom find the best linebacker available via the draft or free agency, regardless of position. Outside linebackers such as Worilds or McPhee are good players who won’t come cheap. But I like the idea better of drafting a linebacker in the first round such as Shaq Thompson from the University of Washington if he’s available with the No. 14 overall pick.
The Miami Dolphins are coming off back-to-back 8-8 seasons and enter a playoff-or-bust year in 2015. In order to accomplish that goal, they must fill several key needs.

ESPN.com's Dolphins page continues its rankings of Miami’s top-5 needs.

Starks
No. 2: Defensive tackle

2014 starters: Randy Starks, Jared Odrick

Top free agents: Ndamukong Suh, Letroy Guion, Ahtyba Rubin

Why it’s an issue: Odrick is an unrestricted free agent and Starks, 31, showed signs of slowing down last season and is getting long in the tooth. Even with both players, Miami’s run defense was ranked 24th in the NFL allowing 121.1 yards per game and completely collapsed in the second half of the season. I don’t expect Odrick to return to Miami. He’s a “tweener” who doesn’t quite fit Miami’s 4-3 defense. Odrick was moved from defensive end to defensive tackle two seasons ago, but he wasn’t dominant at either position. He would be a great fit as a 3-4 defensive end, and that is where Odrick could draw interest. Starks also could be a salary-cap casualty. He’s due $5 million next season, and the Dolphins must decide if he’s worth keeping around.

Walker’s solution: It’s easy to say go get Suh, who would quickly solve this issue. But the Dolphins would be hard-pressed to come up with the kind of money Suh will command on the open market. I would let Odrick sign with another team where he’s a better fit and consider cutting Starks based on what’s available in the draft and elsewhere in free agency. Earl Mitchell was a co-starter last season and rotated pretty heavily with Starks and Odrick. He should get more reps in 2015. The Dolphins also should consider a defensive tackle with the No. 14 pick in April’s NFL draft. I really like Washington defensive tackle Danny Shelton for that pick if he’s available.

Second-year players crucial for Dolphins

February, 25, 2015
Feb 25
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ESPN Dolphins reporter James Walker says tackle Ja'Wuan James and receiver Jarvis Landry, who were impact players as rookies, will need to get even better in 2015.
The Miami Dolphins are coming off back-to-back 8-8 seasons and enter a playoff-or-bust year in 2015. In order to accomplish that goal, they must fill several key needs.

ESPN.com's Dolphins page continues its rankings of Miami's top-5 needs.

No. 3: Guard

2014 starters: Mike Pouncey, Daryn Colledge

Top free agents: Mike Iupati, Rob Sims, Clint Boling

Why it's an issue: The Dolphins don't just need one guard. They need two new guards entering the 2015 season. Colledge, 33, is a free agent who is unlikely to return. Meanwhile, Pouncey will move back to center next season, which is his natural and best position. Miami must do all it can to protect starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who has been sacked 139 times in three seasons. Getting stronger up the middle is one way.

Walker's solution: The Dolphins should not spend top dollar in free agency on a guard. Yes, it's a big hole, especially with two positions to fill. However, Miami must coach up its young offensive linemen to step up. The Dolphins spent a pair of third-round picks on Billy Turner and Dallas Thomas in 2013 and 2012, respectively. Thomas got a brief look at the end of the season with two starts but struggled and wasn't ready. If either prospect is worth their salt and the coaching staff does its part, at least one of these players should be ready to fill a hole in 2015. Turner has the most potential of the two with good size and a physical mentality. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to take a guard in the second round or lower.
The Miami Dolphins splurged in free agency during the 2013 offseason, signing Mike Wallace to a $60 million deal that hasn't panned out nearly two years later.

Wallace
Wallace
At a news conference Tuesday, Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti used Miami's deal with Wallace as an example of overpaying on the free-agent market.

"Mike Wallace got 10 million," Bisciotti said. "I don't think anybody thinks that that was a good deal. So there's always a team that has lots of money that wants to bring in playmakers, and those guys are going to get those deals, and we're just going to have to take it on the chin and move on.”

Bisciotti's comments on Wallace were in reference to Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith, who is set to hit the free-agent market in March.

Meanwhile, the Dolphins find themselves in a troublesome salary-cap situation. In addition to Wallace's $9.9 million cap number this season, they have several bloated deals that could be slashed by the start of the 2015 league year next month.

While Wallace's deal is a contributing factor to their salary-cap issues, it's important to note that the Dolphins weren't alone in offering Wallace big money in 2013: The speedy wide receiver was reportedly offered a $76 million deal from the Minnesota Vikings -- and turned it down.
The Miami Dolphins are coming off back-to-back 8-8 seasons and enter a playoff-or-bust year in 2015. In order to accomplish that goal, they must fill several key needs.

ESPN.com's Dolphins page continues its rankings of Miami’s top-5 needs.

No. 4: Safety

2014 starters: Reshad Jones, Louis Delmas

Top free agents: Devin McCourty, Antrel Rolle, Da'Norris Searcy

Why it’s an issue: The Dolphins will have two of their top three safeties hit free agency in March. Delmas and top backup and nickel cornerback Jimmy Wilson both are unrestricted free agents. Delmas, who tore his ACL in December, is not expected to be healthy at the start of free agency. Therefore, Miami is expected to go in another direction. The Dolphins will need someone to pair next to Jones, who is coming off arguably his best season. A strong duo on the backend of Miami’s defense could go a long way for the Dolphins in 2015.

Walker’s solution: This is not an easy solution. I expect the Dolphins to make a push to re-sign Wilson. As a former seventh-round pick, Wilson is a homegrown talent and versatile, which is valued by Miami’s coaching staff. But Wilson was better as a nickel than a starter. The player I would target is Rolle. He’s had a strong career with the New York Giants and Arizona Cardinals. Rolle also is a Miami native who played college football locally for the Hurricanes. Despite being 32, Rolle had 87 tackles and three interceptions last season. He still has something to give. Rolle would be a good pair with Jones and could have a chance to finish his career at home in Miami.
The Miami Dolphins have several needs to fill following their second consecutive 8-8 season.

ESPN.com begins its series on the team’s top-5 needs this offseason.

Finnegan
No. 5: Cornerback

2014 starters: Brent Grimes, Cortland Finnegan

Top free agents: Darrelle Revis, Byron Maxwell, Antonio Cromartie

Why it’s an issue: Miami had a tough time filling their No. 2 and nickel corner spots last season. There was a rotating door of players such as Finnegan, Jamar Taylor, Jimmy Wilson and Will Davis due to injuries and inconsistency. Finnegan is a potential cap casualty this offseason due to his $5.75 million salary in 2015. If he is released, Miami will have its third starting cornerback opposite Grimes in three seasons.

Walker’s solution: The Dolphins can’t have everything. They will need to spend money in free agency to fill other holes that we will get to later in this series. Miami has a Pro Bowl cornerback in Grimes, so the team needs to find a cost-effective solution to fill the role opposite Grimes. Maybe it’s Taylor, a 2013 second-round pick who showed flashes in three starts last season. Maybe it’s Davis, a 2013 third-round pick who was a standout in the past two training camps. Coaching up the young corners on its roster that could save the team a lot of money and allow the Dolphins to allocate resources towards other positions. Free agents such as Revis, Maxwell and Cromartie are not going to come cheap and are likely out of reach for the Dolphins.

Picked-up Dolphins pieces from combine

February, 21, 2015
Feb 21
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The portion of the NFL combine open to reporters wraps up Saturday.

Here are some Dolphins and Miami-based stories from around the web from reporters who made the trip to Indianapolis:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- In the last 10 years, six teams have traded out of a top-five draft spot. One of them traded out but still stayed in the top five.

With the Tennessee Titans second in the draft order and a possible scenario where they don’t want a quarterback but someone might want to trade up for them, I set out to look at those six trades. (Thanks to Evan Kaplan of ESPN Stats and Info for the help.)

Here is a run through of each of the trades, and a look at how the two teams involved fared the next season. The changes in records were hardly a result of only the trade. Bad teams draft at the top and make a lot of changes. They often regress to the mean. Still, we want some sense of how much, or how little, things improved.

2014 -- Cleveland Browns trade out of No. 4 with Buffalo Bills

The deal: The Bills took Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins. The Browns dropped down to No. 9 and got 2015 first- and fourth-rounders. They then traded up to No. 8 with Minnesota (cornerback Justin Gilbert), giving up a fifth-rounder. The 2015 first rounder is No. 19.

Review: Watkins started all 16 games, catching 65 passes for 982 yards and six TDs, but other less costly rookie receivers did better or as well -- Mike Evans, Odell Beckham Jr., and Kelvin Benjamin. Gilbert had a troubled rookie season and the team said it recently learned of a personal issue that contributed.

The Browns improved by three games.
The Bills improved by three games.

2013 -- Oakland Raiders trade out of No. 3 with Miami Dolphins

The deal: The Dolphins took defensive end Dion Jordan. The Raiders got No. 12 (cornerback D.J. Hayden) and a second-rounder (tackle Menelik Watson).

Review: Jordan has three sacks in 26 games. Hayden has two interceptions in 18 games and Watson has 12 starts in two seasons.

The Dolphins improved by a game.
The Raiders’ record didn’t change.

2012 -- St. Louis Rams trade out of No. 2 with Washington

The deal: Washington took quarterback Robert Griffin III. The Rams got No. 6, a second-rounder (cornerback Janoris Jenkins), No. 22 in 2013 and No. 2 in 2014 (tackle Greg Robinson). St. Louis traded No. 6 in 2012 to Dallas for No. 14 (defensive tackle Michael Brockers) and a second-rounder. The Rams traded that second-rounder to the Bears for a second-rounder (running back Isaiah Pead) and a fifth-rounder (tackle Rokevious Watkins). The Rams traded No. 22 in 2013 and a seventh-rounder to Atlanta for No. 30 (linebacker Alec Ogletree), a third-rounder (receiver Stedman Bailey) and a sixth rounder. They packaged the sixth-rounder to get a fifth-rounder (running back Zac Stacy).

Review: Griffin was fantastic as a rookie with 20 touchdown passes, seven touchdown runs and just five interceptions while leading Washington to the playoffs. The two years since have raised all sorts of flags. The Rams got 66 starts and 89 games out of six players still with the team in 2014. Brockers, Robinson, Ogletree and Jenkins are starters.

The Rams improved by five games.
Washington improved by five games.

2012 -- Minnesota Vikings trade out of No. 3 with the Browns

The deal: The Browns took running back Trent Richardson. The Vikings got No. 4 (tackle Matt Kalil), a fourth-rounder (receiver Jarius Wright), a fifth-rounder (defensive back Robert Blanton) and a seventh-rounder (traded to the Titans for a 2013 sixth-rounder they used on end Scott Solomon). The Vikings' sixth-rounder ultimately went to Arizona for cornerback A.J. Jefferson and a seventh-rounder (linebacker Michael Mauti).

Review: Cleveland traded Richardson after just 17 starts, getting a 2014 first-rounder from the Indianapolis Colts for him. The Browns traded what wound up No. 26 and a third-rounder to Philadelphia for No. 22 and took quarterback Johnny Manziel. The Vikings got 36 starts in 2014 from three of the players obtained with picks from the trade.

The Browns improved by one game.
The Vikings improved by seven games.

2012 -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers trade out of No. 5 with the Jacksonville Jaguars

The deal: The Jaguars took receiver Justin Blackmon. The Buccaneers got No. 7 (safety Mark Barron) and a fourth-round pick they used in package in a trade with Denver.

Review: Blackmon caught 93 passes in 20 games, but the troubled receiver was suspended by the NFL for the first four games of 2013, played in four games and was then indefinitely suspended. He has not played again. Barron has started 46 games in three seasons. The Bucs traded him to St. Louis during the 2014 season for fourth-and sixth-round picks.

The Buccaneers improved by three games.
The Jaguars got three games worse.

2009 -- Browns trade out of No. 5 with New York Jets

The deal: The Jets took quarterback Mark Sanchez. The Browns got No. 17, a second-rounder (defensive end David Veikune) and three veterans: Safety Abram Elam, quarterback Brett Ratliff and end Kenyon Coleman. Cleveland traded No. 17 to Tampa Bay for No. 21 and a sixth-rounder (defensive back Coye Francies). The Browns traded No. 21 to Philadelphia for No. 24 (center Alex Mack) and a sixth-rounder (running back James Davis).

Review: Sanchez helped the Jets make it to the AFC Championship Game in his first two seasons and was their starter for four years. He was with Philadelphia in 2014 and is set to be a free agent. Mack started every game over his first five seasons, earning two Pro Bowl selections and one second-team All-Pro nod. The other six players the Browns got out of the trade combined for 58 starts and 83 games. None are still with the team.

The Browns improved by one game.
The Jets posted the same record but went to the playoffs.
Holding a news conference Wednesday at the NFL combine in Indianapolis, Miami Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey gave little update to contract talks with quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

"I'm not going to comment on any contact or communication with representation," Hickey said. "But we do have an open line of communication with all of our players and their representation."

Tannehill
According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Dolphins have reportedly began contract talks with the framework of a seven-year, $105 million contract.

Would the Dolphins really be comfortable giving Tannehill that rich of a deal?

"We feel really good about Ryan," Hickey said Wednesday. "Obviously the market for quarterbacks in this era, the market is what it is. But we're really excited about the development that he made from Year 2 to Year 3 and that trajectory that he has.

"With learning the new offense and working through that, and the growth that he made throughout the season, we're excited about his future as our quarterback."

This offseason, Hickey is just one voice in a room that also includes executive vice presidents Mike Tannenbaum and Dawn Aponte, as well as coach Joe Philbin and owner Stephen Ross.

"The good thing is, we all have the same philosophy of we're about winning, and what does it take to get there?" Hickey said. "With our group, it's been a relationship of, hey, we all come from different experiences and we all bring something different to the table.

"So let's get in, let's collaborate, let's talk with the coaches, let's go back and watch the film. If we disagree on a certain aspect of a player, let's go back to the film, let's talk through this. It's worked well together."
With a $9.9 million cap number next season and frustrations about his role last season, Miami Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace 's future with the team is murky, with a trade being one potential option.

Speaking Wednesday at the NFL combine in Indianapolis, Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey offered little update to Wallace's situation.

Wallace
Wallace
"Obviously, through our process, we're looking at each individual situation, with all of our players," Hickey said. "Obviously, in the salary-cap era, you always have challenging decisions that you have to make each year and so we're going through that process.

"Again, we're further along in the process than we were a month ago as we talked at the Senior Bowl. But we're still working on it. We judge each decision, each player on an individual basis. The goal is to make the best decision for the Miami Dolphins."

The Miami Herald reported earlier this month that Hickey recently met with Wallace about the receiver's future.

"We had a good conversation," Hickey said Wednesday. "Again, we have an open line of communication. We always feel like we have an open door for all of our players -- whether it be from the coaching staff, myself, always keeping that open line of communication."

Hickey was also asked about Wallace's reported frustrations with his role last season.

"For all of us, as the season unfolded and late in the year, we were all frustrated about how the season ended," Hickey said. "That's what we're focused on now: addressing, confronting the reality of where we're at, and how do we get to where we want to be.

"That's what we spent the last five or six weeks looking at hard and talking through and working together in a collaborative fashion to try to work through that, because the goal is to be better."

Dolphins to look at receivers at combine

February, 18, 2015
Feb 18
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ESPN Dolphins reporter James Walker expects Miami to take a close look at West Virginia’s Kevin White and Louisville’s DeVante Parker this week during the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis.

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