Miami traded Martin on Tuesday evening to the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for a conditional draft pick. The list of suitors had to be very small. Kudos to the Dolphins for finding one of the few teams with a heavy Stanford connection willing to take Martin in following a major controversy.
Here is the harsh truth: There was no way Martin could return to the Dolphins locker room. Right or wrong, many Dolphins players didn't agree with how things were handled by Martin. He left the team Oct. 29 amid harassment and bullying claims. That led to an NFL investigation and eventually the 144-page Ted Wells report, which pulled the curtain back on Miami's locker room culture.
There was too much baggage for Martin to simply rejoin his old teammates in the Dolphins' the locker room. If the Dolphins were not able to trade him by the start of organized team activities, Martin most likely would have been released. The trade saves face and any potential cap hit the Dolphins would have taken on the two years remaining on Martin's contract.
For Martin, it is a chance to start fresh with a clean slate. He gets to play with a new group of players in San Francisco, and things can't possibly turn out worse than they did in Miami. Martin also returns to the bay area to play for Jim Harbaugh, who was his college coach at Stanford. That connection alone should give Martin some equity and traction in the 49ers' locker room.
"We feel that this move is in the best interests of all parties involved," Miami Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey said in a statement. "We wish Jonathan well."
With Martin traded and Incognito a free agent who will not return, the Dolphins can finally lift that dark cloud that's been hanging over the organization since late October. This was an ugly chapter in the Dolphins' history, but it's time for both parties to move on.
SAN FRANCISCO -- Jonathan Martin, the offensive tackle who accused a Miami Dolphins teammate of bullying, was traded to the San Francisco 49ers on Tuesday night and will be reunited with his college coach, Jim Harbaugh.
The Dolphins announced the move on Tuesday night on the first day of NFL free agency. San Francisco then confirmed the trade, saying only that it would send an undisclosed draft choice to Miami and that Martin still must pass a physical to complete the deal.
Miami will receive a conditional seventh-round pick in 2015 if Martin is on San Francisco's opening 53-man roster, a league source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
Martin's move cross country brings him back to the Bay Area to play again, and he has been at Stanford taking classes.
"This is great for him to get back on the field and he's in Palo Alto right now. It couldn't be much better," his agent, Ken Zuckerman, said in a phone interview. "I just think everyone wanted this to happen. Harbaugh knows Jonathan, I think the Dolphins were compensated and Jonathan wants to get back on the field. It's a good day."
Martin expressed his excitement on Twitter Tuesday night:
Opportunities are few in the NFL... Can't wait to get to work #9erEmpire
- Jonathan A. Martin (@J_Martin71) March 12, 2014
However, Miami and Soliai parted ways after the Atlanta Falcons swooped in with a five-year, $33 million contract. The Dolphins were not interested in offering Soliai that kind of money.
Soliai made a statement Tuesday evening thanking many in the Dolphins organization, including teammates and his position coach. But Soliai interestingly failed to mention his former head coach (Joe Philbin) or defensive coordinator (Kevin Coyle) in Miami.
Here is the full statement from Soliai via his wife’s Twitter account:
"I had an incredible experience playing for the Miami Dolphins and leave behind many great friends and teammates. I along with my wide, my entire family, and everyone at the Paul Soliai Foundation wanted to than all the Dolphins fans for an amazing seven years there. I also want to thank the previous staff for drafting me out of Utah in 2007 and welcoming me into the NFL. I especially wanted to thank defensive line coach Kacy Rodgers for his guidance, friendship, and for making me a better player and man. Thank you again, Paul Soliai."
It's curious that Soliai would mention his position coach without also crediting the two main coaches above Rodgers. It feels like a slight and perhaps a clue that Soliai wasn't all that happy with the way he was treated by Philbin and Coyle on his way out of Miami.
Soliai's deal is for five years and $33 million, with $14 million guaranteed and $11 million coming in the first year, sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Caplan.
Soliai, 30, was a fourth-round pick of the Miami Dolphins in 2007. He finished with 34 tackles and one sack last season.
He also was the Dolphins' best run-stopper. However, Miami ranked 26th in the league in run defense.
Jackson, 27, was the Kansas City Chiefs' first-round draft pick in 2009 and the third overall selection that year, though he never played to that lofty stature.
He was an immediate starter but never developed his pass-rush skills to the point where the Chiefs felt comfortable leaving him in the lineup in obvious passing situations. He had his best season in 2013. He was productive against the run and had a career-high four sacks.
Asamoah also comes from the Chiefs, who drafted him in the third round in 2010. He is coming off a season in which he played in a career-low 13 games.
The Falcons also released Pro Bowl safety Thomas Decoud on Tuesday.
Information from ESPN.com Dolphins reporter James Walker and Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher contributed to this report.
Speedy receiver Mike Wallace, slot receiver Brandon Gibson and athletic tight end Dustin Keller were all part of then-general manager Jeff Ireland's plan to build Miami into an explosive, high-scoring offense. The Dolphins also re-signed 1,000-yard receiver Brian Hartline to put as many skilled receivers and tight ends around budding quarterback Ryan Tannehill as possible.
Miami did little to invest in its offensive line in 2013 and, as a result, set a franchise record for quarterback sacks allowed with 58. Despite various weapons, the Dolphins often lost in the trenches and had the NFL’s 27th-ranked offense. That was a major reason Miami finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs for the fifth consecutive year.
Tuesday’s high-profile signing of Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert signifies a shift in the team’s thinking. The Dolphins opened their wallets during the start of free agency and agreed to a five-year, $46 million contract with Albert, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Miami got the best player available at the team’s weakest position: offensive line.
After another disappointing season in Miami, new general manager Dennis Hickey replaced Ireland in January and is wasting no time learning from his predecessor’s mistakes. The Dolphins must consistently win in the trenches if they want to become a playoff contender. Pairing Albert with center Mike Pouncey gives Miami two Pro Bowlers to build its offensive line around.
The Dolphins also agreed to terms with free-agent defensive tackle Earl Mitchell, according to Schefter, which fills another need in the trenches on defense following the departures of defensive linemen Paul Soliai and Randy Starks.
There is still work to be done for Miami. But it is clear the Dolphins have a plan, and this is a solid start.
MIAMI -- The Miami Dolphins made a major move to bolster their offensive line at the start of free agency Tuesday, agreeing to a five-year, $46 million contract with Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert, league sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
Albert, a Pro Bowler with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2013, and Miami agreed to a five-year, $46 million deal that includes $25 million guaranteed, according to the sources.
The Dolphins also agreed to a contract with defensive tackle Earl Mitchell, the sources said. Mitchell, who played for the Houston Texans the past four seasons, is expected to land a four-year, $16 million deal that includes $9 million guaranteed.
Albert was widely regarded as the top left tackle available in free agency, and the position is also the biggest need for Miami. The Dolphins allowed a franchise-worst 58 sacks last season, and their running game ranked 25th in the league. Albert, 29, is expected to help in both areas.
Miami is in the process of rebuilding its offensive line. Former starting guards and free agents Richie Incognito
Here is the full statement from Ross:
“I have made clear I want the stadium modernized because it’s right for our fans and it’s right for Miami-Dade and South Florida. I have decided the best way to get this done is to pay for the project with private funds. All we ask in return is that we are treated the same as all franchises in the state of Florida. A world-class city needs a world-class stadium. We haven’t won a Super Bowl bid in Miami-Dade in far too long, and we know that with the stadium as an issue, we never will unless it is modernized. The Super Bowl Committee will have to decide if they want to compete for the next two Super Bowls so time is of the essence. It is time to move forward. This privately funded project will create more than 4,000 local jobs. We can bring back the Super Bowl, the College Football Playoff Championship and world-class soccer matches -- and all the revenue those big events generate for the local community. I am going to make the commitment and provide the resources because Miami deserves the economic benefits of a modernized stadium. But for me, this is about something more. I grew up here in Miami-Dade and have been part of this area for most of my life. I want to do this for the community that has done so much for me, and for this storied franchise that means so much to the people of South Florida. With this project, we can secure the future of the Dolphins in Miami-Dade for another 20 years. That is more important to me than anything else.”
As we approach the start of NFL free agency at 4 p.m. ET Tuesday, we asked fans this week to vote on the player Miami should sign on the first day. The results were overwhelming.
More than 2,000 votes were tallied, and more than half (54 percent) voted for Miami to sign Albert, which has a strong chance to happen. The Pro Bowl left tackle has been on Miami’s radar and both sides have been in talks since Saturday. The Dolphins set a franchise record with 58 quarterback sacks allowed in 2013.
Coming in second is another left tackle: Eugene Monroe. He played well for the Baltimore Ravens last season and earned about 35 percent of the vote. No other player received more than 7 percent.
It’s clear the Dolphins will attack the offensive line in free agency this week. It won’t be cheap to replace four lost starters, but Miami has the cap space to go after some of the best players available in the trenches. It's all about protecting third-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
- Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald reports the Dolphins want to swap their $350 million stadium renovation in exchange for a $4 million tax bill.
- Andy Kent of the Dolphins team site writes new safety Louis Delmas returns home and is ready to produce.
- Chris Burke of Sports Illustrated says the Delmas signing scratches one team off the list for Jairus Byrd.
- Hal Habib of the Palm Beach Post wonders if the Dolphins can land a bargain at running back.
I asked Delmas Monday night to describe his game. His response was intriguing.
Delmas is a big hitter. He's an enforcer. In his words, "I like to bang."
In other words, Delmas is just what the Dolphins need in their secondary.
The Dolphins were ranked 21st in total defense last season. They had talent, but the defense at times looked pedestrian and lacked the consistent fire and energy it takes to carry a team.
Delmas brings some of that passion and intimidation to Miami. He's one of the biggest hitters in the NFL and will replace outgoing free-agent starter Chris Clemons, who was up and down last season. Delmas has been on Miami's radar for at least a week following his release from the Detroit Lions. He recorded 64 tackles and three interceptions last season in Detriot.
"This is a player that plays with great passion and love for the game," Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey said. "He's a physical presence and has playmaking ability. We feel like he will bring a lot of things to the table as a Miami Dolphin."
Delmas, 26, is banking on himself in 2014. His physical style has resulted in injuries, which is why Miami signed Delmas to a one-year "show me" contract.
The Dolphins did the same thing with cornerback Brent Grimes last year following an Achilles injury. Grimes made the Pro Bowl following the 2013 season and Miami signed him to a four-year, $32 million extension last week. The Dolphins are hoping Delmas also has a big year.
"I have a lot to prove to myself," Delmas said. "I have a lot to prove to my fans, a lot to prove to my family in my backyard and a lot to prove to this organization. How will I do that? By coming here being myself."
MIAMI -- One year after a failed attempt for public funding, Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is expected to announce his plans to invest up to $400 million of his own money to renovate Sun Life Stadium, a league source confirmed to ESPN.com Monday.
The Associated Press first reported Ross' intentions.
Ross' goal is to make South Florida a destination again for major sporting events, including the Super Bowl. Ross was not happy last year when the Florida state government in Tallahassee prevented a public vote for outside funding. Therefore, Miami's owner took matters into his own hands.
Ross, who owns the stadium, has decided to pay for the project himself because applications for the 2018 Super Bowl are due in August and he wants to get the process started, the person said. Renovations will include a partial canopy to shade seats that are now exposed, installing new seats and moving others closer to the field, and improving club-level parking.
Until now, Ross was unwilling to foot the entire bill himself, although he said improvements to the 27-year-old multipurpose stadium were badly needed to bring the Super Bowl back to Miami.
The total cost is expected to be $350 million to $400 million, the person familiar with the situation said. Ross is talking with Miami-Dade County mayor Carlos Gimenez about the plan, the person said.
The NFL declined to comment, and Gimenez's office had no immediate comment.
Last year, the Dolphins said they were heavily in debt and one of the NFL's most-leveraged teams, making upgrades impossible without taxpayer help. Ross sought up to $379 million in county and state tax money for the project, but his proposal was rejected by the Legislature. That removed South Florida from contention for the 50th Super Bowl.
The release of Patterson will save the Dolphins about $5 million in cap space before Tuesday's start to free agency. Patterson began the 2013 season as a starter but because of nagging injuries played in only six games. He was put on injured reserve in December with a groin injury.
The 26-year-old Delmas was released by Detroit with one year remaining on his contract in February, in part due to having a cap number of $6.5 million in 2014.
The No. 33 pick in the 2009 draft by the Lions, Delmas played in 65 games for Detroit over five seasons, making 328 tackles, six interceptions and forcing two fumbles. He also had five sacks and four fumble recoveries.
His knees were chronically an issue for him and limited him to typically one day of practice a week in 2013. The plan was instituted, though, to make sure Delmas would hold up throughout the season and he played in every game for Detroit and had a career-high three interceptions.
Delmas was often considered the emotional leader of the defense and would routinely be one of two men, along with former Lions receiver Nate Burleson, speaking in huddles before games. Coincidentally, both Burleson and Delmas were released on the same day.
The Dolphins and Packers are happy to secure their No. 1 cornerbacks before the start of free agency on Tuesday. Here is a look at their deals:
Grimes and Shields are both very good cornerbacks, but it appears the Dolphins got better value for their money. The total value of Grimes’ contract is $7 million less. Shields’ up-front signing bonus also was more than twice as much.
But age has to be factored in, as well. Grimes is 30 and had a major Achilles injury in 2012. His longevity is more in question compared to Shields, 26. Still, both teams have to feel good about signing two quality cornerbacks for the long haul.