A year a ago today, the Miami Dolphins embarked on a full court press to get the biggest and best free agents of the 2012 offseason. How did they fair?
Matt Flynn and Peyton Manning were supposed to be their biggest priorities at the quarterback position. That did not come to fruition.
They were virtually linked to every single free agent, but no dice. This year things have turned out different. Thought to be the two most coveted players on either side of the ball, the Dolphins acquired Mike Wallace and Dannell Ellerbe. Wallace is not so surprising. Everyone knew he was a goner in Pittsburgh and the Dolphins, from all accounts, were the ones persuing him the hardest. There is no better deep threat in the league, although he had a subpar season in 2012, most likely due to missing training camp, the Dolphins finally have a wide receiver they can rely on (Brandon Marshall was a shell of his former Broncos and current Bears self, in his two seasons there). Dare I say, Wallace is the best receiver the Dolphins have had since Mark Ingram Sr., or I can go one further and say the best they have had since the Mark’s brothers (Clayton and Duper) in the early to late 80’s. Wallace is at times apt to droppin easy passes, but overall, he has made himself a terrific and complete wide receiver. Does this automatically make them a 10 win team and viable to dethrone the Patriots? Not in my book. It will depend how Ryan Tannehill develops and how these signings mesh in new schemes.
Ellerbe was a little shocking. Every report I had read said that, while guys like Kruger, Boldin and even Ed Reed could potentially be expendable, there is no chance that Ellerbe gets let go. My first thought when I read that he was signed by the Dolphins, was to question Ozzie Newsome. But in the end, there has to be something up or better yet, there is an aspect that the Ravens know about that we do not. How does a team that just had an exodus of linebackers with their emotional and on the field leader, Ray Lewis retiring and as stated, Paul Kruger gone, let Ellerbe walk for absolutely nothing. Newsome has way too much credibility in the league and his track record speaks for himself, therefore he deserves the benefit of the doubt. On the Dolphins side, no doubt this is a great move. Ellerbe was the best Ravens defender during their Super Bowl run and made a name for himself as a complete middle linebacker. They pair Ellerbe with Philip Wheeler who was an athletic and instinctive linebacker for the Raiders last year. It will be interesting to see how he adjusts to a 4-3 defense and how he plays without a 5-technique like Haloti Ngata keeping him clean and off blockers.
I love the moves the Eagles made. Isaac Sopoaga was a very underrated 5-technique for the the 49ers and Philadelphia desperately needed some help with their run defense. James Casey is one of those jack-of-all-trades, swiss-army knife type players who can line up at H-Back, play some fullback or even line up as a tight end. Pat Chung who played for Bill Belichick for a few seasons is a serviceable player on the back end. He makes plays and has great instincts. I’ve read that he might be a special teams player, but would be shocked if he was not a starter. Great underrated pickups by the Eagles.
You all know how I feel about Delanie Walker. Terrific move by the Titans and will cost considerably less than Jared Cook. Also, we always neglect offensive lineman, but Andy Levitre was the best guard available and with Steve Hutchinson retiring, the Titans filled that void quickly.
Speaking of Cook, the Rams finally have a tight end after the debacle that was Lance Kendricks that never worked out. If he is utilized correctly(he was not in Tennesee), he will catch for over 1000 yards. He becomes the number 1 target that Sam Bradford has desperately needed since he has been drafted in 2010.
The Giants not keeping Bennett is a move that absolutely dumbfounds me. Considering the year Eli had, he still managed to get 55 catches for over 600 yards and 5 scores. That type of production will need to be replaced. On the other hand for Chicago, that was a move that had to be made. Four Bears tight ends accounted for a combined 33 catches for 318 yards and 3 TDs and it has been a position that was not properly filled after Greg Olsen was traded.
I think the Paul Kruger deal is a good fit, but $20 million guaranteed is a lot of money for a guy who just came on this season. He will mesh well with Ray Horton’s attacking 3-4 defense though.
Chris Canty, despite a poor Giants run defense last season, is a great 3-technique. I presume he will play the DE position for the Ravens in their 3-4 scheme. Productive and underrated pickup.
Let’s not forget, Super Bowls are not won in March. Teams love to stack up with the cap room they have and spend widly to generate buzz and ticket sales. The teams that typically do the least in the first few days of free agency always end up being the one’s that are still playing in early to late January.