What did the Miami Dolphins Buy with $210 Million?

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The Miami Dolphins are entering the 2013 NFL Draft with 11 total selections (5 in the top 82), giving them plenty of ammo to move up, sit tight, or even slide down. The Dolphins have been so fortuitous in earning these picks by consistently putting a poor product on the field that GM Jeff Ireland has publicly stated was “part of a larger plan”. Ultimately, being coupled with having the third-most cap space entering this year’s Free Agency, fans are supposed to expect a dramatic changeover in the roster that will instantly produce a job-saving winner each and every Sunday.

If you can’t wrap your head around the intentional “tanking” by our genius of a GM, you’re not alone, but that’s another discussion to be had later.

Let’s stay focused on the draft and free agency. Rumors are swirling around that the Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins are working on a trade for LT Branden Albert in exchange for a 2nd rounder, due to a hole at the tackle position which completely boggles my mind. I’m not here to offer an opinion on the deal (it’s dumb). Instead, I’m going to show you the ineptitude of this organization by displaying their inability to put together a quality O-line since the Parcells/Ireland era began in 2008 with one simple stat: The Miami Dolphins have handed out roughly $210 million in contracts to offensive lineman. 

It sounds unfathomable, and I would have believed it to be impossible until I ran the numbers myself. Do note that most of the contracts never reached their full maturity, but that only further strengthens my argument for the lunacy in still allowing Ireland to manage this ball club because of how many mistakes he had to correct by cutting/trading players.

The Draft

We all remember the day we chose the Tackle over the Quarterback with the #1 pick. We had a franchise player in our lap, who’s since taken his team to the doorstep of the Super Bowl, in favor of a lineman who’s not even on the roster now because the belief was Chad Henne is just as good as Matt Ryan.

What has two bum legs and just got paid by the Rams? This guy.

What has two bum legs and just got paid by the Rams? This guy.

Jake Long was just the first in a long line of poor draft day decisions. Here’s an easy breakdown of our draft history since 2008 and their contracts.

Player/Year Pick Rd/Overall # Contract
Jonathan Martin/2012 Draft 2.24 4yr-$4.8mil
Mike Pouncey/2011 Draft 1.15 4yr-$9.25mil
John Jerry/2010 Draft 3.73 4yr-$2.65mil
Andrew Gardner/2009 Draft 6.181 4yr-$1.6mil
Jake Long/2008 Draft 1.1 5yr-$57.5mil
Shawn Murphy/2008 Draft 4.110 4yr-$2mil
Donald Thomas/2008 Draft 6.195 4yr-$1.5mil
Total: $79.3mil

Notice only three of the seven picks remain on the roster, and of those three, Ireland is still looking for upgrades on two of them (Martin, Jerry). So essentially, only 1 out of 7 draft picks used on offensive linemen has actually panned out into a success. A whopping 14.3%! I’m not giving up on Martin just yet, he’s still got room to grow and can kick inside as a worst case scenario, but Jerry on the other hand hasn’t been great, and still struggles with his weight.

For someone that’s a “meat and potatoes” kinda guy who can’t draft the skilled positions, Ireland sure as hell hasn’t shown an ability to draft the trenches besides a lock in Mike Pouncey in 2011.

Free Agency

What failings a team has in the draft can be solved through Free Agency…for most teams. Not this one. Despite having spent nearly $80 million in rookie contracts, Parcells/Ireland decided it was a good idea to use another $131 million in free agency, as seen below.

Player/Year Current Status Contract
Vernon Carey 2009 Retired 2012 6yr-$42mil
Jake Grove 2009 Cut 2010 5yr-$29mil
Justin Smiley 2008 Traded to Jax 2010 5yr-$25mil
Richie Incognito 2011 Resigned/with team 3yr-$12.9mil
Nate Garner 2011 Resigned/with team 3yr-$4.9mil
Joe Berger 2009 Cut 2011 2yr-$2.75mil
Marc Colombo 2011 Unresigned/Retired 1yr-$2mil
Lydon Murtha 2011 Resigned/2012 FA 1yr-$1.97mil
Will Yeatman 2011 Converted TE 3yr-$1.9mil
Corey Procter 2010 Unresigned 1yr-$1.75mil
Pat McQuistan 2010 Gave up 7rd to DAL 1yr-$1.7mil
Lance Louis 2012 Signed/with team 1yr-$1.6mil
Josh Samuda 2012 Signed/with team 3yr-$1.4mil
Ryan Cook 2011 Traded to DAL lt rd. 1yr-$1mil
Andy McDonald 2012 Signed/with team 2yr-$900kmil
Chandler Burden 2012 Signed/with team 2yr-$900kmil
Total: $131.67mil

After a quick glance at the list you’ll notice only one of those players is still currently a starter on the roster (Incognito). The rest of the linemen still on the team are serviceable backups or practice squad worthy players. So what happened?

We overspent on Jake Grove and Justin Smiley, both quality players, but both with injury histories that should have leveraged the Dolphins to give protected contracts. That didn’t happen. They got hurt — we got screwed. To make up for those mistakes, Parcells/Ireland went to their buddies in Dallas and made deals to get cheap alternatives with the promise that our O-line guru and head coach, Tony Sparano, would be able to create a cohesive unit — he didn’t.

That’s why this regime continues to play a cat and mouse game of drafting and signing linemen, hoping they can keep plugging them in until something finally clicks.

Who remembers this guy?

Who remembers this guy?

That’s what makes the move for Branden Albert so polarizing. For the crowd in favor of the draft for someone like Lane Johnson or Luke Joeckel, show me some sign of confidence that Ireland can get it done and choose the right prospect. And for those in favor of the trade, show me something that will make me believe Albert (who does have an injury history) won’t get hurt and lives live up to the contract of an elite LT like the one he’s demanding. It’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario which gives me the knot in my stomach knowing Ireland will cave and make the worst decision possible.

If I were in Ireland’s chair, I let the Chiefs sweat it out draft day and pressure them to accept a 3rd rounder for Albert. If they take it, fine, if not, you wait for cuts to be made or go out and grab Winston and slide protection to help Martin at left tackle. You save the cap space and you don’t surrender any picks. Win Win.

For now, Dolphin fans will have to get by with what little hope they have left that this franchise gets put on the right track. The only real encouraging sign is that Jerry has reported into voluntary camp looking like he’s in decent shape, and Martin seems to have added size, which should translate to strength, his biggest issue in 2012.

So I give you 3/5ths of your current starting O-line:

From left to right: Jerry, Martin, Incognito

From left to right: Jerry, Martin, Incognito

EDIT: Since posting the article, some people didn’t both to read my disclaimer above saying not all of the contracts were fully paid out, which would drop the overall figure the Dolphins handed out. Having gone back and adjusted for contracts that had reported guaranteed figures, I’ve calculated the actually number paid so far (players are still under contract and could earn more) the total comes out to roughly $125 million actually paid to players.

Hat-tip to rotoworld.com for providing many of the contract details. Others were scrounged up using older articles from Miami’s beat writers and some further digging.

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