NFL: Dolphins have no time to spare in getting a top-notch receiver
By Armando Salguero
MIAMI — Any team built in Bill Parcells’ image is physical and disciplined and all those wonderful things that won championships a generation ago.
A classic Parcells squad is in many ways a throwback to an age when football was played in dirt made muddy by blood and sweat.
But that kind of team is becoming something of a relic these days, so maybe the Dolphins should spend this offseason thinking not so much about throwback football and think more about throwing the football.
Today’s NFL is still about being big and ornery — that never goes out of style — but it’s increasingly about playing fast and striking quickly with the passing game.
Throwing the football is the thing now, and because that’s a fact rather than opinion, the Dolphins must find ways to author fewer epic 15-play drives and instead strike with more three-play lightning bolts.
“Every offense needs big playmakers,” Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland said recently. “Every offense does, and this offense is no different. We need big playmakers. We need players that make chunk yardage. We need players that score touchdowns.”
The translation is that the Dolphins need better wide receivers.
The 2010 Dolphins being constructed now must be able to pass the ball better than their counterparts did in 2008 and 2009. And one way to do that is to improve a receiver corps that has changed only subtly in two years.
The dilemma for Miami is how to accomplish that in time to make a difference in the next season.
THE NEXT STEPS
The Dolphins will surely select a wide receiver or two in the coming draft.
The team has already invested much time studying potential draftees such as Notre Dame’s Golden Tate, Arrelious Benn of Illinois, The Citadel’s Andre Roberts and Demaryius Thomas of Georgia Tech.
And all seem capable of upgrading Miami down the road.
But barring a sudden and unexpected explosion onto the NFL scene as a rookie, all those players would require seasoning and developing. Those young receivers, as many that play the position typically do, will require time.
That’s not a problem for the 2011 or 2012 Dolphins. Those clubs have plenty of time to let receivers marinate.
But the 2010 team? They’re on the clock. They have no time to spare.
So if the Dolphins want to go into next season knowing they have a legitimate playmaker at wide receiver rather than hoping someone develops into that player, they must import that guy some way, somehow.
Free agency is usually the best way to do that because it provides a pool of veterans that are proven and yet still young enough to promise better years in the future. The problem is that’s not what free agency is about this year.
The unrestricted players in this year’s free-agency class are older and typically less talented and more damaged.
NFL teams hoping to find shiny players still under warranty are shopping in a free-agency market that is more pre-owned lot than new showroom.
So who’s available?
Antonio Bryant is out there. Derrick Mason is unemployed. So is Terrell Owens, as if that had a snowball’s chance in Miami.
The market of unrestricted free-agent receivers comes with empty shelves.
The restricted market is interesting. Brandon Marshall visited the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday but isn’t a possibility here. Philadelphia’s Jason Avant is available, as is Steve Breaston.
But as restricted free agents, all would require the Dolphins to give draft-pick compensation. And the Dolphins don’t much like the idea of giving up first- or second-round draft picks for anyone.
So the pickings are slim. The choices are few. Miami’s best hopes of finding a quick solution to their wide-receiver issues is having Patrick Turner suddenly develop while Brian Hartline turns a good rookie season into a fantastic sophomore campaign.
It’s not totally far-fetched.
But it does put the Dolphins, a team that struggled to throw the ball the past couple of years, in the unenviable position of looking for its big 2010 playmaker by throwing a Hail Mary.