Miami Dolphins Free Agency Big Board

These are still incredibly uncertain times for the league, but with all of the positive feelings stemming from the owners meeting today in Chicago for internal negotiations, a new deal being reached in time to preserve the entire season seems almost imminent. Maybe that’s just because that’s what I want to believe, but nonetheless, it’s time to start gearing up for a free agency period that could be a couple weeks away.

My gut feeling is the new deal will be reached right before or shortly after the July 4th weekend. My gut feeling has betrayed me many times before so don’t hold onto to any hope by that prediction. If that optimistic outlook holds true, however, we’re in for a busy month of July as training camp draws near. The Dolphins still have plenty of work on their hands if they want to fill all of their needs before camp, so the sooner this deal gets done the better.

We know they will add a veteran quarterback to compete with Chad Henne, although everyone seems to have their own opinion of who that will be. And we know they will be adding a complimentary back for rookie Daniel Thomas, but to try to project who that will be is nothing more than a guessing game at this point. After that, the Dolphins will likely attempt to land a pass rusher to take some pressure off of Cameron Wake, but this year’s free agency class isn’t going to turn any heads.

Regardless, I see the Dolphins being one of the league’s major players once the lockout is over, whether or not they sign a big name or two in free agency or make a huge splash by trading for a veteran quarterback. That’s why I’m including those players that could be available via trade in my Dolphins’ free agency big board. The idea is derived from pre-draft rankings, which slot the best available players in the draft by taking into account team needs. There is plenty of room for debate here so have at it in the comments.

1. Carson Palmer, QB, Cincinnati Bengals: Even with Chris Collinsworth coming out and saying he feels as though the Bengals will deal Palmer despite their hardball stance on his “trade me or I’m retiring” demands, I still don’t think it’s a likely fit for Miami. The Bengals aren’t going to be in a huge hurry to trade him away, and the Dolphins aren’t going to sit around and wait for them to make up their minds. The Dolphins are going to want their competition for Henne to be in camp from day one.

I guess there’s always the chance the Bengals will rethink their stance, decide they don’t want any distractions heading into the year, and rid themselves of Palmer before things get ugly. In that event, Palmer should become priority number one for the Dolphins. He would instantly put them in the playoff discussion. He’s not the quarterback he once was, but he threw for nearly 4,000 yards and tossed 26 touchdown passes in 2010. That’s the type of production this offense is desperate for. That type of production to go along with a defense that appears ready to emerge as an elite unit and the Dolphins would have themselves a formula for playoff football in 2011.

2. Kyle Orton, QB, Denver Broncos: Orton’s numbers are far more impressive than people realize. Since being acquired by the Broncos in 2009, Orton has thrown for 41 touchdown passes, only 21 interceptions, and 7,455 yards. Frankly, I’m sort of shocked he’s even expected to be available at all. He’s definitely worth considering giving up as high as a second-round pick for, for a franchise consistent quarterback play away from seriously competing this season.

My biggest concern with Orton is whether or not he’ll be able to duplicate what he did in Denver in a new system. For all of Josh McDaniels’ faults, the guy was a quarterback guru. The same guy that developed Tom Brady and Matt Cassel in New England transformed Orton into a borderline Pro Bowl caliber quarterback upon arrival in Denver. It’s no coincidence that Orton struggled to even maintain his starting job in Chicago. But I still think Orton would be worth a roll of the dice for Miami if Denver is reasonable with their asking price.

3. DeAngelo Williams, RB, Free Agent: At 28 years old, Williams probably won’t be able to play at an elite level for several seasons, but he’s a back that could make the Dolphins’ running game special in 2011. When he’s healthy and on top of his game, you could probably count the runners you would rather have in your backfield on one hand.

There arguably wasn’t a better back in football in 2008, when DeAngelo rushed for over 1,500 yards and scored 20 total touchdowns. And keep in mind that we’re talking about a guy that averaged at least 5.0 yards-per-carry from 2007-09. Running back is one of the easiest positions to fill on a roster, though, and keeping in mind their shelf lives aren’t what they used to be, especially ones who are fast approaching 30, the Dolphins would be foolish to empty their wallets for Williams or any other free agent back.

 4. Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Free Agent: I’ve been pretty high on Ahmad Bradshaw all offseason, and now that news is trickling out of these CBA negotiations that four-year veterans are expected to be unrestricted free agents, I’m getting a little more excited about the possibility of the Dolphins adding the explosive 25-year old back. His ball security issues are troubling, yes, but if he can find a way to overcome that he has all the tools to be just what the Dolphins are missing.

Bradshaw has the ability to cut on a dime and the second gear to take any ordinary touch of the football to the house. Not only is he a home-run threat, but he has the bulk needed to run between the tackles and pick up the tough yards when need be. In my mind, anyway, he’s the perfect complement to Daniel Thomas. But the Giants are thought to be very interesting in retaining him, so it’s going to take a lot more than just interest to bring Bradshaw to South Beach.

5. Kevin Kolb, QB, Eagles: Sure, there’s potential there for Kevin Kolb to emerge as a franchise quarterback in this league, but I’m really not sure what all the hype is about. To think the Eagles’ asking price for Kolb is a first-round pick and more, while a second-round pick may do the trick for proven veterans like Palmer and Orton, is laughable to me. He’s had a few very impressive starts for the Eagles, but he’s thrown three more interceptions than touchdown passes. Because his ceiling is much higher than the other quarterbacks on our board, though, he rounds out the top five. Realistically, however, I would be shocked if the Dolphins are even considering giving the Eagles a call.

6. Vince Young, QB, Free Agent: He’s still technically on the Titans’ roster, but it’s not a matter of if Tennessee will release him, it’s a matter of how long they will wait after the new CBA is in place. Miami has been mentioned as a possible destination for Young by multiple sources, but he’s quite the polarizing figure amongst Dolphin fans. Some fans are firmly against the idea because of Young’s behavior problems, while others would be thrilled to see him in aqua and orange.

I would much rather see the front office go all in for Palmer or Orton, but signing Young would mean the Dolphins would have full ammunition in the draft for the first time since 2008. Young is a proven winner, would definitely be legitimate completion for Henne, and he’s one of those game changers that gives defensive coordinators fits trying to scheme for. Assuming the Dolphins can’t pull off a trade for Palmer or Orton, Young makes plenty of sense for this franchise.

7. Ronnie Brown, RB, Free Agent: I think Ronnie is the Dolphins fall-back option if the price isn’t right for DeAngelo Williams or Ahmad Bradshaw. He’s certainly on the back nine in terms of playing at a high level in this league, but when he’s healthy and when the Dolphins are blocking well, he’s close to Pro Bowl caliber.

8. Darren Sproles, RB, Free Agent: I don’t like Sproles as much as most because he wouldn’t be able to split 50% of the workload with Daniel Thomas, but he’s one of the league’s finest third-down backs. He’s also a splendid return man and would be able to produce for the Dolphins in more ways than one.

9. Manny Lawson, OLB, Free Agent: The Dolphins are rumored to be very interested in the former first-round pick. Lawson has the tools to provide Cameron Wake with some much needed relief on passing situations. But despite starting 16 games for the 49ers in 2010, Lawson only managed 2.5 sacks. I’m not so sure Koa Misi doesn’t develop enough to be a better option for the Dolphins’ nickel and dime packages. But the Dolphins do need depth at outside linebacker, so Lawson would be a good fit regardless if he’s a frequent contributor on third down or is simply a backup.

10. Mathias Kiwanuka, OLB, Free Agent: The Giants tendered Kiwanuka before the lockout but we’ll have to wait for the new CBA before we know if that will mean anything. If he hits the market, Kiwanuka may have more potential than Lawson as a pass rusher. In the only season he started every game, he tallied a solid 8 sacks for the Giants’ defense in 2008. He’s never played standing up, however, so it’s uncertain how he would transition to the 3-4 scheme.

Beyond Top 10

11. Reggie Bush, RB, Saints: Home-run threat but doesn’t run between the tackles well and can’t stay healthy.

12. Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Free Agent: Would be a credible short-term solution, but it’s hard to see him ending his career anywhere other than Seattle.

13. Donovan McNabb, QB, Redskins: I expect McNabb to bounce back from a poor showing in 2010, but he’s not a good fit in Brian Daboll’s offense.

14. Ricky Williams, RB, Free Agent: I don’t expect there to be much of a market for Ricky so I could potentially see the Dolphins bring him back as a last resort if their other targets fall through.

15. Marc Bulger, QB, Free Agent: Bulger is now 34, didn’t play a snap in 2010, and hasn’t thrown for more touchdown passes than picks since 2006. I see him as the Dolphins’ last option at quarterback. Let’s just hope it doesn’t come to that. 

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