In My Opinion

Armando Salguero: Mike Wallace a good start, but Miami Dolphins can’t stop there

 

asalguero@MiamiHerald.com

Mike Wallace started things off in a blur, which is good because one of the fastest players in the NFL is used to getting himself and his team off the blocks with Usain Bolt quickness. But the NFL offseason isn’t a sprint, folks.

The NFL’s talent acquisition season is a marathon that stretches the endurance of team general managers, personnel assistants and contract negotiators. They start before dawn and feel blessed when they’re home by midnight.

They juggle free agents visiting, scouts traveling and coaches wondering if things are getting well. Some of these people sometimes don’t go home. Many miss meals even as they gain weight.

Some can even get a little, shall we say, testy. I know this because one Dolphins official that I have admittedly hounded for information about, of all players, Jets prospective free agent tight end Dustin Keller, on Thursday suggested I’m infatuated with the idea of signing the guy.

No, I answered. I’d be infatuated with the idea of signing a tight end like Tony Gonzalez.

Bad move by me.

“Oh,” came the answer. “Can you pluck one of those off that fantasy tree of yours and send him over?”

Ziiiiing!

Aside from being put in my place, the exchange reminds that there aren’t a lot of available potential Hall of Famers that will meet the Dolphins’ multiple needs during free agency and the draft.

And the ones out there — Ed Reed, maybe Wes Welker, perhaps Steven Jackson — either didn’t fit in Miami, weren’t wanted by Miami or didn’t want to play for the Dolphins because they wanted to be on a Super Bowl contender.

So instead, the Dolphins’ offseason priority at the moment, the addition that would most please the team today, remains offensive tackle Jake Long.

No, that’s not sexy.

But it is true.

And this also is true: The Dolphins, who led the NFL in offseason buzz Tuesday, have slowed considerably after their shotgun start.

That day, the Dolphins got contract agreements from Wallace as well as linebackers Philip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe.

For one day, Miami was the NFL’s offseason champion.

But this club knows championships aren’t won in the offseason.

I’m told team officials have “a plan” in place for making the Dolphins closer to a regular-season winner and eventually, perhaps someday, a real champion.

The plan obviously included getting younger, better in pass coverage against tight ends and running backs, and perhaps even a little cheaper at linebacker — which is the reason the team cut Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett and signed Wheeler and Ellerbe.

One goal accomplished.

But it shouldn’t escape anyone’s mind that Miami’s plan should first and foremost be about fixing the offense. That’s where we must watch closely to see what, if anything, continues to happen this offseason.

The Ellerbe and Wheeler signings made the league take notice.

But it also felt like a bit of misdirection. The Dolphins, needing major improvement and upgrade on offense, instead got everyone’s attention by showing off two shiny, mesmerizing objects on defense.

I’m not falling for it. I am keeping my eyes on the offense.

Yes, it is wonderful the Dolphins believe they got better on defense. But the defense was playoff good as it was last year, allowing the seventh-fewest points in the league.

The offense, meanwhile, was shockingly bad. It was 27th in points scored out of 32 teams. Miami scored only 288 points in 16 games. At that rate, the Dolphins could have played 32 games and scored barely more points than New England’s 557.

So this offseason needs to be about offense more than it needs to be about very astute and forward-thinking changes at linebacker.

The re-signing of Brian Hartline and addition of Wallace was a great start.

But that’s all it was.

A start.

The Dolphins had a great start to the 2010 offseason as well when they traded for and signed restricted free agent Brandon Marshall. But then they stopped adding playmakers to the offense.

And the offense remained the team’s Achilles’ heel as much with Marshall as without.

General manager Jeff Ireland cannot stop this offseason.

He badly needs a tight end. He might want to act on the club’s obvious desire to have four fine receivers and not just two or three.

If the Rams sign Long, he’s going to need to add an offensive tackle.

He also needs to add a running back if he wants to keep from simply handing the starting job to Lamar Miller.

How Ireland does all that, I have no idea.

The Dolphins pay him and other people to figure that out while I just sit around watering my fantasy tree. But I do know this much:

No marathon, like an NFL offseason, was ever won by getting off to a good start and then stopping.

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