Dolphins | Dennis Hickey

GM: Miami Dolphins still can attract free agents

 <span class="cutline_leadin">Bullish on Dolphins:</span> New general manager Dennis Hickey said at the Scouting Combine that Miami will be stronger from the bullying scandal.
Bullish on Dolphins: New general manager Dennis Hickey said at the Scouting Combine that Miami will be stronger from the bullying scandal.
WEB VOTE Have the Dolphins cleaned house enough following the bullying scandal?

There’s a new conventional wisdom in NFL circles:

The Dolphins’ brand has been so damaged by the bullying scandal and their uneven general manager search that the franchise will have to overpay to get the best free-agent talent.

That, Dennis Hickey said Thursday, is hokum.

Hickey, the team’s first-year general manager, explained: “I think free agents are going to be attracted to who we are because we have an excellent coaching staff, we live in Miami — that’s pretty strong — we have a committed owner that will allocate the resources necessary and we have an environment, a collective strong environment.”

Hickey continued: “In my three weeks, my interaction has been nothing but positive with all the people. As you get in the building and you get to know the people you really get a sense for what the organization is about and going into it, I felt strongly about that and every step that has been confirmed through this.”

And with that, Hickey introduced himself to the national football media Thursday. He fielded questions for the better part of 15 minutes at the first day of the NFL Scouting Combine.

The first impression: He is a lot like Joe Philbin, in terms of sharing information. He doesn’t much care for it.

Hickey was asked about a wide range of issues — including how to fix the offensive line, if cornerback Brent Grimes is in line for the franchise tag and if the Dolphins can afford to pay both defensive linemen Paul Soliai and Randy Starks.

Each time, he politely dodged. Hickey declined to “get into specifics” a handful of times.

Here’s one specific that should please him:

ESPN reported that the 2014 salary cap will increase to $130 million, giving the Dolphins roughly $36 million in available space — fifth-most in football.

So, even if they tag Grimes, they would still have some $25 million of cap space to rebuild their offensive line.

They will probably need it. The NFL will likely suspend Mike Pouncey, Richie Incognito and John Jerry for their roles in the workplace conduct scandal. Odds are good that they will open the 2014 season with a completely new front five.

At least Hickey, appearing at his 19th Combine, has this going for him: this is a very strong draft, at “all kinds of different levels at each position.”

Other nuggets from Hickey on Thursday:

• The Dolphins plan to do “a lot of different things” under new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor.

• Asked about a report that stated the Dolphins might use Matt Moore to push quarterback Ryan Tannehill this year, Hickey responded: “I believe in Ryan Tannehill.”

• Hickey thinks that the team’s’ bullying scandal “will actually make us stronger.”

• He wants to build the roster through the draft. The Dolphins have the 19th overall pick this year, which NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said is like a top-10 pick in 2013’s draft.

Other than that, Hickey provided very little news Thursday. But it’s not because he doesn’t have a plan of attack.

“We have our plan in place,” Hickey said. “There’s always variables. And that’s where it gets into the competitive element of it. You never want to tip your hand.”

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