The calloused curmudgeons view of NFL free agency is that it is overblown and overrated, nobody can be sure of how much any team really improved, and, therefore, fans shouldnt get too excited.
Wrong, wrong, wrong.
The Dolphins have done well so far in the first stage of the sports open market, and Miami fans should feel good, guilt-free.
Im not starting a Su-per Bowl! chant here. Im saying the Dolphins are a better team today than they were when the week started, and that new general manager Dennis Hickey the guy they settled for after a tortured search wrought with rejections shows encouraging early signs of competence. Like hes ready for this. Like hes up to it.
Bullygate shrinks by degrees in the rear-view mirror as the Dolphins move forward. The air feels fresh. Im not leading a chorus of Happy Days Are Here Again, either. Im saying that, perhaps, hopeful days finally are here again.
You have to love what has become of the Dolphins No. 71 jersey this week, as a symbol of that fresh air and positive change.
The old occupant, Jonathan Martin, the accusing principle in the bullying scandal, was traded away for a low draft pick.
The new occupant, Branden Albert, spoke Wednesday at his introductory news conference of leading a new era of Dolphins football.
Miamis upgrade from Martin to Albert at the left tackle spot is an extreme and colossally needed makeover at a key position something that, by itself, makes this a plus-free agency for the Dolphins.
Some of the team took Albert out for a meal Wednesday night.
Probably the happiest person at the dinner table was Ryan Tannehill, Hickey said.
After Tannehill endured a league-high and franchise-record-worst 58 sacks last season, you have to imagine the mere sight of Albert, 6-5 and 316 pounds and fresh off a Pro Bowl season for the Chiefs, is making even the young quarterbacks deepest bruises magically disappear.
Albert describes his main job perfectly:
Quarterbacks got to be upright to do his job, he said.
The Dolphins on Wednesday also introduced new defensive tackle Earl Mitchell, 26, who last year led all NFL interior D-linemen in tackles.
Miami also has upgraded at free safety in signing veteran Louis Delmas.
And Hickeys early free agent bounty included two valuable Dolphins free agent defenders who were re-signed: Cornerback Brent Grimes and, on Wednesday, defensive tackle Randy Starks.
Maybe in an ideal world wed all take three years to analyze every teams personnel moves in the clarity of hindsight. See, but Im not writing for a set of encyclopedias, and fans arent posing for an oil painting. Were all moving in real time, in the real world, where even instant analysis can feel tardy.
So teams act and we react, and in the case of free agency none of us need feel guilty about immediate conclusion-drawing or excitement.
Dont get me wrong. Certain instant analysis in football IS rather silly. Like when a colleges recruiting class is immediately graded and ranked based on the unreliable pedigree of a bunch of unpredictable 17-year-olds. Or when an NFL team drafts Whos That From Wheres That in the sixth round, and fans whod never heard of him get all excited because Mel Kiper Jr., guessing, called it a value pick.
With free agency, though, these are known quantities with track records.
We know that Albert is cornerstone-quality at the teams position of absolute greatest need, a targeted guy from the first day I got here, Hickey called him.
We know that getting Mitchell and keeping Starks gives Miami what looks like it could be an excellent (not good, excellent) defensive line.
We know that keeping Grimes and adding Delmas makes the secondary look at least three-quarters solid.
Hickeys work is far from finished.
The Dolphins need to add at least one more starter on the offensive line and perhaps two more in free agency and, as I wrote in Tuesdays paper, Id love to see them bring in a young, veteran running back such as Ben Tate.
(Id not put much stock in the tantalizing speculation about making a play for cornerback Darrelle Revis. Hed break the bank. But it IS fun to think about!)
Hickeys priorities seem to be on the mark so far, and needs left unfulfilled in free agency over the next couple of months are why God invented the NFL Draft in May the second half of Hickeys early challenge, his onus and opportunity.
The clubs free agency news conference Wednesday at the Davie headquarters happened to be held in the teams main meeting room, where you couldnt help notice that one wall is dominated by giant team photos of the clubs Super Bowl-champion 1972 and 73 teams.
Oddly yet appropriately, the photos are not full color but sepia-toned, as if to convey how old they are.
Seeing a new team picture up there, in full color, starts in the hands of Hickey, coach Joe Philbin and Tannehill. Urgency had better be great, because patience will be short. In the worst-to-first NFL, rebuilding is an archaic word, and teams that finish 8-8 had better be pointed north to contention.
Were confident were in the process of building a championship team, Hickey said Wednesday.
Were going to get there; I feel confident, owner Stephen Ross said.
You cannot get there without what this week has been for the Dolphins:
A start. Progress.