The Miami Dolphins swiped their biggest rival’s tight end, signed a coveted receiver and courted a top-flight corner Friday.
But for all their news from a busy Day 4 of free agency, one storyline loomed above all others.
That’s no random fan’s opinion. It’s Richie Incognito’s take.
Hours after the Dolphins further bolstered their revamped offense — signing tight end Dustin Keller and receiver Brandon Gibson — Jake Long returned from a three-day visit with the Rams. He did so without a new contract.
That kept the door open for Long, the team’s left tackle the past five years, to re-sign with the Dolphins. And his friends who don’t want Long to leave put the screws to him on Twitter on Friday night.
Incognito, the Pro Bowl left guard, started a digital campaign to keep him in town
“It’s time for the big guy to come home to the @MiamiDolphins,” he wrote.
Said center Mike Pouncey: “I want Jake Long back in MIAMI!!! #enoughsaid.”
The Dolphins, by all appearances, want the same. They haven’t pursued a replacement in free agency, with the hope that Long will sign at their price.
But that hasn’t hamstrung the Dolphins at any other position.
Along with Friday’s two signings, the Dolphins brought in for a visit arguably the best corner left on the free agent market: Brent Grimes.
Grimes, formerly of the Falcons, was a stealth guest for the team. The Dolphins hadn’t made much noise on the cornerback market the first three days of free agency.
He is talented, but has a question mark: He missed all but one game last year after tearing his Achilles’ tendon.
If healthy, he would fill an obvious need, as the Dolphins’ top two corners on the depth chart — Dimitri Patterson and Richard Marshall — started a total of 10 games in 2012.
Earlier in the day Keller, the Jets’ tight end, inked a one-year deal paying a reported $4.25 million Friday. The Dolphins later locked down Gibson, a receiver last with the Rams, with a three-year pact.
Suddenly an offense that didn’t have enough weapons last year might have a new problem: Finding enough passes to go around.
In the past week, the Dolphins have re-signed Brian Hartline, landed deep threat Mike Wallace and on Friday, added Keller and Gibson to the fold. Slot receiver Davone Bess remains under contract, too.
“My role is to be the adjustor,” Gibson said. “I could line up inside, outside, I could be a Y. I could even line up in the backfield. You never know.”
Gibson, a former sixth-round pick out of Washington State, set career highs in receiving yards (691) and touchdowns (5) on 51 catches last year. The Jets and Titans also wanted him.
As for Keller, he picked warm Miami over gloomy New York, signing with a team he believes has a bright future and leaving behind one seemingly mired in turmoil.
“I do feel like this is fresh start for me,” Keller said on a conference call. “This is kind of another opportunity to reprove myself.”
Keller confirmed that he turned down a multi-year contract with the Dolphins and opted for a one-year deal — a trend among veteran players who believe they’re getting low-balled by the market.
Keller is expected to replace Anthony Fasano, who signed with the Chiefs this week, in the Dolphins’ starting lineup.
“We have been able to see first-hand what kind of impact he brings to an offense during his time with the New York Jets and look forward to his contributions as a member of the Miami Dolphins,” Ireland said of Keller in a written statement.
The Dolphins had also inquired about Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta, but that interest cooled after the Keller signing, a league source told The Miami Herald.
Keller, 29 in September, has 241 catches in the 72 NFL games he has played the past five seasons. He was the New York Jets’ first-round draft pick in 2008 (30th overall).
He appeared in just eight games in 2012 due to hamstring and ankle injuries but hadn’t missed a game in his career before then. Keller has averaged more than 11 yards per catch in every season he has played.
“They’re all about winning, and winning now,” Keller said. “This is the time to win. That really excited me.”
In other news, linebacker Thomas Howard has completed his visit, which was said to have been positive, but left without a deal in place. Offensive lineman Lance Louis was also at Dolphins camp on Thursday.
Elsewhere, Dolphins cornerback R.J. Stanford signed his exclusive rights tender contract Friday, his agent announced on Twitter.