Just three days after Ndamukong Suh signed his record-breaking contract, the Dolphins were already seeking a return on their unprecedented investment.
The franchise took out an advertisement in this the Miami Herald on Saturday, welcoming Suh to Miami — and encouraging fans to buy tickets for the upcoming season.
But the advertisement also subtly reflected the team’s measured approach to marketing their new superstar — he’s going to be a face of the franchise, not the face of the franchise.
Because it wasn’t Suh alone in the ad; it also featured the team’s three other new additions — tight end Jordan Cameron, cornerback Brice McCain and wide receiver Kenny Stills (whom the team acquired via trade just the day before).
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“[Suh] will certainly be a part of what we put out there,” Dolphins CEO Tom Garfinkel said last week. “[But] the theme is the same.”
“It’s about the team first. He’s a player that makes the team better.”
Garfinkel added: “We’ll continue to market the team and all the players. Not just one of them. But he’ll certainly be one of them.”
Garfinkel’s top two jobs right now are overseeing the renovations to Sun Life Stadium and making sure that the building is consistently filled.
Construction remains on schedule.
And Suh’s arrival has already helped with task No. 2 — at least on the margins.
“There’s been a lot of positive buzz, a lot of excitement,” Garfinkel said. “Like I said the first day I got here, the most important thing is to win football games. … Hopefully [the Suh signing] helps us win more football games.”
Renewal rates were already high as the Dolphins continue reassigning their entire season-ticket base in the new bowl. So it’s not like signing Suh will alone make a massive difference at the gate.
But anything that creates positive momentum is helpful for a franchise on yet another roster reboot after six straight years out of the playoffs.
When other teams have unveiled a new stadium, they loaded up on talent to make sure the building stayed filled after the initial curiosity fades. That’s what the Marlins did when they launched their new ballpark in 2012.
Yet Garfinkel insisted that’s not what the Dolphins are doing with their latest spending spree.
“We have an owner who’s a very passionate, competitive person who wants to win and wants to win every year,” Garfinkel said of Stephen Ross.
“I don’t think [the Suh signing] has anything to do with the stadium. I think it has to do with wanting to win football games. If we were playing in a barn or playing in a beautiful new stadium, I don’t think the motivation to win would be any different. It’s exciting nonetheless.”
Suh’s hidden value to his new team might be more basic: Good players want to be around great ones, as McCain put it this week. And now that the initial wave of free agency has crested, second-tier players who didn’t get the big paydays they expected might see Miami as an appealing place to sign a one-year, “prove it” deal.
That’s what Brent Grimes did in 2013, parlaying a Pro Bowl season into a new contract with $16 million fully guaranteed.
“We’re all in this business to win, so when you see big moves like that, you see your opportunities and chances to win going up,” Stills said Saturday. “Everyone is excited about that.”