No team has been busier than the Dolphins.
In a dizzying three months, they turned over roughly half their starting lineup, signed Ryan Tannehill and Mike Pouncey to contract extensions and landed the year’s biggest free agent prize, Ndamukong Suh.
And although nothing goes without a hitch or two — the team wanted to keep Charles Clay but lost the tight end to the Buffalo Bills — the moves have been well received throughout football.
So when did this grand plan come together?
Some say it was when the team hired Mike Tannebaum to run the Dolphins’ football operations department.
But Dennis Hickey, the Dolphins’ second-year general manager, says it goes back even further. He traces the blueprint back to when he was simply a candidate for the job he has, during a conversation with owner Stephen Ross and Carl Peterson in the winter of 2014.
“As you put together a strategic plan, even going back to when I first interviewed for the job, you look ahead and you try to be strategic with how you try to allocate your resources,” Hickey said Friday, appearing on 104.3 The Ticket. “What are next year’s decisions? What are the following year’s decisions? And so we went through that.”
But the wheels for this spring’s spending spree truly started to roll shortly after the end of last season, when coaches and the personal department gathered to “iron things out,” Hickey said.
Ross stressed that the time to win is now and provided the financing needed to make it happen.
Between Suh, Tannehill and Pouncey, the Dolphins have committed more than $100 million in guaranteed money.
Granted, Ross also opened up the coffers in 2013 but got little return on his investment — the main reason Hickey, and not Jeff Ireland, is the team’s general manager.
There were some growing pains, of course. The Tannenbaum hiring vaulted him to the top of the organizational flow chart. But Hickey put whatever disappointment the move caused aside and continued to assemble a roster that is vastly different — and, at least on paper, superior — than the one he inherited.
“We’re a process-driven organization,” Hickey said during the radio interview. “Part of the process is collaboration, getting our coaches together with our scouts and getting them together to do their due diligence. The process is about making good, sound decisions that make sense.”
No decision will draw more scrutiny than the one to sign Tannehill to a six-year, $96 million extension, even though he has never had a winning season and had two years left on his rookie contract.
The No. 1 factor in the move?
“Having stability in the quarterback position,” Hickey said. “Our philosophy is we want to have sustained success and a quality quarterback and a proven quarterback that you believe in that’s also young and improves every year, and even within the year.
“Compare the first four games [of 2014] to the last 12 games and the growth that we saw in Ryan. Having all the tools and all the things that he brings, he’s definitely someone we believe in and want to commit to.”
Other topics covered during the 12-minute interview:
▪ Will Davis, who tore his ACL late in the season, is on track to be ready for the start of training camp. He will compete with Jamar Taylor and others for the starting cornerback spot opposite Brent Grimes.
▪ Veteran Dolphins have been around rookie DeVante Parker for a short time, but are already excited about his potential. Hickey said: “With all the rookies, their heads are swimming a little bit, and they’re getting used to life as a professional. He’s jumped in and gets things quickly.”
▪ Asked if he’d ever pull a Dan Jennings and name himself coach if Joe Philbin was ever fired, Hickey laughed.
“I have a lot of confidence in our coaching staff,” Hickey said. “I coached for two years in [the ’90s]. I’m very happy scouting. Coach Philbin’s doing a great job. I’ll definitely pass on that one.”