Why is one of the league’s most free-spending teams now pinching pennies?
The budgetary transformation began in early January, as the Dolphins tried to make sense of yet another failed season.
Stephen Ross, Mike Tannenbaum and new general manager Chris Grier ultimately decided that not only did the roster need a makeover, but so did how the team went about adding those new players.
Gone are the heady days of the past three years, when the Dolphins out-bid the market for free agents like Ndamukong Suh and Mike Wallace.
On Friday, at its predraft news conference, the team explained why:
We’re not one player away from greatness, the Dolphins; thinking went, so instead of spending tens of millions of dollars for one star, we’re going to use those resources to add depth throughout the roster.
The result: Miami has added 24 new, moderately priced players since the end of the season, and will tack on several more in next week’s NFL Draft.
“We’re trying to build something long-term, sustainable,” Tannenbaum said Friday. “We want to be measured and take advantage of opportunities when they’re there. I think it’s how it played out this year. I think our sense was, ‘we’re going to need a number of pieces, especially with a new staff.’ Again, 24 new players as of now. That’s a high number.”
Tannenbaum added: “If we sat here in February, that wouldn’t have been the number I would have thought we would have gotten to. I think that was a result of A: being 6-10, and B: having a new staff.”
It explains why they didn’t seriously get into a bidding war for Josh Norman.
(”We have nothing imminent with any player right now,” Tannenbaum said Friday, reinforcing the team’s reluctance to pay $15 million annually for the former Panthers corner.)
And it might hint at the team’s plan for its first-round pick.
If this philosophical shift is indeed real, the Dolphins are more likely to trade back than up in the first round. And even though they have an obvious need at the position, they aren’t pigeonholed into taking a corner at 13.
Grier will run the draft room. He’s spent the past three months building the team’s board, and insisted “all options are on the table for us. I wouldn’t rule anything out.”
And so, they could take Ezekiel Elliott, who visited the team in recent days; Grier clammed up when asked about the Ohio State running back Friday, saying little more than “he’s a good player.”
Corner, linebacker and defensive end are all on the table too.
“We’ll take the best player for the Miami Dolphins,” Grier said, when asked if the team has zeroed in on a particular position. “There’s a lot of good players in this draft. We’re picking 13 and we’ll let our process play out.”
And yes, they could move out of that 13th pick if an elite talent drops or if none of the players available at 13 tickle their fancy. Tannenbaum said he’s had some preliminary trade conversations with other teams in recent days, but nothing serious.
“We’re going to let the board dictate that to us,” Tannenbaum said. “If there’s a player we have a strong feeling on, it’ll be hard to move back. If the phone rings, we’ll evaluate that opportunity.”
▪ Dion Jordan could be reinstated by the NFL as early as next week, but the Dolphins insisted Friday that they don’t know if the suspended defensive end has even applied to get back in the league.
“I don’t know where things stand,” Tannenbaum said.
▪ Despite the wholesale changes to the roster, Grier said the Dolphins are “confident that we can go out and play with our roster right now.”