HOUSTON -- Mike Tannenbaum made the rounds on radio row at the Super Bowl on Friday but before Mike got on the mike, he told the Miami Herald the Miami Dolphins don’t expect new contracts for looming free agents Kenny Stills, Andre Branch or Dion Sims anytime soon because deadlines often drive these talks and free agency’s March 9 start is still weeks away.
Tannenbaum, steering the Dolphins’ offseason efforts as the executive vice president of football operations, also said the idea of extending contracts for Reshad Jones and Jarvis Landry -- both of whom have contracts for 2017 -- will likely be handled in something of a chronological order with free agency being the first priority this offseason.
And Tannenbaum dismissed the idea quarterback Ryan Tannehill is more likely to be injured when the team gathers for offseason programs, camps, and then training camp and games because he eschewed surgery to repair the partially torn ACL he suffered last season.
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“I would just say we wouldn’t put any player on the field if we felt there’s an unreasonable risk of injury,” Tannenbaum said. “Every player goes out there and this is obviously a high contact sport and there’s always a risk of injury. But knowing how hard Ryan works, he’s going to do everything he can to put himself in the best position to be successful and protect himself.”
Tannenbaum declined to get into details about Tannehill’s health, choosing to respect the quarterback’s privacy.
But a source close to Tannehill this week told The Herald the quarterback’s knee is stable. The same source said alternative medicines have seriously considered to promote healing in Tannehill’s knee, including stem cell injections and platelet rich plasma (PRP) injections, although clinical studies on the treatments are mixed.
Tannenbaum would not confirm or deny the alternate medical approaches have even been studied. He did, however, express confidence Tannehill will be good to go for the 2017 season.
“Ryan’s working really hard. We’re encouraged by his progress,” Tannenbaum said. “We’re going to closely monitor it and we’re excited about the future with him.”
One of Tannehill’s favorite receivers last season was Stills, who led the team with nine touchdown catches. NJ.com reported Wednesday the Philadelphia Eagles will make Stills a top target in free agency if the Dolphins don’t sign him before the start of free agency.
But Tannenbaum seemed to confirm a team source saying the Dolphins are not rushing to sign their free agents at the moment because, in part, agents are not overly motivated to get deals done a month out from free agency.
“All those players have earned the right to become free agents,” Tannenbaum said. “We appreciate their contributions. We’re constantly in contact with their agents -- [general manager] Chris Grier, [senior director of football administration] Brandon Shore, myself. We’ll see where things go.
“We’re a deadline oriented league. It’s not great for my lifestyle but that’s the life we live. We’ll see where we go between now and the first day of the league year. We’re sitting here over a month away from those guys actually becoming free agents.”
The NFL Scouting Combine is Feb. 28-March 6 and the Dolphins will see and continue talking to agents who represent their players, including Landry and Jones. And the team expects to give both players contract extensions although they are signed for 2017.
But barring a sudden willingness by the agents to do bargain extensions, it will come in due time. And due time is apparently not before players who are unsigned.
“Both those players have been good players for the franchise and they’re going into the last year of their contracts,” Tannenbaum said. “We’ll see where things head. Right now our focus is to try to retain as many of our players that are going to become free agents.”
The Dolphins had a breakout year in 2016, posting a 10-7 record and making the playoffs for the first time since 2008. But Tannenbaum seemed to strike a sober tone about where people in the organization believes that performance of a year ago has left them.
“We were encouraged by last year. Adam and his staff in particular did an excellent job, particularly with all the bumps in the road we had with a 1-4 start, the injuries, and our quarterback getting hurt,” Tannenbaum said. “To go to the playoffs is very hard to do and its an accomplishment that we’re proud of and feel good about.
“But with that said, 2016 becomes a distant memory and now there’s a lot of work for us to do as an organization, led by Adam, Chris and I to make sure we’re evaluating our players correctly. We’re going to try to get this team better and we feel like we have a lot of work to do.”
Based on that, do not look for the Dolphins to do what they did in 2015 when they went out and signed the most expensive player in free agency in Ndamukong Suh. This team does not believe it is one player away from winning a championship.
This team believes it must address multiple needs to keep improving.
“I would say we are not one player away, for sure,” Tannenbaum said. “We’re trying to build a program that’s sustainable. The word we try to use is to be opportunistic. When there’s a player that we feel fits our culture, fits our economic plan, we’re going to try to be opportunistic. But the lion share or our resources long term and our organizational conviction of ours is we want those resources to go to our own players.”
That also includes restricted free agents. Kiko Alonso and Michael Thomas are arguably the most significant of those and will likely be tendered by the team so that it retains their rights. But Tannenbaum would not discuss at what level that tender offer, which would tie the players to the time for 2017, will come.
Tender numbers are not yet out for 2017, but same-round tenders are expected to be around $1.8 million while first-round tenders climb to about $3.6 million.
So do the Dolphins tender Alonso, who led the team in tackles and was a key contributor at middle linebacker, the lesser figure and save $2 million while also exposing him to possibly being signed away? Any team signing him would then owe the Dolphins a second-round pick, because that is the round Alonso was drafted in.
Or would the Dolphins tender Alonso at the first-round figure, practically assuing no team will give up its first rounder to sign the linebacker?
Tannenbaum would not say and it is possible that decision has not yet been made.
This much is clear: Last year the Dolphins lost significant and talented players. Rishard Matthews, Lamar Miller, Olivier Vernon, and Derrick Shelby left via free agency and that stung for a while. The Dolphins don’t wish to see their own talent leak onto other rosters like that.
But, it should also be noted, the Dolphins lost all those players and improved from 6-10 in 2015 to their winning record. So the team doesn’t want to lose talent but replacing players that go elsewhere is possible.