March ushers in maybe the most telling two months in Miami Dolphins history, or, less arguably, at least the most important two months of Jeff Ireland’s professional life.
The soon-to-start free agency period through next month’s draft finds Ireland, Miami’s general manager, headed to the NFL poker table with high stacks of chips and not an excuse in sight. The plays are all his. He is on the clock. These next weeks will redeem him in the eyes of doubting Dolfans or underline he is part of the problem.
The reality could be gray shades in between, but Ireland has not earned benefit of doubt. When fans are predisposed to not trust you, you must offer nothing that feeds the beast. Just ask Jeffrey Loria. So Ireland needs home runs now, not singles and walks. He has 10 draft picks – including five in the first three rounds – and more than $44 million in salary cap space to spend on his own or other teams’ free agents.
Few clubs are better positioned overall entering the free agency/draft season, and those chips afford flexibility to perhaps also seek talent via a third means: Trades.
With all that in mind I would explore two names here that I hope Ireland also is exploring:
The expected name is Mike Wallace.
The unexpected name is Darrelle Revis.
The latter begs address first because I hear the cries of incredulity. “The Jets would never trade Revis to a division rival, you moron!”
Maybe not. Worth investigating, though.
Reports are Jets owner Woody Johnson doesn’t want to pay to extend Revis’ contract, which means they’d lose him to free agency after this coming season, which is why new GM John Idzik – whose father John Sr. was an expansion-era Dolphins assistant coach in 1966-69 – has Revis dangling on the trade market.
The 49ers have been named among a handful of supposedly interested clubs, but another report refuted that. What if when it all shook out Miami had the most interest and the most to offer? Would the rebuilding Jets still refuse the deal? Would they allow those two games a year they’d face Revis to weigh that much in their overall plan?
Worth finding out, I’d say.
This is important. Please read the following sentence aloud, and extra loudly, so you get my emphasis of it: All of this Revis talk presumes he comes back fully healthy from ACL knee surgery!
That concern may be a reason why any trade might wait ‘til summer. If healthy, though, if he comes back as no-doubt right as Adrian Peterson did, Revis is the shutdown cover-corner the Dolphins desperately need. And Miami has both the money to give him the contract extension he seeks, and also enough draft picks to entice New York.
THE SEAN SMITH FACTOR
The probability of losing starting cornerback Sean Smith in free agency – Miami likely will use its franchise tag to keep defensive tackle Randy Starks, not on Smith – means the need for a proven, impact corner could be dire.
I’d probably not give up Miami’s first-round pick (12th overall) for Revis, but I would give up one of my second- and third-round picks and maybe even throw in a lower pick and perhaps an expendable player. Who knows what it would take? The injury question could scare some teams and make it a buyer’s market.
Again, isn’t it worth finding out?
Exploring a Revis trade would demonstrate ingenuity and boldness by Ireland, but also be a calculated risk in giving up draft picks. It’s a no-lose thing. Getting Revis would be hugely popular with most fans, but nobody expects the deal so Ireland would not be blamed if it never happened.
Not so with Wallace, the Steelers wide receiver and pending free agent.
Reports are he is Miami’s No. 1 target, the name most out front in the whole offseason building project, so not signing him would be seen as a big loss for Miami and for Ireland personally.
By consensus Wallace is the top receiver available (yes, more so than older Greg Jennings) and that is Miami’s area of greatest need. Since the draft is not especially strong for WRs, that further increases the imperative to land Wallace and give young quarterback Ryan Tannehill the weapon he needs and has lacked – and then target other needs in the draft.
I expect Miami to re-sign its own free agent receiver, Brian Hartline (and tackle Jake Long, too), but this offense needs something more than Hartline’s reliability. It needs Wallace’s dynamic deep threat and big plays.
WALLACE YOUNG – AND FAST
Wallace is coming into his prime at 26, made the Pro Bowl in 2011, is very fast, and has 32 touchdown catches in 48 career starts. His career average is 17.4 yards per catch, and, to put that in perspective, Miami has not had any receiver average that even for one season (minimum 50 catches) since Irving Fryar in 1994.
Wallace, inevitably, is nicknamed “60 Minutes” because that news show’s iconic star also was Mike Wallace, and because a full game happens to be 60 minutes. (Coincidentally, prior to this free-agent Mike Wallace, Dolphins fans last paid this much attention to the other Mike Wallace when he famously interviewed Ricky Williams in 2004 and ’05).
Miami needs to add impact players, what Ireland calls “difference makers,” and Wallace for this offense would be that as much as Revis would be for this defense.
Wallace, though, will be Ireland’s must-get in the coming weeks, because he is the clear target, and the teams competing to sign him that Miami will have to overcome and outbid could include the rival Patriots.
That positions Wallace as Ireland’s offseason Litmus test.
The Dolphins won’t start winning unless their general manager starts winning, and his season is about to start.