As the day after yet another losing Dolphins season came to a close, coach Joe Philbin said that he’s open to any and all ways to improve the team — including targeting a high-priced star in free agency.
Among the team’s top (if not the No. 1) offseason priorities: Finding at least one dynamic offensive weapon who can consistently get the low-octane Dolphins into the end zone.
“I think everyone thinks that,” center Mike Pouncey said, when asked if the Dolphins need more firepower to get over the hump.
“When you look around the league, everyone has great players on their football team, but you need those guys that can help you get to the playoffs and those guys are exceptional guys. They cost to be on your football team. I think [the Dolphins] are going to do a good job to get guys in like that.”
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Pouncey spoke as the 2012 Dolphins gathered one final time Monday, with each player meeting privately with Philbin before scattering into the offseason.
But with 13 unrestricted free agents, roughly $47 million in salary-cap space and five of the first 90 picks of April’s draft — including the 12th overall — the team that reports to camp in the spring will look very different to the one who said their goodbyes Monday.
General manager Jeff Ireland has the final say on who the Dolphins will target — a team source reiterated Monday that Ireland’s job is safe — but Philbin said Monday that he will have a voice in the process.
And although Philbin has said in the past that he prefers to build through the draft, any impression that he is fundamentally opposed to paying top dollar for veteran free agents is wrong. Receivers Mike Wallace, Dwayne Bowe and Greg Jennings would intuitively fall on their wish list.
“I’m not opposed to improving the football team in any way, shape or form, by any method that we can, be it a trade, whether it’s free agency, the draft,” Philbin said.
“I’m not opposed to any of that.”
With the third-most cap space of all NFL teams, the Dolphins can be aggressive in filling needs at receiver, corner and tight end. But first they must decide which of their own free agents they want to keep.
Nine current or past Dolphins starters will hit the open market on March 12 if they don’t get extensions or the franchise tag.
Two of the biggest names on that list — Reggie Bush and Sean Smith — spoke Monday, standing in the Dolphins’ locker room for perhaps the final time.
“I’m very confident that something’s going to work out,” Smith said. “It’s definitely somewhere I want to be forever.”
Said Bush: “I enjoyed my time here, and hopefully we can get something done, and I can call this a more permanent home.”
Philbin provided little insight into potential personnel decisions, although he did identify the team’s two greatest deficiencies: explosive plays and the turnover battle.
The Dolphins committed 10 more turnovers than they forced in 2012, tied for 24th in the league. Their 16 takeaways were the fewest in team history.
And the offense ranked 26th or worse in points (18 per game), passing yards (198.9), and total yards (311.5).
“I thought we had the guys this year to make the plays and be able to get to the playoffs,” said Bush, who fell 14 rushing yards shy of 1,000. “I thought we had enough. For whatever reasons, we didn’t make the plays necessary. We definitely could have gotten more out of the players that we had.”
Said Philbin: “[A 7-9 record] is not good enough. You put a lot of effort and you make a lot of sacrifices, and you come to work starting July 27. The goal is to compete for championships.
“There should be no one in our team meeting room that was satisfied with where we’re at. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Miami Herald sportswriter Armando Salguero contributed to this report.