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NFL Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins Impending 2013 Free-Agents

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Miami Dolphins Impending 2013 Free-Agents

Miami Dolphins Impending 2013 Free-Agents
Brad Barr-US PRESSWIRE

As we are now at the mid-way point of the Miami Dolphins 2012 season I wanted to take a look at the path that their impending free-agents are on.

I am sure that Dolphins fans are still smarting from the Andrew Luck beat-down last weekend, but still we would have to say that 4-4 at midseason is pretty good. Especially when you consider this is a team that has a brand new offense, a brand new defense, and a brand new QB.

GM Jeff Ireland has several key decisions to make this off-season. On offense guys like Reggie Bush, Jake Long, Brian Hartline, Anthony Fasano, and Matt Moore are all free-agents at seasons end. The defense has starters like Sean Smith, Randy Starks, and Chris Clemons in their final contract years too.

Depending on how certain things work out/play out the Dolphins will have anywhere from $35-$55 million to spend in the off-season. We still have to see things like what will the NFL Salary Cap # be? What bonuses etc will detract from the Cap #? What will their carry-over Cap # be? etc...

In this slide-show article we will look at the Dolphins that are likely in for raises, and what players may be replaceable in the free-agent market. We will look at Miami's FA players and their 2012 salaries vs the top-20 salaries at that position, plus the average NFL salary at that position.

Miami does not have a lot of depth at WR, CB, O-Line, or TE and all 4 positions have the best player available as FAs at seasons end. As the team builds in the image of the new Joe Philbin regime, plus builds around new franchise QB Ryan Tannehill, I am very interested to see what players Miami does actively try to keep in aqua/orange/white.

NEXT = Reggie Bush

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Reggie Bush

Reggie Bush
Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE

Reggie Bush signed a 2-year $10 million contract which expires at the end of this season.

Miami acquired Bush from the New Orleans Saints in exchange for Jonathon Amaya and a draft pick. The 'Phins needed to replace the aging duo of Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown. Bush had a goal of showing the NFL that he could be an every-down RB who can get to the outside for big plays, plus be a legit threat to be productive running between the offensive-tackles.

Bush came into last season with 1 career 100+ yard rushing game. He had 5 such games last season, and exploded at the end of the season with 4 straight 100+ games. Add in the 172 he broke off in week 2 vs the Oakland Raiders and we see Bush was on fire with 5 games out of 6 where Bush went north of 100+.

Bush has not been nearly as effective lately. In his past 6 games he is averaging just 49 rushing yards per game. This is a contract year for Bush so we know he wants/needs that production to skyrocket.

The average NFL RB makes just under $1 mill per season. The top 20 RBs average around $6 mill per season. This season Bush will make $4.75 million.

Will Bush get the raise he seeks? Bush is in the top 20 for amount of plays he is on the field for (#18 amongst RBs) but his production has him ranked as the #36 RB at the mid-season mark.

Bush's recent pedestrian play has brought his value down to the level of the other 2013 RB free-agents like Rashard Mendenhall, Peyton Hillis, Felix Jones, Shonn Greene, and Danny Woodhead.

For the last few months Bush looked like the cream of the FA crop for RBs, but the price-tag he is looking for will require significantly better production as the season completes the 2nd half

NEXT = Jake Long

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Jake Long

Jake Long
Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Jake Long was the #1 overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft. He has been extremely good. He has made the Pro Bowl in all 4 of his seasons. However, 2012 has seen his play dip which is not good for a guy making north of $11 million per season.

The average offensive-tackle makes $1.2 million per season. The top-20 o-lineman average just over $6 mill per season. We see Long makes double that, in fact he is currently the highest paid left-tackle in the NFL.

That price-tag has to be worrisome considering Long has dropped all the way to being ranked just #27 amongst LTs. Long has yielded just 3 sacks, but his run blocking has taken a step backwards in 2012 (at least so far). When teams look at the asking price for Long they are sure to be put off. Especially considering their are excellent LTs on the 2013 market like Ryan Clady, Brandon Albert, Sam Baker, and Andy Levitre.

Question for Miami is are we seeing a below-average (by his standards) season from Long because he is banged up, or is he legitimately on the decline? His run-blocking has slipped, as has his penalties. When healthy how much confidence do you have in Long? Significantly more than the other available LTs? Could Jonathan Martin slide over to LT if Miami decides to allocate their funds differently rather than a massive payday for Long?

Interesting questions. Long will be one of the most important decisions the 'Phins make this off-season. For Long to achieve his goal as the highest paid lineman (he is currently the highest paid LT, but the word is he is aiming for highest paid o-lineman) he will need to get back to his dominating play.

LT protects the franchise (Ryan Tannehill) so if Long can regain his form then the 'Phins may well make it a priority to re-up with the big fella at any cost.

PREV = Reggie Bush ... NEXT = Sean Smith

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Sean Smith

Sean Smith
Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE

CB Sean Smith was drafted in the 2nd round by the Dolphins in the 2009 NFL draft. In the previous round the 'Phins drafted Vontae Davis and the plan was to have them be their 1-2 CB punch for years to come. That fell short...

Davis has been traded, but during his time with the Dolphins he did sign an extension. In the off-season Miami gave CB Richard Marshall a big ol' contract to the tune of 3 years $16 million. All the while Smith has improved yearly but still seeks an extension.

Smith draws the assignment of the opposing teams top WR. He has had a pretty good season when you consider he always faces good talent. He makes $615,000 this season which is less than the approx $1.1 million average for CBs in the NFL. The top 20 CBs average a whopping $8 million per season so Smith is in for a massive raise. He is currently ranked as the #17 CB in the League.

Other free-agent options at CB are Brent Grimes, Tracy Porter, Quentin Jammer, Derek Cox, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie so there is plenty of talent available. Lots of competition for Smith. This is an interesting one to watch. My feeling is that Smith will re-up with the Dolphins.

PREV = Jake Long ... NEXT = Brian Hartline

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Brian Hartline

Brian Hartline
Thomas Campbell-US PRESSWIRE

2012 has been a breakout season for Brian Hartline in many ways. In his 4th season he has already established new career highs in receiving yards, and has a career-best 80 yard catch. He will soon have new career-highs for targets, catches, and 1st downs. He has become a BFF for Tannehill as a reliable target for the rookie QB.

The average salary for a NFL WR is approx $1 million. Hartline makes just north of that at $1.3 million. The average salary for a top-20 NFL WR is just over $7 million. Hartline is currently ranked #20 for WRs so we see he is headed for a big raise. Will he get that raise from the 'Phins? Most Dolfans hope so.

There are WRs out there that will require a good contract to come to Miami, but the Dolphins may be interested. Guys like Dwayne Bowe, Mike Wallace, Greg Jennings, Wes Welker, Joshua Cribbs, and Danny Amendola are all available at seasons end. I think it is possible that if Miami is going to give big bucks to a free-agent WR this off-season it may be someone from the above list.

Hartline is surely a fan favourite, and has had a remarkable season (especially when you consider he just got healthy after week 1...He was sidelined for all of training camp and preseason) but I would have to point out that he has just 1 TD in 2012. In Hartline's rookie 2009 he scored a total of 4 TDs (3 receiving and 1 rushing) but has just 3 since.

I think it is possible that Miami may be looking to add another WR even if they do find a way to re-up with Hartline.

PREV = Sean Smith ... NEXT = Anthony Fasano & Matt Moore

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Anthony Fasano and Matt Moore

Anthony Fasano and Matt Moore
The Star-Ledger-US PRESSWIRE

There are 2 other free-agents on offense that I think are interesting. TE Anthony Fasano and #2 QB Matt Moore.

At mid-season we see the Dolphins are good, not great, at 4-4. One issue is that the roster does not have a lot of talent for the red-zone. TE Fasano is a guy who can be very effective in the RZ for Miami. During his time in Miami the Dolphins are 14-5 in games where he scores a TD. 3-0 in 2012. In the 5 losses the final deficit was less than 1 TD every time so when he makes plays (especially in the RZ) the team has a chance to be competitive and win that game.

The average NFL TE makes around $865,000 per season. Fasano makes $3.6 mill. The top-20 TEs average approx $4.8 million. Fasano is the 9th ranked TE at the mid-way point of the season. He is likely in for a similar contract as the one he has now, perhaps a small increase even.

He is a veteran, but the market for veteran TEs in 2013 is stacked. Fred Davis, Dustin Keller, Tony Gonzalez, Heath Miller, and Fred Davis are all available.

Fasano is a very good run blocker (currently ranked #5 for TEs as far as run-blocking) and I think Miami will re-up with this well-rounded veteran TE.

Matt Moore makes just under $3 million currently so re-signing him will likely depend on how they feel about Pat Devlin at seasons end.

Moore is a very good back-up. He has the make-up for it as he is always prepared, has skill, and is a team-first guy who does not make waves about having to be the #2.

I just have to wonder if Miami wants to commit multiple millions to the back-up QB spot when other bigger questions exist on offense like Long, Bush, Hartline.

PREV = Brian Hartline ... NEXT = Randy Starks and Chris Clemons

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Randy Starks and Chris Clemons

Randy Starks and Chris Clemons
Douglas Jones-US PRESSWIRE

On defense we see that Smith is not the only key player that is up for grabs. DT Randy Starks has been awesome in 2012, and FS Chris Clemons is a 27 year-old who has shown improved play in 2012.

Starks is currently the #2 ranked DT in the NFL. Very impressive stuff. He is blowing up running plays and passing plays on a regular basis.

Starks will make just under $4 million this season. That is about 3 times as much as the average NFL d-lineman, but about half as much as the top-20 DTs make. His DT partner Paul Soliai inked an extension earlier this year. It is for $12 million over 2 seasons (just under $4 mill guaranteed).

I have to think if Miami can get a Soliai-type deal from Starks they would be in. That would be a ton of cash to the DT position, but Miami gets massive production from the position so it is an area where they can spend some dough (especially when you consider who is available via free-agency...Henry Melton and Terrance Knighton will available, but that is a steep drop-off from Starks).

Clemons may also benefit from the lack of talent at his position available in '13 free-agency. Guys like Ed Reed, Dashon Goldson, and Jarius Byrd are available. I would think Reed and Goldson may return to their teams. I think the FS landscape will likely make it look like re-upping with Clemons is Miami's best route.

That would mean a raise for Clemons as he will make just over $1 million this season, but the top-20 free-safeties get approx $4 million. Clemons is currently the 14th ranked safety (#9 for specifically the FS position).

We know Miami will have money to spend at seasons end, but of course is has to be spent wisely. This is an organization that has a grand total of 1 playoff win in the 2000's (yikes). As we looked at here there are a few 'Phins who will surely get a raise, but Ireland has a few massive decisions to make in a few months.

Thank you for taking a few minutes to read my work. That is much appreciated!

www.rantsports.com/nfl/author/craigballard/ for all of my Miami Dolphins daily/free articles.

follow me on twitter @craigballard77