Reporting Tim Kephart
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – As Peyton Manning looks more and more like he’s not going to pick the Miami Dolphins, it’s beginning to finally dawn on many Fins fans that the team is not in win-now mode, but rather entering another rebuilding phase.
The problem is as Miami rebuilds yet again; it’s rivals in the AFC East continue to pull away from the Fins in terms of talent, talent evaluation, and coaching. All of it means the Dolphins may not sniff the playoffs for several years.
Miami was already far behind the New York Jets and the New England Patriots in terms of talent. Now, the Buffalo Bills are poised to sign the best young defender in free agency, Mario Williams, and could be on the way up in the division.
New England has reportedly been flirting with the idea of signing a free agent receiver to team with Wes Welker on the outside. The Patriots could target Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace, even though New England would have to give up a first round pick and a big contract to land him.
New York briefly flirted with the idea of Manning, but quickly double-downed on their current franchise quarterback, Mark Sanchez. New York spent some of its salary cap space to fortify the defensive line by re-signing Sione Pouha for $15 million.
The aforementioned Buffalo Bills will likely sign Mario Williams to add to its pass rush. Wiliams would join last year’s first round draft pick defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, defensive ends Chris Kelsay, Shawne Merriman, Kyle Moore, and defensive tackle Kyle Williams.
Given the Patriots’ penchant for throwing the football, rushing the passer will be key in the AFC East and adding Williams will only help the Bills get after Tom Brady.
It all pushes Miami further down in the AFC East. It could get especially ugly if the Jets handle the Fins next season with former Fins coach Tony Sparano as the Jets’ offensive coordinator.
Miami still can’t figure out what to do at the quarterback position. Without Manning, the Fins could possibly turn to former Green Bay Packers back-up quarterback Matt Flynn as the answer, or turn to the draft and focus on Ryan Tannehill or Brandon Weeden.
Miami did go a long way towards fortifying the defense Wednesday by re-signing nose tackle Paul Soliai and signing cornerback Richard Marshall. The latter of the two can play cornerback or if the Fins have the horses there, can move to free safety, which has been a problem for the Fins for years.
The Fins have a little over $10 million in cap space remaining for 2012. The Dolphins will have to keep some of that money set aside for the rookies the team drafts, but could still theoretically add another key player, such as right tackle Eric Winston.
Adding Winston would be a coup for the Dolphins heading into 2012. It would free the team up to draft either a wide receiver, tight end, or defensive end in the first round of the draft. The Fins could use a wide receiver the caliber of Justin Blackmon, but the Fins will have to move up to get him.