Reporting Tim Kephart
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Miami Dolphins have been largely kept on the sidelines during the annual free agent spending frenzy due to the salary cap. But unlike a team like several other teams against the salary cap, Miami doesn’t have the victories to back up the big spending.
Miami’s cap problems start with the contracts for left tackle Jake Long and linebacker Karlos Dansby. The duo, arguably the team’s best players on each side of the ball, both have contracts well in excess of $10 million per year.
Specifically, Dansby’s contract will count $11.325 million against the 2012 salary cap, while Long’s contract will have him counting $12.8 million against the cap.
But Miami’s problems with the cap go deeper than just the contracts of Dansby and Long. In fact, the cap costs of Miami’s ten most expensive players represent more than 50 percent of the actual cap costs for the Dolphins in 2012.
The problem is, of the Dolphins high-priced players, the next two who have produced at high-level for the Dolphins in recent years has been running back Reggie Bush and Yeremiah Bell.
Past those two, who coincidentally are the next two highest paid players on the team, the top team paid players for the Dolphins is largely a group of average to decent NFL players. The list includes quarterback Matt Moore, Anthony Fasano, Tony McDaniel, and Richie Incognito.
It’s not unusual for the best players to eat up the most cap room on a team, but the problem for Miami doesn’t seem to be as much cap based as it does talent evaluation.
The Dolphins have yet to identify a franchise quarterback, despite more than a decade passing since Dan Marino was last seen in a Dolphins uniform. The Dolphins draft problems have almost become comical in recent years.
Foremost among the draft problems goes back to not only the Cam Cameron season of failure, but also the first draft of the supposed savior, Bill Parcells. The Dolphins had the number one overall pick and couldn’t decide between franchise quarterback Matt Ryan and Jake Long.
Parcells, who typically liked four-year quarterbacks like Ryan, decided it would be too tough to sign Ryan to a contract and went for Long. While Long is a cornerstone of the offensive line, many teams have found serviceable left tackles at various points in the draft.
The New Orleans Saints won a Super Bowl title with Jermon Bushrod at left tackle, so it’s not exactly a position that commands the number one overall pick. Quarterback on the other hand, outside of a player like Tom Brady, are typically selected at the top of the draft.
But the Dolphins haven’t taken a quarterback in the first round of the draft since…Dan Marino. During the time since then, the Fins have taken the following players in the first round of the NFL draft: Jamar Fletcher, Vernon Carey, Ronnie Brown, Jason Allen, Ted Ginn, Jr., Jake Long, Vontae Davis, Jared Odrick, and Mike Pouncey.
Pouncey, Davis, and Long were inserted from day one as starters, while Odrick looks to increase his playing time in 2012 now that the Fins have lost Kendall Langford to the St. Louis Rams. But the rest of the players on that list, outside of possibly Vernon Carey, have been average at best NFL players.
While the first round is usually hard to miss on as a drafter, unless you land Akili Smith or Ryan Leaf, the next rounds separate the good teams from the also-rans.
In 2008, the Dolphins selected Phillip Merling ahead of players like Matt Forte, Ray Rice, Shonn Green, and DeSean Jackson. Chad Henne and Kendall Langford were both taken ahead of Jamaal Charles or Jermichael Finley.
In 2009, the Dolphins decided to try and corner the market on the single-wing offense and selected quarterback Pat White in the second round. He’s not even in professional football anymore. It was the fourth year in a row the Fins took a quarterback in the second round.
Even the first round pick in 2009 was questionable. Vontae Davis has turned into a good starting NFL cornerback, but the player selected just after Davis…Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews, Jr.
In 2010, the Dolphins picked Koa Misi just two picks ahead of Rob Gronkowski. The Fins traded away two second-round picks to acquire Brandon Marshall, who the team just gave away to the Chicago Bears for two third-round picks.
Even dating back to 2005, the Dolphins chose Ronnie Brown over Aaron Rodgers or DeMarcus Ware. In 2006, the Fins chose Jason Allen over Antonio Cromartie, Santonio Holmes, DeAngelo Williams, and Nick Mangold.
While many fans want teams to be built through free agent splashes, a great team like New England, Green Bay, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, or San Francisco have all been built through the draft. Unfortunately for the Dolphins, that just so happens to be the Achilles heel of a franchise doomed to mediocrity for years.
From salary cap issues to failed drafts, Dolphins fans have had to deal with the worst of the NFL for years and unless Matt Flynn is the next coming of Matt Hasselbeck or Matt Schaub, it may continue for several years more, only time will tell.