Reporting Tim Kephart
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – One of the best measures of the success of a manager is the talent they bring in to a company or team. While Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland has filled some of his positions well, the defensive backfield has been tough to watch since 2008.
When Ireland came to the Fins in 2008, there was a complete lack of talent across the roster. In the secondary, which was burned regularly in 2007, the Fins had Jason Allen, Will Allen, Yeremiah Bell, and an assortment of other players like Michael Lehan.
Ireland and company went to work fixing the roster and quickly signed Joey Thomas in 2008, but released him by September. The Fins re-signed Yeremiah Bell, acquired Chris Crocker, signed Tyrone Culver, but later released him in October, all in an attempt to fix the secondary.
By 2009, the Dolphins decided to attack free agency as a solution to the secondary problems. The Fins made a big splash signing safety Gibril Wilson to a 5-year, $27.5 million contract with $8 million guaranteed. The Dolphins also signed Bell to a 4-year, $20 million contract with $10 million guaranteed.
The Fins also spent the team’s top two draft picks on two of the top corners in the draft: Vontae Davis and Sean Smith. The Fins signed Davis to a 5-year, $10.25 million contract with $7.345 million guaranteed. Smith received a guaranteed $945,000 signing bonus with his first contract.
The Dolphins also spent a fifth-round pick on Chris Clemons who has turned out to be a decent starter at safety by 2013. The Fins re-signed Clemons during the 2013 offseason for one-year and $2.5 million.
Between Davis, Smith, Wilson and Bell, the Fins believed they had the makings of a solid secondary. Davis and Smith became quality players and Bell made a Pro Bowl. But as most Fins fans can tell you, Wilson’s contribution was watching opponents run past him in coverage.
The Fins went back to the draft in 2010 and acquired Nolan Carroll and safety Reshad Jones. The latter pick has become arguably Ireland’s best lower-round pick, and may be his best overall secondary signing since coming to Miami.
The Fins would go on to try to help the secondary by signing washed-up Al Harris in 2010, Will Allen in 2011, and tried to get something out of Nate Jones in 2011 and then Tyrell Johnson in 2012.
Miami also gave up on Vontae Davis in 2012, trading him to the Indianapolis Colts. The Dolphins actually took a two-year cap hit of $2.2 million to get rid of Davis. As for Smith, he was allowed to walk as an unrestricted free agent during the 2013 offseason.
The Dolphins also signed cornerback Richard Marshall to a 3-year, $16 million contract with $3.5 million guaranteed in 2012. Marshall played three games and went out with a back injury. He was cut in August 2013 after no team was willing to take on his base salaries.
The Dolphins will take on a two-year, $2.33 million cap hit due to the release of Marshall.
The team acquired Dimitri Patterson from the Cleveland Browns during the 2012 season and despite him costing almost as much as Marshall, the Fins are sticking with Patterson as a starter, at least until another younger player can step up their game to start opposite Grimes.
The Dolphins went back to the draft again in 2013 picking Jamar Taylor and Will Davis hoping both could help alleviate the secondary problems. The team also locked up Reshad Jones to a long-term contract during the 2013 offseason.
The Dolphins secondary will have Brent Grimes and Dimitri Patterson starting at cornerback and Chris Clemons and Reshad Jones starting at safety. It has the potential to be a decent group on the field if Patterson can step up and Grimes can stay healthy.
Still, the secondary has questions once again going into the 2013 season and it goes back to the feet of the general manager.
Since Ireland joined the team, the Fins have spent in contracts for major secondary players approximately $92.26 million in contracts, of which around $45-50 million was guaranteed to the players.
Out of that money, the Fins currently have one secondary player signed to a long-term contract, Jones, and the rest on one-year deals. Of the players drafted or acquired since 2008 (outside of the 2013 draft picks) only Jones, Carroll, Clemons, and Jimmy Wilson remain on the roster.
It should be noted that the Fins have gone through two completely different defensive schemes during Ireland’s tenure, the 3-4 defense and the 4-3 defense.
It’s not much of a return on investment for more than $90 million spent in contracts for players in the secondary.