significant movement in negotiating position this week, it is all but certain
that top pick Ronnie Brown will miss his first two weeks of training camp and a
valuable preseason game.
unless Todd France, Brown’s agent, and the Dolphins can quickly close the gaps
on signing bonus and contract duration, Brown could miss a significant portion
of the preseason, enough to diminish his ability to help the team on opening
day versus the Denver Broncos.
is not good news for the Dolphins, who will be without the services of Ricky
Williams due to a four game suspension for his previous violation of the
league’s substance abuse policy. This means that he will not be able to play
until mid-October, Game 5 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
For those of
you not doing the math, that’s 2½ months
Until Williams is permitted to return, the Dolphins
are counting on Brown to be their primary ground game workhorse. An extended
holdout is not conducive to that goal and could even damage the team’s playoff
that he is a rookie, Brown has a good deal of work ahead of him. He needs to
become familiar with his teammates, his coaches, and the playbook. He needs to
be working on his conditioning under the supervision of John Gamble and his
staff. He needs to learn what it means to be a professional.
he is on the field working and demonstrates an ability to execute the plays,
the Dolphins will be faced with the real possibility that they may have to
start Lamar Gordon or perhaps Travis Minor in the opener.
has yet to prove himself worthy of the third round pick the Dolphins spent on
him. The stigma of having gone bust with the Rams remains with him still. And
Minor is strictly a change-of-pace back, not a 20 carry workhorse.
all fairness, this is not Brown’s fault. He didn’t create the situation. The
Dolphins and France had been
waiting for #1 overall pick Alex Smith to reach an agreement with the 49ers.
Given that Brown was drafted immediately after Smith, Smith’s contract helps to
set the parameters for Brown in terms of salary, bonus, and term.
contract, which was concluded just last week, was immediately scrutinized by
both parties. What’s clear early on is that the size of Smith’s signing bonus
($24 million) disappointed the Dolphins, who were hoping to see a smaller
number. As such, the Dolphins are now in the undesirable position of having to
pony up a record signing bonus to secure Brown’s services.
that the Dolphins can’t financially afford to pay Brown (the owner is rumored
to have deep pockets), but the larger than expected bonus will have a more
profound effect on salary cap considerations.
there will be even more pressure on the team to secure a longer term agreement
so as to dilute the year-over-year impact of the bonus as much as possible.
the Dolphins would probably like to protect themselves from the downside in the
event that Brown goes bust or is seriously injured. A large signing bonus, all
of it guaranteed money, could cripple the salary cap for years to come if it
turns out that Brown can’t play.
in mind that agents generally do not like to do long term deals on rookie
contracts as it sometimes hurts their client’s ability to leverage free agency earlier
in their careers.
of this will take time for the Dolphins and France to haggle
over, of course, time the Dolphins and Brown really can’t afford. Remember,
too, that this is unchartered territory for the Dolphins in the salary cap era
as they’ve never had to pay a rookie astronomical dollars before.
by all accounts Brown is very intelligent and will work hard to get himself
ready as soon as circumstances permit. Worst case, Brown could come into camp
the week before the first game and still make some sort of part time
a part time contribution is not what the Dolphins had in mind when they drafted
him. Having their prized rookie swimming in playbook terminology, thinking
instead of reacting, is not exactly how they want to go into the season.
coordinator Scott Linehan has already worked up a number of offensive plays
that will take advantage of Brown’s versatility, in sets where he is paired up
with Williams as well as sets where he will line up as a singleback in a three
and Minor would limit what Linehan can call out of these sets and would place
added pressure on the offensive line and on the quarterback to make plays.
the Dolphins wish to have any hope whatsoever of making the playoffs, it is
terribly important that they start the season reasonably well. Given that two
of their first four opponents were 2004 playoff teams (Broncos and Jets) and
the other two are considered to be much improved (Panthers and Bills), this will not be an easy task. It will require every good
player they have to pull it off.