by Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist
Barring 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.
And 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.
This 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 from now.
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 chances.
Given 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.
Until 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.
Gordon 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
Smith’s 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.
Not 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.
First, 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.
Second, 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.
Keep 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
Now 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 contribution.
However, 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.
Offensive 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 WR formation.
Gordon 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.
If 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.
Including Ronnie Brown.