Category Archives: Miami Dolphins

Tackling the Browns chances of trading down

The key to figuring out the Browns best option in a trade-down scenario in the first round of the NFL Draft Thursday night is probably a position that isn’t in the Browns plans at all.

This draft has three marquee offensive tackles in Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher, Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel and Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson. There’s also an available veteran left tackle in Branden Albert, who’s been franchised by the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs have the draft’s first overall pick and could use it on a left tackle, making Albert expendable.

The Chiefs gave Albert’s representation permission last week to work out a trade. From what we assume we know about this draft, the Browns best hope of moving down from their spot at No. 6 and picking up a second-round pick (at least that much) in the process probably depends on a team — like the Chargers at No. 11 or the Dolphins at No. 12 — coming up to take a tackle.

The Cardinals, at No. 7, know the Browns aren’t taking a tackle and wouldn’t have to trade up if one of three top tackles in the draft is still there. Though there are two prized guards in this draft, too, teams are much, much more likely to trade up for a tackle than they are for a guard.

It’s been reported that the Chiefs asking price for Albert is a second-round pick. What suitors must decide is if they’re willing to pay that plus the kind of hefty contract Albert is seeking as an established player at a money position.

We don’t have anything besides guesses as to what the Browns are thinking heading into the draft and seeking once it starts, but it’s clear that they’ll more likely have trade options if one of the top tackles is still on the board. If they’re all gone, the Browns will be in position to take a top defensive player — if there’s more than one they truly love. Again, we don’t know. The Eagles and Lions, at Nos. 4 and 5, respectively, could be interested in offensive line help, a pass-rusher or a cornerback.

If all three of the top tackles — Fisher, Joeckel and Johnson, in some order — go in the first five picks, the Dolphins or Cardinals (or some other team) might be more inclined to give up a second-rounder for Albert; it wouldn’t be the first time necessity drives a draft-night trade or drives the price for such a trade up or down. In that all-the-tackles-are-gone scenario, the only way the Browns are trading out of No. 6 is if some team wants to come up to get Tavon Austin, Geno Smith or a pass-rusher — unless the Browns go into Mangini Mode and trade way, way down the board.

That’s possible, too, and it’s also not a terrible idea in a draft that’s deeper than it is top heavy.

The Browns, right now, are neither. Which is why, at least for the sake of options and maximum value, they’re rooting for at least one of those three offensive tackles to slip past the Lions at No. 5.

Notes: Super feats, big games and ticket issues

Some assorted, random and leftover football notes…

*A.J. Green, AFC Offensive Player of the Month.

Probably won’t be the last time that happens.

The Marvin Lewis quote on the award: “We’ve known from that start that we are coaching a player with truly superior ability. A.J. was the most impressive rookie I’ve ever been around, and his desire to continue getting better and be a team player is just as impressive. We congratulate him on this honor.”

*The 3-1 Bengals are in position for a big run. By NFL standards, their three straight wins already qualify as big. But the next two are the Dolphins and at the Browns, and two wins there would put the Bengals at 5-1 with the Steelers coming to town for a Sunday nighter.

Looking ahead in the NFL is often a prelude to derailment, but the Bengals needed to stack all the early wins it could and a healthy Bengals team is simply better than the Dolphins and Browns and equipped to beat the Steelers at home.

*Let’s look ahead to next weekend: Joe Haden returns. A.J. Green and the Bengals visit. Both teams figure to need the game DESPERATELY. Sounds fun.

*Let’s look ahead to the week after that game: NFL owners meetings. The vote on Jimmy Haslam’s purchase of the Browns. Perhaps you’ve been counting down?

*Anybody seen Kent State’s Dri Archer? I’m sure he’s not the fastest man in college football. I’m also sure he’s close.

*Miami-Ohio QB Zac Dysert the became 1st Div. I-FBS player to surpass 500 yards passing and 100 yards rushing in the same game with 515 and 108, respectively, in what must have been a totally boring 56-48 win over Akron last weekend.

Dysert, a native of tiny Ada, Ohio, either already has or is in the process of setting a bunch of Miami and MAC records. He’s a legit NFL prospect, too. Former Browns general manager Phil Savage, now CEO of the Senior Bowl, was on campus last week to evaluate Dysert.

*There’s one sold-out, Miami-Cincinnati football game in Cincinnati this weekend. It’s the one between the Redhawks and the Bearcats Saturday night

The NFL has granted the Bengals an extension to sell Sunday’s game out and avoid a local TV blackout. Clearly, they’re not all the way there yet with their fan base. A few weeks ago, they packaged some leftover Steelers tickets with Miami tickets in hopes of selling this one out. It’s a common practice leaguewide, and it’s not a bad idea.

*Because both the Browns and Bengals play at 1 this Sunday, Columbus TV had to make a choice.

Bengals-Dolphins was the choice. At 3-1 vs. 0-4, it probably wasn’t much of a decision.

Note to Jimmy Haslam: Win Columbus.

Someone who plays in the same galaxy as Ariel Jeremiah Green will help that. Trent Richardson, maybe?

*Joshua Cribbs is tough. Like, really tough. Concussions are serious business, and he should pass every league-required test — twice — before he’s allowed to return to the field.

But the guy has been with the Browns since 2005. He’s been through a few things. It’s going to take a little more than one hit by one Ravens linebacker to keep him out.

*This article makes it nice to know at least some people in sports are thinking beyond next week, and looking out for somebody besides themselves.

*My story from early in the week about Ohio’s three unbeaten major-college football teams and a few thoughts on how long each can stay unbeaten.

*We’re all at least of kind of rooting for Penn State at this point, aren’t we? And not just Ohio Bobcats fans.

*Fantasy dork note: A week after I won a fantasy football game by nine-tenths of a point thanks to Seattle kicker Steven Hauschka’s extra-point kick following one of the worst calls in NFL history, I won a game in that same league by .4.

Appreciate them all, fellow dorks.

NFL receiving leaders meet Sunday in Cincinnati

It only makes sense that the NFL’s leader in receiving yards is…

Drum roll please…

Brian Hartline.

Brian Hartline?!?

The Canton native and Ohio State alum plays for a Miami Dolphins offense that isn’t exactly regarded as explosive, but Hartline caught 12 passes for 253 yards and a touchdown in a heatbreaking Dolphins giveaway Sunday, a 24-21 overtime loss at Arizona.

Those 253 yards give Hartline 455 for the season, 27 more than A.J Green of the Bengals has at this point.

It helped that the Cardinals basically didn’t cover Hartline on his 80-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter, but he’s obviously developed chemistry with rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Hartline caught nine passes for 111 yards in a Week Two in over Oakland.

A fourth-year pro, Hartline is already closing in on his personal best of 43 catches for 615 yards in 2010.

Hartline and Green will see one another up close this week as the Dolphins visit Cincinnati. Given the state of the Bengals banged-up secondary, Hartline will have a chance to produce again. He has more favorable matchups over the next five weeks, too, as the Dolphins play the Rams, the Darrelle Revis-less Jets and the Colts.

Schedule should help Bengals ticket sales

The Bengals are putting out press releases about ticket sales.

And they’re not giving away anything or begging anybody to buy them.

Wednesday morning, the Bengals announced that single-game seats for an October Sunday night game vs. the Steelers and an early December game vs. the Cowboys have sold out. Tickets are still available for those games, but only through season ticket packages and select multi-game packs the team is offering.

Multi-game packs are the wave of the future — and the recent past. And not just in the NFL, either. Lots of NBA teams entice fans who want to see Kobe or LeBron by making them pay to see the Wizards and Kings, too. Ditto with the Yankees and other baseball teams.

The Bengals’ struggles to sell tickets last year made news. And the fans not buying tickets was understandable — at least until a very unproven bunch put itself into a late-season playoff race.

Last year at this time, expectations were low. Fans were angry with Mike Brown. A lot of them seemed to side with Carson Palmer — and even the ones who weren’t on Palmer’s side weren’t buying tickets. The team stunk in 2010, and the first two home games last year were against San Francisco and Buffalo.

Paul Brown Stadium was about half full for both games. That was before anybody knew the 49ers were any good. The next home game was vs. the Colts, who were well on their way to becoming the worst team in the league.

The Bengals not only have Andy Dalton, A.J. Green and a nice core of players to sell now, they have a much better schedule. The Week Two home opener vs. the Browns should attract fans of both teams; the worst each can be is 0-1, and the weather should be good.

Without getting into exact details, the Steelers game almost always sells out. That’s Oct. 21, two weeks after the Dolphins visit. With good weather and a few wins, the Bengals should be able to draw people to that one, too. There will be lots who come to boo Chad Ochocinco.

Having the Giants, Cowboys and Broncos on this year’s schedule — including the Manning Brothers in back-to-back weeks — should make it much easier to sell tickets. So, too, should the fact that these Bengals have high expectations. They might not sell out every game, but they should easily sell out more than half and six sell outs is a reasonable expectation if the team is in contention.

Even in the preseason, which is a terrible product traditionally played in half-full stadium, brings intrigue. The opener is vs. the Jets, and that means Tim Tebow and crazy people. The Packers, who always travel well, visit in the third week of the preseason.

Bengals ticket sales will remain a story to watch, but the forecast is tremendously better than it was a year ago.

Vikings open bidding, add drama to draft

The 2012 NFL Draft more or less starts with the Minnesota Vikings.

The Vikings have officially started trying to sell their pick.

On Thursday, Vikings general manager Rick Spielman announced that his team has narrowed its pool of potential picks at No. 3 overall to Southern California left tackle Matt Kalil, LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne and Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon.

Spielman’s not doing that as a favor to his fans, those players or as any kind of contract negotiating ploy. He’s telling the other 31 teams in this draft — six or eight them, in particular — that the Vikings are open to discussion about trading that pick.

This is especially relevant to the Browns, who sit right behind the Vikings at No. 4. We heard from Browns GM Tom Heckert on Thursday that his team knows who it’s going to pick if it stays at No. 4.

The Browns’ window for high-level negotiation in the top third of the draft probably passed six weeks ago when they were outbid by the Redskins in trying to trade up to No. 2 and having the chance to draft Robert Griffin III. That was a closed auction, with the Rams vowing not to drive up bids of competing teams.

What the Vikings are trying to do is conduct an open auction, bringing back as much as possible for that third pick. Such is business in the NFL and atop the draft.

When Heckert talked Thursday, he shared details and philosophies. He said the Browns will always be open to discussion and to adding picks if they can still get a player they covet. He didn’t give away any trade secrets, but he shared solid information.

In general, we should probably hear more of Heckert talking personnel and less of the team president talking about not asking him playoff tickets, but that’s for another day.

For more — and more direct praise of Heckert — check Pat McManamon’s article from Friday afternoon.

The first two picks of this draft are all but set in stone. That the Browns, picking fourth, would have their choice narrowed to two players going into it isn’t as much a victory for fortune tellers as it is for simple mathematics. The only way the Browns don’t get their Plan A Player is if he goes at No. 3 overall.

The Vikings are dangling that No. 3 pick. They want the Browns to call about it. They want the Bucs and the Dolphins to call about it, too.

If we’re sure the Browns’ Plan A Player is Trent Richardson, some nervous moments are ahead.

(For what it’s worth: I’m rarely right, but I’m pretty sure Richardson is the Browns’ Plan A Player).

The Bucs, at No. 5, could covet Richardson as well and have enough veterans in place to be able to afford to give up draft assets to get up to No. 3. The wildcard in the entire draft remains Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill. We think we know the Bucs don’t want Blackmon, and it would be a huge surprise if the Vikings really wanted Blackmon over a tackle or cornerback, but the Vikings have to play up whatever element of surprise, uncertainty and anxiousness are out there.

The draft is next Thursday. For its first uncertain pick, the bidding is open.

Dear Browns: Go get Flynn

It’s not simple, it won’t be cheap and it’s certainly risky. It pretty much has to be done.

At this point, the Browns have to sign Matt Flynn.

Right?

Consistently losing isn’t simple or much fun, either. As usual, the case with the Browns and exactly how they’re going to go about upgrading and improving is a complicated one, and the NFL’s new league year opened at 4 p.m. Tuesday with nary a peep from the Browns except some restricted free agent tenders and extensions for infamous tight end/surprise ball carrier Alex Smith and backup offensive lineman John Greco. You almost can’t make this stuff up.

Later Tuesday, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported the Browns have had discussions with Flynn, who’s now a free agent after serving as Aaron Rodgers’ backup. The circumstances that took Robert Griffin III out of the Browns’ plans also narrowed Flynn’s options, and to some extent he’s waiting on Peyton Manning’s grand decision as well. But Flynn knows he finally has a chance to be a starter, and as a former seventh-round pick he’s going to be look to cash in not only like he never has, but probably like he never dreamed.

From a little Twitter dabbling on Tuesday, I see that mentioning Flynn and my thought that the Browns need to get him was a little like the previous discussion on Griffin. Some fans say the Browns absolutely need to pay whatever is asked and get him. Some say absolutely no, the Browns should stay away?

To that camp, I have to wonder out loud: What do you want the Browns to do? Isn’t the goal to improve and to win? When, exactly, do you want your favorite team to get around to this whole winning thing?

You can argue that Flynn is unproven and that any quarterback who’s going to play in an orange helmet still needs a significant upgrade in the talent surrounding him, and both of those thoughts are right to some extent — maybe to a great extent. You can also argue that Flynn is not a big, big-armed quarterback, but it appears the Browns are going to run the West Coast Offense and value accuracy and command of that offense over those physical attributes.

Considering the goal is to play meaningful games in December and January in Cleveland’s less than pleasant winter climate, you can argue that. You can not argue that the Browns finally sticking with a plan and looking to upgrade within that plan is a sign of at least some sort of progress.

You also can not argue that Colt McCoy is better than Matt Flynn. I don’t care if he was playing the Washington Generals and starting corner Hank Poteat was hurt, Flynn threw six touchdown passes in a game last season. That’s more than a month for many a recent Browns quarterback, not just the latest one.

More importantly, you can not argue that the Browns having some sort of answer at quarterback puts them in position to maximize their assets in the draft. It absolutely, positively, unequivocally does.

Building through the draft is a good idea, and an important one. But the idea is not to have another top-five pick for a long time, and only a unique set of circumstances can give you three of the first 37 picks in a draft like the Browns have this year. Get a quarterback now, get three really good players atop this draft who can become a part of this core you’re building and selling.

Repeat: Draft three league-ready, impact-making players at other positions of need (there are many) and upgrade your roster now. Under that scenario, the Rams may even panic over Justin Blackmon and give you two more draft picks to get up two spots in the first round, from No. 6 to No. 4. Even if that doesn’t happen, the Browns can sign Flynn now and then shape a specific plan for how to proceed and find a pass rusher, secondary depth, a right tackle and some skill guys. Being the only team to start the League Year with no sure answer at quarterback, running back or wide receiver is a tough spot.

If other teams want to grossly overpay for veteran receivers like they did Tuesday, let them. The Browns didn’t need my advice on that. But when it comes to the GAME’S MOST IMPORTANT POSITION, the one they’ve been trying to fill and fix and patch for the whole decade that they haven’t been making the postseason, they need to get that handled.

Trading up from No. 22 for Ryan Tannehill isn’t the answer. TJ Maxx in Strongsville will be selling his jerseys for 5 bucks four years from now and the Browns will be drafting No. 4 again. I’m not trying to write Flynn’s Hall of Fame induction speech or promise he’ll be great, but I do promise handing him the keys will instill a certain confidence in the current players and accelerate the timeline of the Browns getting back to competitiveness, relevance and big games.

Wouldn’t that be refreshing?

Get a quarterback, let everybody in your locker room know he’s the guy and go get some speed and talent to help that locker room. That’s the way to maximize the 2011 offseason, a(nother) important offseason for a team with a ton of chasing still to do. If you have a quarterback in place, you can be aggressive in the draft chasing running backs and wide receivers and those other need positions, too.

The way to do it is to sign Matt Flynn. If the Browns want to win whatever bidding is or will be going for Flynn, they can. And they should.

Redskins not high on Manning’s list?

The rumors and reports will come fast the next week as Peyton Manning decides on a new team.

Some of the first are not great for the Browns — because it sounds more and more like Manning will not join the Washington Redskins.

Then again, Daniel Snyder has not opened his wallet yet. And we all know what walks when money talks.

That being said, Manning is said to be more then reluctant to join a division that includes his brother. Eli is a fixture in New York, and that competition might be too close. It also might discourage him from joining the Jets. New York is big, but big enough for two Mannings is up for debate.

Too, Manning would prefer to stay in the AFC. At last check, Washington is in the NFC.

Finally, Manning would like a warm weather team or a team with a dome. Washington has neither.

All these factors seem to point to Miami, with a second tier of choices that includes Kansas City (brr)  or (if he can accept the NFC) Arizona or Seattle. Miami is a factor especially if Reggie Wayne also joins the Dolphins to form a triumvirate of Manning, Wayne and Brandon Marshall.

If Washington does not get Manning, they are back in the Robert Griffin III sweepstakes, which means the Rams would have the Redskins and (if they choose) the Browns competing for a trade to move up.

That means the Browns are back to having to give up both their first-round picks this year if they want to move up.

The happiest team in the league if Manning does indeed say ‘thanks but no thanks’ to the Redskins clearly will be the Rams.