Why Dolphins have a quality GM opening

January, 8, 2014
Jan 8
1:30
PM ET
The Miami Dolphins agreed to part ways with former general manager Jeff Ireland on Tuesday. It was a move that some believed was long overdue after Miami completed its fifth consecutive non-winning season.

However, the seat Ireland vacates is a good one. Here are several reasons Miami has a quality opening at general manager:

1. Plenty of cap space

[+] EnlargeRyan Tannehill
AP Photo/Wilfredo LeeIn Ryan Tannehill, the Dolphins' new general manager already has a starting quarterback in place.
Analysis: The Dolphins have 20 unrestricted and restricted free agents on their roster, many with starting experience. That means the new general manager has plenty of decisions to make. But that also means there's plenty of salary-cap space available to make decisions. Oftentimes, new general managers enter a situation where they have to purge overpaid rosters of losing teams, which usually takes a year. But that’s not the case in Miami. The new boss will have the ability to shape a good portion of the roster to his liking right away in Year 1.

2. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill

Analysis: The toughest job for a lot of new general managers is finding the right quarterback. Miami already has a young, talented quarterback in Tannehill, who will get a least another year or two to prove his worth. Tannehill showed potential under tough circumstances the past two seasons. In 2013, he had an inconsistent running game and an awful offensive line that set a franchise record for sacks allowed with 58. Still, Tannehill put up career highs in yards (3,717), touchdowns (24) and passer rating (81.7). It remains to be seen if Tannehill is Miami’s quarterback for the next seven to 10 years. He will not have the full trust of the new boss. But he’s definitely showed enough promise to prevent the new general manager from drafting a first-round quarterback in Year 1. That’s one less issue to worry about.

3. In-house talent

Analysis: The cupboard is not bare in Miami. The Dolphins have talent on their roster. Some would argue Miami had enough quality players to be a playoff team this past season and underachieved with an 8-8 finish. The Dolphins had four Pro Bowl players: center Mike Pouncey, defensive end Cameron Wake, cornerback Brent Grimes and punter Brandon Fields. Ireland also spent more than $200 million of owner Stephen Ross’ money last year in free agency before being kicked out the door. That included re-signing players such as Mike Wallace, Dannell Ellerbe and Brian Hartline to long-term contracts.

4. Weak division

Analysis: Let’s be honest: The AFC East is a bad division. It’s pretty much the New England Patriots versus everyone else. The Dolphins, New York Jets (8-8) and Buffalo Bills (6-10) are all trying to find their way. That means it won’t take much for Miami to position itself as the No. 2 team and compete in the AFC East next season with a few right moves. Catching the Patriots will continue to be difficult as long as quarterback Tom Brady is together with coach Bill Belichick. But Brady is entering the twilight of his career and will not be there forever. Miami’s new general manager has to view the AFC East as wide open in a few years.

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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