AFC East: Alex Smith

Less is more for Ryan Tannehill

October, 3, 2014
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The Miami Dolphins are still trying to figure out third-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill, despite the fact he has 36 starts under his belt.

Tannehill is 17-19 as a starter, which isn’t great but not awful, either. He has split four games this year, and there already was speculation that Tannehill could be pulled entering Week 4, But he responded with his best game of the season (278 yards, two touchdowns) in a blowout win over the Oakland Raiders to quiet those rumblings.

Tannehill
Miami's starting quarterback has done enough to keep his job the past three seasons but not enough to convince the Dolphins he is a franchise quarterback and the team’s long-term solution.

There are several strengths and weaknesses in Tannehill’s game. But the one statistic that has stood out is Tannehill’s win-loss record based on pass attempts.

Tannehill is 1-8 (11.1 winning percentage) in games in which he has 40 or more pass attempts. 16-11 with fewer than 40 attempts.

This is a telling statistic that proves less is more for Tannehill. It has rarely worked the past three seasons when the Dolphins put the game on Tannehill’s shoulders -- hence the 1-8 record. But when Tannehill is asked to manage the game and reduce the amount of risk involved, the Dolphins win nearly 60 percent of the time.

I’ve said during the preseason that Tannehill’s ceiling is closer to Alex Smith than it is an elite quarterback such as Aaron Rodgers. Tannehill has good athleticism and a solid arm, but there are too many holes in his game to expect him to become one of the dominant players in the league. But if Tannehill is coached properly, surrounded with quality talent and manages the game, you can win with his tools.

Last week’s blowout victory against Oakland was a perfect example. Tannehill threw the football just 31 times. He completed 23 and had a lot of confidence-building throws in the first half. Miami’s running game also added 157 yards and the defense forced four turnovers. The Dolphins didn't put too much on Tannehill's shoulders to go win the game.

Statistics show this is the best way to manage Tannehill going forward. But Tannehill does not significantly improve, is this level of quarterback play enough for Miami to commit long term?


One of the reasons the Kansas City Chiefs haven’t won a playoff game in 20 years is their failure to commit to the right quarterback for the long term.

If they don’t win one in the next five years, at least a lack of commitment to a quarterback won’t be the problem.

Smith
The Chiefs made a bold move with Alex Smith, agreeing with him on a four-year contract that various media reports put at about $68 million. From the Chiefs’ standpoint, this is a step they had to take.

While Smith isn’t one of the NFL’s great quarterbacks, he’s good enough to win with, even in the playoffs. He was good enough to throw for 378 yards and four touchdowns and guide his team to 44 points in last year’s playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts, and it’s hardly his fault it wasn’t enough for the Chiefs to win.

Failing to lock up Smith for the long term would have left the Chiefs where they’ve been many times before, floundering around and looking for a quarterback. There’s nobody they could reasonably acquire who’s in Smith’s category. The Chiefs have a couple of developmental quarterbacks in Tyler Bray and rookie Aaron Murray, but at this point both represent wishful thinking when it comes to becoming as productive an NFL quarterback as Smith is.

The price tag of $17 million annually is steep, no doubt. But that’s the price of a high-quality starting quarterback these days. Anything less for a veteran quarterback and you’re looking at someone in the Matt Cassel category.

The Chiefs have been down that path too many times. This was their moment to seize and they took it. It’s their job now to make Smith into a playoff-winning quarterback and they happen to have a head coach in Andy Reid who has a history of making quarterbacks better than they otherwise might be without him.

The Chiefs can now move on to the important business of building around Smith. Pro Bowl linebacker Justin Houston is in the final season of his contract. His holdout from offseason practice failed to produce an extension.

The Chiefs can now get to that. Failing an agreement with Houston, the Chiefs are free to secure him by making him their franchise player, a move they won’t have to make with their quarterback.

Big-money, long-term contracts always carry some risk. So it is with Smith and his new deal.

But the bigger risk in this case would have been to set him free after this season. That would have increased the likelihood of another 20 years without a playoff win for the Chiefs.

Will Geno Smith fall to Bills or Jets?

February, 27, 2013
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The San Francisco 49ers dropped a huge domino Wednesday when they agreed to trade quarterback Alex Smith to the Kansas City Chiefs for a second-round pick and future pick in 2014. This takes the Chiefs, who hold the No. 1 overall pick, out of the quarterback market for April's NFL draft.

Kansas City was one of the teams often linked to West Virginia's Geno Smith. Now that is no longer the case, it opens the door for the top-rated quarterback prospect to fall down the draft board.

Could Smith fall to the Buffalo Bills at No. 8 or New York Jets at No. 9? Both AFC East teams are desperate for quarterbacks and would be intrigued with a chance to draft the West Virginia product.

No team in the top five has a strong need for a quarterback. The Chiefs, Jaguars, Raiders, Eagles and Lions all have starting options.

Once the draft gets to the sixth pick, that's when things get tricky. The Cleveland Browns could be in the market for a quarterback. Yes, Cleveland drafted Brandon Weeden in the first round last year. But Weeden, who turns 30 in October, had an uneven rookie season and was the pick of a previous regime. The Browns are under new leadership and may want to choose their own franchise quarterback.

The Arizona Cardinals are desperate for someone who can throw the football. Kevin Kolb was a often-injured disaster and the Cardinals need anyone who can get receiver Larry Fitzgerald the football.

If Smith makes it past Cleveland and Arizona, he could land in the AFC East. The Bills, at No. 8, need a long-term solution to replace the inconsistent Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Jets hold the No. 9 pick and will add competition to embattled quarterback Mark Sanchez.

I'm not convinced any quarterback in this year's draft is worthy of a top-10 pick. But if Smith falls to the bottom of the top 10, the Bills and Jets should at least consider the possibility.

Is Rex Ryan destined to fail?

February, 22, 2013
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Rex RyanAP Photo/Bill WippertThe Jets are 14-18 the past two seasons under coach Rex Ryan.
Rex Ryan addressed the media at the NFL combine Thursday as only a shell of the brash, supremely confident coach he once was.

Just two years ago, Ryan stepped to the podium and guaranteed the combine media in Indianapolis that the New York Jets would win the Super Bowl.

This year's prediction for the Jets?

"I did figure this out: I’m not in the prediction world," Ryan said sheepishly. "I’m usually not real good on my predictions."

This is a different version of Ryan. He has been humbled, beaten down and worn out the past two years in New York. Ryan has had to deal with Tebowmania, Mike Tannenbaum’s awful decision-making, Mark Sanchez’s regression, constant infighting and in-house controversies. The Jets went 14-18 the past two seasons under Ryan, but it felt more like 0-32 under the bright lights of New York.

Just barely, Ryan has survived. But long gone is the coach who thought he would win multiple Super Bowls with Gang Green. Ryan is merely a coach trying to survive the circus he helped create the past four seasons. He has only 2013 to make everything right for a Jets team with a lot of holes and a lot of issues.

In many ways, Ryan appears destined to fail. The Jets are tearing down their roster in what amounts to a must-win year for Ryan. New York lacks a franchise quarterback, has limited players on offense and possesses a tight salary cap. In addition, Ryan works for a new general manager, John Idzik, who won't hesitate to hire his head coach if things go poorly.

This upcoming season is make or break for Ryan, but it doesn’t appear he's ready to go out quietly.

"We’re stepping up to plate with a bat in our hand, and we’re not going to let any strikes go by without swinging," Ryan said. "We are going to take our cuts. We may take a cut at a ball in the ground as well, but we are definitely going to take our cuts. When we talk about being aggressive, I don’t know if we really know what that looks like."

There still are a few moments, like this, when Ryan shows some of his old spunk. But much of that swagger is lost, and it mostly comes off as hot air following back-to-back nonwinning seasons.

The Jets were an awful, 6-10 team last season. It’s going to take at least two or three years to rebuild New York into a contender again.

Unfortunately for Ryan, he doesn't have another two or three years. Here are the many issues Ryan must overcome to save his job in 2013:
  • Fix quarterback quandary: Sanchez is not the long-term solution in New York. The problem is the Jets were the last to realize it. New York inexplicably gave Sanchez a $58.25 million contract extension last March and is stuck with Sanchez's $8.25 million guaranteed salary this season. The Jets want competition at quarterback but have limited options. New York does not have the cap room to trade for Alex Smith of the San Francisco 49ers. But a trade for Seattle Seahawks backup quarterback Matt Flynn is more realistic. Flynn is familiar with the West Coast offense, which the Jets are implementing under new offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. Drafting a quarterback is another option for the Jets, although there are a lot of questions about this year's class.
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  • Find resolution with Revis: The Jets have found a way to upset their best player. New York didn’t deny reports of putting Revis on the trade block last month, and now that Revis is angry, the team has gone into full spin mode. The Jets say they haven't had conversations with teams about Revis, but it's only February. That doesn’t mean there won’t be trade discussions closer to the draft or before the season. Revis will be an unrestricted free agent in 2014 and should become one of the NFL’s highest-paid defensive players. The Jets probably can't afford Revis' price tag and would be smart to test the market to see what they can get in return. But trading Revis helps the Jets in the long run and hurts Ryan's chances to succeed next season.
  • Further manage the cap: The Jets had to cut five veterans this week, including starting linebackers Bart Scott and Calvin Pace, to get under the salary cap. New York slashed about $30 million in salary. But with free agency and an incoming draft class, New York still has more cuts on the way. Idzik was hired, in part, because of his ability to manage the cap. But making wholesale changes makes it increasingly tough to field a competitive team. Again, it’s best for the Jets in the long run but doesn’t help Ryan this year.

Still, Idzik sounds confident that he can field a competitive team in New York next season.

"We're going to be attacking. We're going to be aggressive. We're going to be physical. We're going to play smart," Idzik said this week.

Unless Idzik can fix all of New York’s problems in one offseason, it's hard to see Ryan thriving next season and leading the Jets to the playoffs. Three consecutive seasons without a winning record and missing the playoffs doesn’t bode well for Ryan’s future.

Ryan started fast in New York with back-to-back AFC title games in the 2009 and 2010 seasons. But at this point, his tenure with the Jets appears to be running on fumes.

QB market gets thinner for Bills, Jets

February, 11, 2013
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One veteran quarterback many expected to hit the open market this offseason did not, as the Philadelphia Eagles agreed to a restructured, one-year contract with Michael Vick on Monday. It's a move that causes a potential domino effect for quarterback-needy teams like the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets.

Vick and Alex Smith of the San Francisco 49ers were considered the top two veteran quarterbacks who could be available this offseason. However, one of those options is gone with Vick staying in Philadelphia. In addition, the trade value for Smith just went up a notch or two.

Are the Bills or Jets willing to give up valuable picks in a trade for Smith? The Jets also could be interested in a trade with the Seattle Seahawks for backup quarterback Matt Flynn. Neither quarterback will come cheap.

If the trade market isn't an option for Buffalo and New York, quarterbacks like Matt Moore and Jason Campbell are free agents who are more affordable. However, none of these players are long-term solutions. The rookie quarterback class also has plenty of question marks.

Finding a new quarterback to supplant New York's Mark Sanchez and Buffalo's Ryan Fitzpatrick will not be easy. It will take some cunning moves on the part of the Jets and Bills this offseason, especially following Monday's news in Philadelphia.
Here are the most interesting stories Wednesday in the AFC East:
  • ESPN’s Adam Schefter suggests the New York Jets should trade star cornerback Darrelle Revis to the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for a second-round pick and backup quarterback Alex Smith.
Morning take: The trade certainly fills a need for the Jets. Smith could immediately start at quarterback ahead of Mark Sanchez, and the Jets would get a nice draft pick. It seems like good value all around.
Morning take: It all comes down to Bush's price tag. The Dolphins appear comfortable going with Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas next season. Miami will offer a team-friendly contract but won't extend much further.
Morning take: Jones battled a bum ankle for much of the year and needs to focus on getting healthy. When the rookie was 100 percent, Jones brought a much-needed pass rush to New England's defense. I expect more of that from Jones in Year 2.
Morning take: Players don't like it, but it doesn't matter. This is a nice money grab for the Bills, even if Buffalo loses a home game for the next five seasons.

Hope and concern: Buffalo Bills

January, 4, 2013
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The Buffalo Bills wrapped up one of their most disappointing seasons in recent memory. Buffalo, which entered 2012 with playoff aspiration, finished 6-10. Head coach Chan Gailey was fired on Monday, as a result.

But it's time to look forward in Buffalo. Here are reasons to be hopeful and concerned about the Bills this offseason.

Reason to be hopeful: A new beginning

The Bills have a new stadium lease, a new president in Russ Brandon and will soon have a new head coach. The Bills appear to be getting stronger as an organization in 2013. The decision at head coach will be huge. But whoever the new coach is, he cannot be worse than Gailey was this year. If the new coach can improve an anemic defense and simply hand the ball to dynamic tailback C.J. Spiller enough, that would be an upgrade. The Bills have talent at various positions to succeed. They just need the right coach to maximize it.

Reason to be concerned: Uncertain quarterback

Who is Buffalo’s quarterback in 2012? Not even the Bills know. What we do know is Buffalo cannot win with Ryan Fitzpatrick. He is too inconsistent and is 23-40 as a starter. The Bills owe Fitzpatrick a total of $7.75 million in 2013, but none of it is guaranteed. Buffalo can cut Fitzpatrick before his $3 million roster bonus is due in March. But that leaves a huge void at the most important position. The Bills could explore the free-agent market for a quarterback like Alex Smith. Or Buffalo can look to the draft for a rookie. But this year's quarterback class is not nearly as strong as last year.

For more, check out our "Hope and Concern" series this week on the Dolphins and the Jets.

More thoughts on Patriots going 16-0

August, 15, 2012
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Last month we pointed out a thought-provoking story from our friend Pete Prisco of CBS Sports. Prisco had the guts to predict the results of all 16 games for each NFL team and came to the conclusion that the New England Patriots will finish the regular season undefeated.

This week I ran into Prisco at Miami Dolphins practice and followed up on his bold prediction. Prisco then brought up a good point.

"Point out a game they're expected to lose,” Prisco told me.

It was a valid response, because as I went down the schedule in my head, New England was the favorite in just about every game.

But here are a few potential pitfalls:

Sept. 23 at Baltimore Ravens

Thoughts: This is a rematch from last season's classic AFC title game. Yes, the Ravens won’t have reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs, who is out with an Achilles injury. But I can tell you from experience that Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium is one of the NFL’s toughest venues for road teams. The Patriots will need their “A” game to beat the Ravens in their home stadium. This may end up being the toughest game on New England’s schedule.

Chances of losing: 60 percent

Sept. 30 at Buffalo Bills

Thoughts: The Bills finally got over the hump last year by beating the Patriots at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Buffalo was the only AFC East team to beat New England and certainly won’t be intimidated. It also hurts that this game is coming just one week after a physical, high-profile showdown with Baltimore.

Chances of losing: 40 percent

Oct. 7 vs. Denver Broncos

Thoughts: The Patriots obviously will be the favorites at Gillette Stadium. But the opponent always is a threat when Peyton Manning is the quarterback. Manning and Tom Brady have had some classic battles in the past with a lot on the line. This will be another big game of two AFC contenders.

Chances of losing: 30 percent

Nov. 22 at New York Jets

Thoughts: Say what you want about the Jets, but they have given the Patriots a tough time since hiring head coach Rex Ryan. Up until last year’s sweep, New York was a thorn in the Patriots’ side. These two teams have developed a nice rivalry the past few years. So any time the Jets host the Patriots, you know New York is going to be up for this game. Still, the Jets most likely don’t have enough firepower to keep up with New England this season.

Chances of losing: 30 percent

Dec. 10 vs. Houston Texans

Thoughts: I really like this Houston team. I think the Texans are one of New England’s biggest competitors in the AFC, along with the Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers. Houston has the offense to keep up with the Patriots and a better defense. Even at home, this won’t be an easy game.

Chances of losing: 40 percent

Dec. 16 vs. San Francisco 49ers

Thoughts: The 49ers are another team that is a contender. They have a tough defense, solid running game and an improving group of receivers after adding Randy Moss and Mario Manningham in free agency. However, the 49ers are on the road and I still don't have a lot of confidence in Alex Smith. I have a hard time seeing Smith outdueling Brady at Gillette Stadium.

Chances of losing: 30 percent

Barring significant injuries, the Patriots will probably be favored in all but one game this year, the one at Baltimore. But I still don’t see the Patriots going undefeated. That’s a very hard thing to do and requires focus, consistency and a little luck for 16 consecutive weeks. I think the Patriots will slip up and lose at least two or three games this regular season.

Walker's weekend mailbag

May, 12, 2012
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Let's see what's in the weekend mailbag.

Akhilesh from Massachusetts writes: Why do you think the Patriots drafted Tavon Wilson, a low-ranked safety, in the second round? Is it just that Bill Belichick knows something others don't or was it poor drafting?

James Walker: Wilson was a player Belichick really liked -- apparently more than anyone else. Drafting Wilson that high is certainly a risk. The Patriots might have been able to wait another round or two. This puts some pressure on Wilson to perform. If he turns out to be a solid starter, no one will care where he was drafted.


Jorge Garcia from Mexico City writes: Which Patriots veteran do you see being released when all the final roster cuts are in?

Walker: You have to look at the deep group at receivers. There's no way the Patriots will keep all 11. I think players like Chad Ochocinco, Anthony Gonzalez, Donte' Stallworth and Julian Edelman will all have to fight hard for roster spots.


Jim from Toms River, N.J., writes: What's the possibility Donald Driver lands in Miami and what would that mean for the Dolphins?

Walker: If Driver is cut by the Green Bay Packers, which looks like a possibility, Miami will be high on his radar. For one, a starting job is waiting for Driver in Miami, and that won't be the case in most places. Second, former Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin is now the head coach in Miami. There's a comfort level there. But none of this is possible unless Driver is released.


Shaggy Lewis from Shreveport, La., writes: What are the chances Terrell Owens signs with Miami?

Walker: Zero. Miami is rebuilding and does not want players with character questions in its locker room. Owens would not be a good fit.


Ben from Buffalo writes: It seems to me that the No. 2 receiver spot on the Bills is completely up for grabs. Given the lack of production from the guys they put out there last season, do you think T.J. Graham is the front-runner?

Walker: It’s too early to pick a front-runner. But Graham would make it very easy on the Bills if he was ready right away. That was the hope when the Bills drafted Graham in the third round. But that could be asking a lot. David Nelson is better in the slot, and if Graham and Donald Jones can step in, Buffalo's passing offense could be solid.


John from Germany writes: If you were C.J. Spiller, would you be a little upset that you're not the starter? If you are, would you leave the Bills at the end of your rookie contract?

Walker: Spiller has a gripe. But the reality is that he's not a better running back than Fred Jackson at this stage of their careers. Spiller has three more seasons on his rookie contract. By then, Jackson most likely will be ready to step aside. So it's not a certainty that Spiller walks down the road.


Chris from MA writes: I feel like I am beating my head against the wall. But could it make any more sense for the Jets to bring in Vernon Carey?

Walker: I'm surprised Carey hasn't gotten more interest. He's probably going to be one of those veterans who signs after there is a camp injury. The Jets won't sign him because they are pretty tight on salary-cap space.


Ben from Baltimore writes: Do you think Mark Sanchez still has the potential, with the right weapons and players stepping up, to have a comeback year?

Walker: I didn't like what I saw from Sanchez last year. It was my first year in the AFC East, so that was the most I've watched him on a week-to-week basis. Sanchez is in his fourth season, and I don't think his ceiling is much higher than what we've seen. But that doesn't mean Sanchez isn’t capable of playing better, or being a better decision-maker, or lowering his fumble and interception totals. These are things the Jets hope he cleans up in 2012. I doubt Sanchez will ever become an elite quarterback, but if he can make those aforementioned improvements, the Jets can win with him.


AFC East Homer of the Week

This week's homer is a BIG Chad Henne supporter.

Enjoy.

Rick from Miami writes: James, I don't think you are dumb but please look at the facts before you write something stupid. Henne had played the equivalent of two seasons and has improved each season. He carried a team with no run game or pass defense in 2010 to seven wins and would had more if he had any run support of the defense. Look at the stats. Miami was top 16 in passing ypg with Henne and dropped to 23rd with Matt Moore. That shows Miami only won six games because of their D and run game. Stop bad-mouthing players before you read he facts. Henne is better than Alex Smith, Mark Sanchez and a whole bunch of current starters. Maybe you should read the facts instead of going with idiotic public opinion. Dan Marino thinks Henne can start in this league. Do you know more than Marino about QBs? I think not. Henne will take the Jacksonville Jaguars to the playoffs before Miami wins six games in a season.

Walker: I'm always shocked by the number of Chad Henne supporters still out there in Miami. Henne had four years with the Dolphins to show what he could do and finished with more career interceptions (37) than touchdowns (31). In fact, Henne has never had a season in which he threw more touchdowns than interceptions. Henne was robotic, a below-average decision-maker and didn't have natural leadership ability. Four years is enough time to see that. But there's still a section of people, like Rick, who defend Henne and think he should have been the long-term solution in Miami. But, Rick, it’s the last statement that makes you our AFC East Homer of the Week. Henne will not lead the Jaguars to the playoffs this year. He might not even be the starter, because the team is invested in Blaine Gabbert. Congrats on being our Homer of the Week.


Does anyone want to play quarterback for the Miami Dolphins next season? It sure doesn't look that way.

After failing to woo future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning, the Dolphins also missed on their second choice Sunday. Former Green Bay Packers backup quarterback Matt Flynn agreed to a modest three-year, $26 million contract with the Seattle Seahawks, ESPN's Adam Schefter reports.

This is another big blow to Dolphins ownership and the front office, which thought it could make a splash this offseason. Instead, the Dolphins have been turned down by veteran coach Jeff Fisher, Manning and now Flynn in a short span. Each decline adds further humiliation to the Dolphins, who were already viewed as a shaky organization at the top to begin with.

But the Dolphins losing out on Flynn may be the biggest surprise of the three, considering Flynn's deep ties with rookie Miami head coach Joe Philbin. The pair spent four years growing together in Green Bay, which made Miami the early favorite to get Flynn.

But something didn't go right this weekend when Flynn met with Miami's brass. Perhaps money was the issue. But were the Dolphins unwilling to give up $26 million for a starting quarterback? Or maybe things just didn't feel right for Flynn in Miami, and he thought Seattle was a better fit.

Regardless, the Dolphins have become one of the league's biggest offseason losers in the first week of free agency. They traded away their best receiver (Brandon Marshall) for pennies on the dollar and continue to whiff in their quarterback search.

The home run (Manning) or any potential extra-base hits (Robert Griffin III, Flynn) are out of the question for the Dolphins. Miami had its three strikes, and it's simply time to go back to the dugout and regroup.

The Dolphins may get desperate and sign Alex Smith or David Garrard. But that would only add to Miami's misery. Neither player is the long-term solution. A case can be made that Dolphins incumbent Matt Moore is better in the short term, especially if you consider the millions it would take to sign Smith, who helped lead the San Francisco 49ers to the NFC Championship Game.

Miami just needs to stick with Moore and draft a quarterback, perhaps Ryan Tannehill, at No. 8 overall. Free agency could be used to patch up holes at receiver, right guard and right tackle. The Dolphins have suffered enough embarrassment chasing quarterbacks.

But with Miami's front office, you just never know. Maybe we will see Smith in a Dolphins uniform in 2012, or an old-fashioned quarterback competition between Moore and Garrard in training camp.

Anything is possible.
I don't know if Matt Moore likes to eat chopped liver. But he must certainly feel like chopped liver.

It's one thing for the Miami Dolphins to go after future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning to replace Moore. That's understandable.

Moore might even identify with Miami chasing former Green Bay Packers backup quarterback Matt Flynn, who has a strong connection with new Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin.

But Alex Smith? The same quarterback who threw 53 interceptions compared to 51 touchdowns his first six seasons? That's enough to make Moore ask Miami's brass, "What's wrong with me?"

This isn't about debating who is better between Smith and Moore. This is more about the Dolphins showing so little faith in Moore that they're entertaining spending millions of salary-cap room on Smith to replace Moore next fall. Smith is in Miami today for a visit. It could also be a negotiating ploy against Flynn.

Like Smith, Moore had a career year in 2011. Moore went 6-3 as a starter for Miami in his last nine games and threw for 2,497 yards, 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He also had an 87.1 passer rating.


But Moore is not the long-term solution in Miami and neither is Smith. That's why it would be baffling to pay Smith starting quarterback money when both quarterbacks are probably in the same ballpark in terms of ability.

I think Flynn remains the favorite for Miami. He's an unknown commodity, but at least he provides hope and potential for the struggling Dolphins.

But if Miami goes in another direction, it would be silly to waste cap room on Smith. He's not significantly better than the quarterback you already have, and there are still prospects available next month in the NFL draft.

Miami's free-agent dollars would be better used adding some starting-caliber wide receivers or filling the right side of the offensive line.
The Miami Dolphins pulled one of the more interesting twists in free agency by hosting free-agent quarterback Alex Smith Sunday.

ESPN's Adam Schefter talks about the potential domino effect that would take place if Smith joined the Dolphins, and what it would mean for Miami, San Francisco and Peyton Manning.
"Introducing your 2012 starting quarterback of the Miami Dolphins ... Alex Smith!"

Really? The Dolphins can't be serious, can they?

In a new twist to Miami's quarterback search, Smith arrived in South Florida on Sunday morning to visit the Dolphins. The Sun-Sentinel has proof with this photo here. Smith also tells the paper that "I'm never surprised by anything" upon his arrival.

Well, Miami's interest in Smith, if it's legit, would be a surprise. The Dolphins clearly laid out a Plan A (Peyton Manning) and Plan B (Matt Flynn) for free agency. Plan A is out, and Plan B seems to have hit some kind of snag after Flynn visited Miami on Saturday and left without reaching an agreement. Presumably money is the issue.

But if Smith is truly Plan C, things are starting to look like amateur hour in Miami. The Dolphins' front office wanted to make a splash this offseason and has done anything but. Potentially signing Smith would only add to the zaniness.

Smith was a former No. 1 overall pick and a complete bust his entire career until San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh finally got something out of him last year. I'm not a huge Matt Moore guy. But I like that option -- in addition to drafting a quarterback in the first or second round -- much better than paying Smith starting quarterback money and going with him under center next season.

Perhaps this is just a power play by the Dolphins and, to some degree, Smith. Perhaps the Dolphins need leverage by pretending to flirt with Smith to keep Flynn's price down. In addition, Smith needs to talk to someone after the 49ers hurt his feelings by quietly joining the Peyton Manning sweepstakes.

But if the Dolphins are for real and seriously considering signing Smith as their starting quarterback in 2012, it would be a bad look for this rebuilding team.

Can Dolphins, Bills be turnaround teams?

May, 31, 2011
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Parity isn't collectively bargained anymore. Whenever the NFL resumes, we can expect the competition level to remain relatively balanced -- even if the performances are sloppy because of missed workouts.

With parity in mind, ESPN analysts Tedy Bruschi and Herm Edwards mulled over the top candidates to go from a losing record last season to the playoffs in 2011.

The AFC East had two losing teams last season, but neither the Miami Dolphins nor Buffalo Bills made the conversation.

Bruschi brushed aside the easiest answers, the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans, and made a compelling case for the St. Louis Rams. Bruschi pointed out quarterback Sam Bradford is on the rise, and the Rams came one victory away from winning the flaccid NFC West last season.

Edwards went in a similar direction and picked the San Francisco 49ers, saying it will pivot on whether Jim Harbaugh can prop up quarterback Alex Smith.

Back to the Dolphins and Bills, I don't see either team making the playoffs next season. The Dolphins have the possibility to field a playoff-caliber team, and what I mean by that is a squad that would be competitive if they made the tournament. But the odds are stacked against them.

The Dolphins would need to conjure up quarterback play they didn't have last season in addition to the New England Patriots and New York Jets falling off in addition to enough contenders from other divisions not winning enough games.

The AFC seems too deep for the Dolphins until they get high-quality and consistent performances from their quarterback, whether it's Chad Henne or somebody not yet on the team. Then again, Chad Pennington showed what one reliable veteran could do in 2008.

The Bills still are a rebuilding team. They have the same competitive issues in the AFC East as the Dolphins, but lack the overall roster talent.

Video: Best veteran QBs on the market

May, 13, 2011
5/13/11
12:58
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Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland and Buffalo Bills general manager Buddy Nix have stated on the record their teams need to add quarterbacks to their roster. ESPN analyst Tim Hasselbeck breaks down the best five options in this video clip.

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