AFC East: Washington Redskins

Ben Kotwica, who spent six seasons with the New York Jets as a special-teams assistant and last season as the coordinator, has left the team to become the special teams coach of the Washington Redskins.

The Redskins confirmed the move Wednesday afternoon.

Kotwica was one of at least six assistants on Rex Ryan's staff with an expiring contract. Kotwica received a contract offer from the Jets, according to a league source, so his departure is a bit puzzling. It's possible he felt there was more security with the Redskins, who will have a new staff under recently hired head coach Jay Gruden.

Kotwica, a West Point graduate, interviewed for Army’s head-coaching job in late December. That job went to Jeff Monken, formerly the Georgia Southern head coach.

Ryan's uncertain contract status could be a concern for members of his staff. He has only one year remaining on his deal and, although there has been speculation about a one-year extension, nothing has been finalized. Ryan has told friends that he'd like to keep his staff together, and it's believed that most, perhaps all of the soon-to-be-free-agent assistants have received contract offers.

Kotwica, originally hired by Eric Mangini in 2007, took over the special teams after the venerable Mike Westhoff retired after last season. The one bright spot was place-kicker Nick Folk, who enjoyed a career year. Otherwise, the special teams were fair to middling, based on league rankings. The lowpoint came in Week 15, when the Jets suffered a blocked punt that changed the momentum in a 30-20 loss to the Carolina Panthers. Kotwica used a strategic wrinkle -- three gunners instead of two -- to contain punt returner Ted Ginn Jr., but it left them vulnerable in the line, resulting in the block.

Westhoff, 66, held the job from 2001 to 2012. Now the Jets will have their second special teams coach in as many years.

What about a Westhoff comeback? He's said to be happy in retirement, working as a football analyst for local media outlets (including ESPN New York 98.7). He has received feelers from other teams, but it sounds like he'll continue his post-coaching career. Then again, he's always been a never-say-never guy, so you never know.
Ryan TannehillRonald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty ImagesThe Dolphins have surrounded young QB Ryan Tannehill with big-name talent this offseason.
The Miami Dolphins are the darlings of the offseason. They entered free agency with more than $40 million of cap room and cleaned up by signing the best receiver on the market (Mike Wallace), the top-rated linebacker (Dannell Ellerbe), a pass-catching tight end (Dustin Keller), another athletic linebacker (Philip Wheeler), and kept their own starting players (Brian Hartline, Randy Starks, Chris Clemons).

On paper, the Dolphins look like a clear playoff contender and the only legitimate challenger to the New England Patriots in the AFC East. The sky could be the limit for Miami this season and beyond.

But there is one catch for the Dolphins: None of this is possible unless second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill takes the next step.

The Dolphins proceeded this offseason with full confidence that Tannehill is a franchise quarterback. It’s a calculated risk after Tannehill had a promising rookie season where his stats didn't necessarily stand out. He threw for 3,294 yards, 12 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and made his share of rookie mistakes.

However, Miami believes Tannehill showed enough flashes of brilliance to go all-in with him. He played winning football most weeks, and led the Dolphins to a better-than-expected 7-9 record.

There is no time for Tannehill to be a one-hit wonder or have a sophomore slump in 2013. A majority of Miami’s moves in free agency were about making Tannehill a better quarterback.

“Ryan has got 35, 36 games under his belt as starting quarterback combined from a college and pro career, and you would normally like to have 35 games under your belt as a graduating senior,” Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland said recently. “So I think that there is a bunch of upside left in Ryan’s potential, and I like what I see so far. I love his intangible makeup, I love his athletic skill set. We have a long way to go, he knows that, but he can get a lot better, I am very confident in that.”

The Dolphins committed $30 million guaranteed to get Tannehill a legitimate deep threat and No. 1 receiver in Wallace. Despite Tannehill's strong arm, Miami was limited with the deep ball last season because of a poor supporting cast. He completed only 14 passes of more than 20 yards last season. Wallace has elite speed and should be able to change that.

Miami also snagged Keller from the rival New York Jets, and former St. Louis Rams receiver Brandon Gibson. Keller is the safety valve Miami lacked at tight end, and Gibson brings another weapon to add to a strong group of receivers that already includes Wallace, Hartline and Davone Bess.

The Dolphins learned when you have a potential franchise quarterback, it's easier to recruit free agents. Gibson, Keller and Wallace all cited Tannehill as one of the key reasons they signed with Miami.

“I watch tons of film and I really think he’s going to be one of the better young quarterbacks in the NFL,” Gibson said. “He’s got a big arm, and he’s very intelligent and a very good athlete, and I think that can go a long ways.”

Keller played with embattled quarterback Mark Sanchez in New York for four seasons. Keller leaves the Jets for a quarterback in Miami with a much higher ceiling.

“I’m very impressed with him. I like his game a lot,” Keller said of Tannehill. “I think now you put a Mike Wallace on the team, re-sign Brian Hartline, I love Davone Bess in the slot. You’ve got Charles Clay there working at tight end, too. I think there’s a lot people that they’re going to help him thrive this year, and I’m just happy to be one of the pieces.”

Tannehill is significantly ahead of the curve. The Dolphins' initial plan last season was to let Tannehill sit while Matt Moore or David Garrard ran the team. Instead, Tannehill took advantage of injuries and opportunity and started all 16 games.

In fact, Tannehill’s Total Quarterback Rating, which measures a player's complete performance, was better last season than other big-name quarterbacks such as Joe Flacco, Jay Cutler, Andy Dalton and Sam Bradford. The Dolphins believe Tannehill is just getting started.

Tannehill also flew under the radar last season with a potentially special 2012 quarterback class. Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts, Robert Griffin III of the Washington Redskins and Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks all shared the spotlight while leading their teams to the playoffs. Tannehill was the only rookie of the four not to lead his team to the playoffs, but those expectations will rise for Miami next season.

"We're looking for improvement from him. There's no question about it," Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said at the NFL’s owners meetings. “Part of it’s the decision-making that we think is so important. Part of it’s accuracy. Part of it’s play-making ability at critical times in the course of a game. While we think he made some really nice strides in his first year, there’s still a long way to go, and he’s well aware of that.”

The 2013 Dolphins will be Tannehill’s team, and certainly Tannehill’s offense.

An important part of Tannehill’s sophomore season is that he must take more of a leadership role. The Dolphins are a young team that lost a lot of leadership this offseason. Left tackle Jake Long and running back Reggie Bush bolted in free agency, and linebacker Karlos Dansby was released.

Tannehill will lead one of the youngest teams in the NFL next season. He doesn't get the publicity of fellow draft mates Luck, Wilson and RG III, but he will be just as important to the success of his team.

Does Tannehill lack the clutch gene?

December, 13, 2012
The quarterback class of 2012 could be one of the deepest in recent memory. The Indianapolis Colts (Andrew Luck), Washington Redskins (Robert Griffin III) and Seattle Seahawks (Russell Wilson) are all happy with their rookies. There is a strong chance two or three of these quarterbacks will lead their teams to the playoffs.

The Miami Dolphins (5-8) feel they have a good rookie quarterback, too, in No. 8 overall pick Ryan Tannehill. However, there’s something with Tannehill that really stands out: Tannehill drastically trails his rookie counterparts in fourth-quarter comebacks.

Is Tannehill not clutch?

Tannehill has the lowest Total Quarterback Rating of all four rookie quarterbacks in the fourth quarter. The Dolphins have five losses by seven or fewer points this season. Tannehill's inconsistent play in fourth quarters is a major reason.

Despite throwing for a lot of fourth-quarter yards, it hasn't resulted in victories for Tannehill. His only fourth-quarter comeback came against the Seattle Seahawks at home in Week 12.

Tannehill failed to produce in the clutch in recent losses to the San Francisco 49ers, New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills and Indianapolis Colts. If any of these games had a different outcome, Miami would still be in wild-card contention.

Tannehill is a young player who only had 19 career starts in college. He's learning on the job, but so are Luck, RGIII and Wilson. Tannehill's inability to come through in the clutch is concerning, but it's still too early to make a firm determination.
The Buffalo Bills have a lot to work on with their three quarterbacks this preseason. Buffalo wants to get starter Ryan Fitzpatrick primed for Week 1 of the regular season against the New York Jets, while figuring out its backup situation between Vince Young and Tyler Thigpen.

Buffalo worked on several things in the preseason opener against the Washington Redskins, and as a result, the quarterback reps were uneven.

"[It] did not happen last week," Bills coach Chan Gailey told Buffalo reporters. "Tyler got 19 and Vince got 30. We would like to stay at 20 and 20 if we can. With [Fitzpatrick] getting 20, you like to think a game is 60-something plays. Tyler may end up with a few more this week."

The Bills need to know their backup quarterback soon. Therefore, Thigpen and Young should get an equal opportunity to impress the coaching staff over the next couple of preseason games. It starts Friday for Buffalo against the Minnesota Vikings.

The loser of this quarterback battle most likely won't make the team. Buffalo is preparing Brad Smith to be the emergency/Wildcat quarterback in its offense. The pressure is on Young and Thigpen to perform well in these upcoming preseason games.
The Buffalo Bills were in the experimental phase with their starting offense in the preseason opener. Buffalo passed the football 14 consecutive times with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick using a no-huddle offense.

It was a good time to test a new wrinkle. However, there were two casualties with this strategy: running backs Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller.

Neither tailback got any carries last week for Buffalo. The Bills should give Jackson and Spiller plenty of work Friday against the Minnesota Vikings. They have the potential to be one of the top one-two punches at running back in the AFC. Jackson is coming off a season-ending leg injury and needs to round back into pre-injury form. Spiller has received limited carries as a backup in his three-year career.

Backup quarterback Vince Young was Buffalo's leading rusher in a 7-6 preseason opening loss to the Washington Redskins. Third-string tailback Tashard Choice got the most carries (nine).

It's time to give Jackson and Spiller a little love this week. This is the strength of Buffalo's offense this year, and the Jackson-Spiller combo needs to be sharp for the regular season.
TannehillBrad Barr/US PresswireThere is no better time than the present for the Dolphins to start rookie QB Ryan Tannehill.
DAVIE, Fla. -- I rarely flip-flop in the AFC East blog. But due to an unexpected set of circumstances, this is one of those rare instances.

It's time for the Miami Dolphins to start rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill for the entire 2012 season. Yes, I said it. Now let it sink in.

Forget about my prior comments entering training camp. I previously wrote that Tannehill's two-day holdout and late arrival all but end the rookie's chances of jumping two veteran quarterbacks in training camp.

But crazy things happen in the NFL -- especially if you're the Dolphins. Miami had a topsy-turvy 72 hours that included projected starting quarterback David Garrard's unexpected knee surgery and receiver Chad Johnson's release following his arrest for alleged domestic violence.

No one saw this coming a few weeks ago. Now the Dolphins must adjust.

Miami needs to be decisive. It's time to start Tannehill this week against the Carolina Panthers and get him three full preseason games with the first team in preparation for Week 1 of the regular season.

No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck is starting at quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts. No. 2 pick Robert Griffin III is starting for the Washington Redskins. Even Cleveland Browns rookie Brandon Weeden, who was drafted 14 picks behind Tannehill, is expected to start in Week 1.

What are the Dolphins waiting for? It's time for Miami to play its rookie quarterback.

"It's possible, we'll see," Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said after practice Monday. "At this stage in the game we're going to let the practices play out. We're in no rush to name anybody. We [have a] game at Carolina on Friday, and we’ve had two decent days of preparation so far, and we have two more heavy practices coming up, so we’re going to look at how the guys play."

The days of waiting a year or two for a quarterback to develop are outdated. Coaches get fired too fast in the NFL to have their franchise player sitting on the bench for too long. Philbin gets one year as a grace period. After that, the pressure is on to win in Miami.

Philbin and Tannehill should go through this grace period together in 2012. Let's be honest: Miami is in a rebuilding year. This team is learning a new West Coast offense and a new 4-3 defense, and it doesn't have enough dynamic playmakers on either side to consistently win games.

The Dolphins are not a playoff team regardless of whether Garrard, Moore or Tannehill is the quarterback. Therefore, you're better off playing the rookie who can develop into your long-term solution. Philbin and Tannehill can take their lumps together this season and learn on the job. Then, the pair will be well-positioned to take flight for Miami in 2013.

Tannehill could be the best quarterback on the roster right now. He was certainly the most impressive in Miami's preseason debut. Tannehill was 14-for-21 with 167 yards and a touchdown. He showed many of the traits Miami raved about in the draft. Tannehill was poised and in control of the offense, and he made a lot of good throws.

"I try to be calm on the field," Tannehill said. "[I] try to give off the essence of being calm in the pocket, being calm in the huddle. You know, we’re going to go down and score every drive. I just try to give confidence to the other players on the field."

Dolphins veteran quarterback Matt Moore was 7-of-12 for 79 yards and an interception. The incumbent had some good plays and bad plays. After the game, Philbin was asked how big the gap is between Moore and Tannehill.

"I don’t think it’s huge," Philbin said candidly. "I think it's relatively close, probably."

If that is the case, what is there to lose?

We know what Moore's ceiling is. He is 13-12 in his six-year career. Moore is an average starter but a good backup. He's never played in a West Coast offense before, and you can see it in practice. In many ways, Moore is a square peg trying to fit into a round hole with the Dolphins.

Meanwhile, Tannehill has the potential to be Miami's best quarterback since Dan Marino. Why waste a year of that immense potential on the bench? Tannehill played under Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman in college at Texas A&M and knows this West Coast offense well. The progress Tannehill has made from minicamp in the spring to the third week of training camp has been impressive.

Garrard was clearly winning the quarterback competition before his unexpected knee surgery. At that time I thought the former Pro Bowler gave Miami the best chance to win. But Garrard's injury opened the door for the Tannehill era to begin. Miami should embrace this opportunity instead of running from it.

Moore and Garrard both have one year left on their contracts. There is a good chance neither veteran quarterback will be on Miami's roster next season.

But Tannehill will be on the roster in 2013. And it's best for the entire Dolphins organization that he enters next season with a full year of experience under his belt.

"We'll just have to trust the gut. ... We'll see how it unfolds," Philbin said. "At that time, if there are no differences statistically, if it looks even and production is even, then I think we’ll have to go with a gut instinct on who can lead the team and give us the best chance to win."

Stop playing musical chairs with your quarterbacks, Miami. The future is now.

Start Ryan Tannehill.

Observation deck: Redskins-Bills

August, 9, 2012

The new-look Buffalo Bills began their 2012 season with a 7-6 loss to the Washington Redskins at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Here are some notes and observations:

What I liked: Buffalo's new-look defense got off to a great start, which is exactly what the Bills want. Buffalo forced a three-and-out against Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, then recovered a fumble on the first two series. Bills safety George Wilson's fumble recovery set up Buffalo's first points of the exhibition season, which was a field goal by Rian Lindell. Griffin eventually had some success throwing on Washington's third drive. But the Bills played well defensively throughout the game.

What I didn't like: The Bills' starting offense didn't do much. Buffalo's first team scored just three points in four drives, which was a gift from the defense after a turnover. The Bills also had a Steve Johnson touchdown catch negated with a penalty. Rookie left tackle Cordy Glenn also had a false start. Bills starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw early and often. He was 6-of-14 for 61 yards. The Bills didn't run the ball entire first quarter, but we will get to that next.

Change of pace: The reason Buffalo didn't run the ball in the first quarter was due to an interesting wrinkle. The Bills used a no-huddle offense with the starters. It's a nice change of pace and it will be interesting to see if the Bills will stick with this in the regular season. The no-huddle can be risky if it doesn't work. But it shows two things: First, the coaches have confidence in Fitzpatrick. Second, the Bills feel their defense is improved. Still, the Bills need more balance than what the starters showed Thursday night if this no-huddle offense will be successful.

Return of Kyle: This is the first game back for Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams, and he played well in limited snaps. Williams missed much of 2011 with a foot and Achilles injury. But he showed some of his old form by recording a tackle and was disruptive in the first two drives.

Young debuts in Buffalo: Backup quarterback Vince Young had to wait a while. But he finally made his Buffalo debut in the third quarter after Fitzpatrick and Tyler Thigpen both had their time on the field. Young still needs work passing. He was 5-for-12 with 50 yards, but Young did rush for 37 yards. Young is in competition with Thigpen for the No. 2 job. Thigpen was 3-for-8 with 38 yards and an interception.
The reigning AFC champion New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills will host their preseason openers Thursday night against the New Orleans Saints and Washington Redskins, respectively.

Here are four things to watch for in these exhibition games:

No. 1: Patriots' defense

Analysis: New England’s defense, ranked 31st last season, will take the field for the first time in 2012. The last time we saw this group, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning was carving up the Patriots in the Super Bowl. New England invested a lot of draft picks and free-agent dollars into this defense. Expect to see several new faces, such as first-round picks Dont'a Hightower and Chandler Jones, and free-agent signings Steve Gregory and Bobby Carpenter. The Patriots’ starting defense will get a good test against Saints Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Brees, who performed well against New England during joint practices this week.

No. 2: Who will emerge at running back?

Analysis: Expect the Patriots to give a lot of carries to their young running backs Thursday night. Second-year players Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen are competing for the starting job vacated by former Patriot BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Ridley and Vereen bring different skills to the table. So far, Ridley has looked the best in training camp. But this battle will be won in the preseason games. Therefore, one of these young tailbacks must perform well to separate himself.

No. 3: Debut of Buffalo's revamped defensive line

Analysis: Buffalo’s starters may only play a few series. But it will be a good chance to see how the Bills’ new-look and dynamic defensive line is coming along. Stud defensive tackles Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus were joined by big free-agent signings Mario Williams and Mark Anderson. This group has the potential to be one of the top defensive lines in the NFL. Washington will provide a good test in the debut of rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III. He is one of the most athletic quarterbacks in the league. So if Buffalo’s defense can pressure Griffin and keep him at bay, it can corral just about any quarterback.

No. 4: Who will step up as Buffalo's No. 2 receiver?

Analysis: If Buffalo has a legit No. 2 receiver, it’s time for that player to come forward. The Bills need someone to be a threat opposite Steve Johnson, who will face plenty of double teams this year. There have been mixed results in training camp. Different players have flashed but no receiver has shown enough consistency. Receivers such as Marcus Easley, Donald Jones and rookie T.J. Graham need to step up. Performing in the preseason is the quickest way to impress Buffalo’s coaching staff.

Morning take: Bills vs. RG3

August, 9, 2012
Here are the most interesting stories Thursday in the AFC East:
  • It's game time for the Buffalo Bills, who will host rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins in their preseason opener.
Morning take: This is a good test for Buffalo's revamped defense, and particularly the defensive line. Griffin is an athletic quarterback. I want to see how well the Bills' first-team defense keeps Griffin in the pocket.
Morning take: The Patriots and Saints have had quality joint practices this week, and now it’s time for an actual game. Both teams got a lot out of it. I don't know why more teams don't do it.
Morning take: This was a top-five group last year that feels it can be No. 1. Based on the talent and what I've seen in training camp, it's a reachable goal.
  • Miami Dolphins cornerback Vontae Davis isn't worried about how he was characterized in HBO's "Hard Knocks" earlier this week.
Morning take: "Hard Knocks" exposed Davis' conditioning and showed a bit of his immaturity in the premier episode. Davis has been taken out the starting lineup, but he still has a chance to redeem himself in the preseason.

What contract can rookies expect?

April, 30, 2012
The NFL draft is in the books, and the next step is to get rookies signed with their new teams. The new rookie wage scale has helped teams sign players much easier. The drama and potential for holdouts have been taken away now that teams, players and agents already know what kind of contract to expect based on their projected slot.

Here is a quick look at what players made last year, and what the latest AFC East rookies can expect:

No. 8 pick: QB Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins

2011 No. 8 pick: QB Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans (four years, $12.58 million)

No. 10 pick: CB Stephon Gilmore, Buffalo Bills

2011 No. 10 pick: QB Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville Jaguars (four years, $12 million)

No. 16 pick: DE Quinton Coples, New York Jets

2011 No. 16 pick: DE Ryan Kerrigan, Washington Redskins (four years, $8.72 million)

No. 21 pick: DE Chandler Jones, New England Patriots

2011 No. 21 pick: DT Phil Taylor, Cleveland Browns (four years, $8.1 million)

No. 25 pick: LB Dont'a Hightower, New England Patriots

2011 No. 25 pick: OT James Carpenter, Seattle Seahawks (four years, $7.641 million)

These contracts are absolute bargains for teams. That is why so many were trading into the top 10 at an unprecedented rate.

Even Miami's pick at No. 8 will be cheap compared to what quarterbacks in the draft usually make. Tannehill will average about $3-$4 million per year on his rookie contract? That’s not much risk for the Dolphins. Other AFC East teams will be risking even less thanks to the rookie wage scale.
DAVIE, Fla. -- There is no bigger boom-or-bust prospect in the 2012 draft than former Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Is he the next prolific NFL quarterback, or simply a product of pre-draft hype that led to becoming a top-10 pick?

Opinions vary. But the Miami Dolphins believe they have the answers to the Tannehill question. Miami has more inside knowledge on Tannehill than any other team and drafted its quarterback of the future with the No. 8 overall pick Thursday night.

Tannehill will rejoin Dolphins offensive coordinator and former Aggies coach Mike Sherman, who says Tannehill is a star in the making. There are many critics who believe Tannehill is fool's gold, but the Dolphins are very confident they made the right choice.

"This was an all-in decision," Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland said firmly. "From the football side, our scouts, our coaches ... we all felt very, very good about it."

Ireland hit the nail on the head. The Dolphins are betting the foreseeable future of the franchise on Tannehill -- for better or for worse.

If Tannehill develops into an upper-echelon quarterback, the Dolphins finally have the biggest piece to change their misfortunes. If Tannehill is a bust, it will set Miami back another three or four years.

"We're excited and thrilled," Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said of their first-round pick. "I've always said you need to be strong at the quarterback position, and now that's one of the strengths of this team. So I couldn't be happier."

The pick doesn't come without pressure. It's been 29 years since the Dolphins drafted a quarterback in the first round: Dan Marino in 1983. Those are some big shoes to fill.

It's also no coincidence Miami hasn't had a legitimate, franchise quarterback since Marino retired in 2000. The list of mediocre starting quarterbacks since included Cleo Lemon, Joey Harrington, Trent Green, Jay Fiedler, A.J. Feeley, John Beck and most recently Chad Henne. Tannehill will try to avoid being the next name on this infamous list.

Tannehill had only 19 career starts in college. There is a learning curve with Tannehill that isn't as steep for other top quarterback prospects like Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, who went No. 1 and No. 2 to the Indianapolis Colts and Washington Redskins, respectively.

The good news is Tannehill is not expected to play in 2012. Barring unexpected injuries to Miami veteran quarterbacks Matt Moore and David Garrard, Tannehill probably will hold a clipboard next season. This will provide Tannehill ample time to learn the NFL game.

[+] EnlargeMike Sherman & Ryan Tannehill
Icon SMIRyan Tannehill will be reunited with former Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman.
Dolphins rookie head coach and former Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin kept Aaron Rodgers on the bench for several years before he became a starter and it worked out fine. But that wasn’t what Tannehill wanted to hear on draft day.

"I want to compete, that's just the competitor in me," Tannehill said in a conference call with the South Florida media. "Obviously with competition comes learning. It doesn't have to be a hostile competition. It's just competing."

Ireland said he’s going to leave Tannehill's playing time next season up to the coaching staff. But chances are, we won't know much about Tannehill until 2013. The boom-or-bust talk will have to wait for at least a year.

But Tannehill's ceiling is high if things go right in Miami. It also doesn't hurt that the quarterback competition in the AFC East is not very stout. It's pretty much Tom Brady, and then there's everyone else.

Tannehill has the physical ability to potentially rise above the struggling quarterback pile in the division that includes Mark Sanchez, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tim Tebow. If Tannehill becomes the second-best quarterback in the AFC East over the next two or three years, that's a huge advantage for the rebuilding Dolphins.

Remember this day, Dolphins fans. Tannehill is the draft pick that will either change Miami's misfortunes or extend the team's misery for several more years. The Tannehill mystery won't be solved overnight, but Miami feels it found the piece to eventually build this struggling franchise into a winner.

"I don't know if this energizes the fan base. What energizes the fan base is winning," Ross said. "I'm looking to field a winning team, because energizing a fan base only lasts a very short period of time.

"We're talking about winning in the long haul."
The Miami Dolphins will finally get their meeting with free-agent quarterback Peyton Manning -- sort of. According to ESPN's Chris Mortensen, Manning will meet with the head coaches of the Dolphins and Tennessee Titans away from the facilities in the next few days before making his final decision.

Here is my take on what this means:
  • In my opinion, this sounds like a courtesy meeting from Manning. I don't think the quarterback is seriously considering the Dolphins at this point. It's no secret the Dolphins want Manning badly, and Manning is a really nice guy, and probably doesn't want to hurt people's feelings in the process. He already shut down several teams, including the New York Jets and Washington Redskins, who called his representatives. Manning taking the full tour in Denver and Arizona, and not in Miami, should say all the Dolphins need to know.
  • This also doesn't help the league-wide perception that Miami has dysfunctional leadership. Miami's power pair of owner Stephen Ross and general manager Jeff Ireland do not have the best reputation around the league for various reasons. The most recent public handling this past year of former head coach Tony Sparano, particularly, drew ire around the league. Jim Harbaugh and Jeff Fisher both turned down Ross and Ireland, and it appears Manning will be the third big name to do so in a year.
  • Finally, it's time for the Dolphins to resort to Plan B. The chances of Philbin, a rookie head coach, saying something magical to convince Manning to join Miami without even visiting the facilities are slim. The Dolphins appear all but out of the Manning sweepstakes. That means it's time for Miami to jump into the Flynn sweepstakes. Free agency starts in less than 24 hours. Miami must go back to the drawing board if it wants a new starting quarterback next season.
Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk is a former teammate and close friend of quarterback Peyton Manning. That is why you have to take Faulk's opinion seriously when he says Manning will not go to the NFC and the Miami Dolphins are potential favorites.

Faulk seemed adamant Wednesday that you can pretty much cross off 16 NFC teams, including the Arizona Cardinals and Washington Redskins, who are both considered strong contenders to sign Manning.

"If you're in the NFC, you're out. The Mannings (won't) play a regular-season game," said Faulk, also referring to quarterback Eli Manning of the New York Giants. "They're not gonna stop each other from going to the Super Bowl. Meeting in the Super Bowl? How great would that be for the family?"

Faulk continued by saying "There's no way, there's no way, there's no way" when NFC teams were mentioned. Faulk didn't seem as sure where Manning will land but mentioned Miami as a possibility.

"Matt Flynn just doesn't do it," Faulk said. "(He's) not Aaron Rodgers, let's be honest."

If Faulk is accurate about his good friend, Peyton Manning, this is an interesting development. Teams like the Dolphins and New York Jets would basically have their competition cut in half, especially with strong suitors like Arizona, Seattle and Washington out of the mix. We will see if Faulk's prediction holds true.
Get the helicopter warmed up, Miami Dolphins.

The moment has arrived. It's time for the Dolphins' organization to make their best pitch to soon-to-be free-agent quarterback Peyton Manning.

ESPN's Adam Schefter reports the Indianapolis Colts will release Manning and hold a news conference on Wednesday. The deadline to pay Manning a $28 million roster bonus is Thursday, and there was zero chance the Colts would fork over that kind of money for a quarterback who missed the entire 2011 season.

But that won't stop the Dolphins and several other teams for knocking down Manning's door any day now. Miami is projected as one of the favorites. Other teams such as the Arizona Cardinals, Washington Redskins and New York Jets also are rumored to have interest.

The Dolphins and owner Stephen Ross want to make a splash this offseason. They tried everything from helicopter rides to offering big money to head coach Jeff Fisher, who spurned Miami to join the St. Louis Rams. Ross and Co. will try to put their best foot forward again with Manning.

The timing is perfect for Miami. Free agency doesn't start until next Tuesday, which gives the Dolphins time to gauge whether Manning is legitimately interested in coming to Miami. We listed all the reasons why the Dolphins are a great fit here. But if it doesn't work out, Miami still has enough time to transition to Plan B and go after former Green Bay Packers quarterback Matt Flynn in free agency.

Manning, a first-ballot Hall of Famer, is one of the biggest names ever to reach free agency. Business is about to pick up.
According Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Rams want to have a trade in place for the No. 2 overall pick by the end of this week. That should all but rule out the Miami Dolphins, who are sitting at No. 8 but want to explore acquiring Peyton Manning, and potentially Matt Flynn, in free agency.

The Dolphins would be silly to agree to any trade involving Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III without checking Manning's interest and health status first. A healthy Manning would make Miami an instant contender. But if that doesn't work, the Dolphins also want to pursue Flynn, who was the backup with the Green Bay Packers under new Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin.

I understand St. Louis' thinking to rush the process. The value right now for the No. 2 pick will never be higher this offseason. Griffin is coming off an electric performance at the combine where he wowed scouts with his athleticism. He also has the game tape at Baylor to match, solidifying his status as the second-best quarterback behind Andrew Luck of Stanford.

But the same teams who are interested in Griffin -- Miami, Cleveland and Washington -- are the same teams who could make a run at veterans Flynn and Manning. Let's say, hypothetically, Miami gets Manning and Cleveland gets Flynn. The suitors and interest in the No. 2 picks falls significantly, which is bad for the Rams, who won't take a quarterback at No. 2.

The Dolphins weren't the favorites in the Griffin sweepstakes to begin with. St. Louis' hastiness virtually puts an end to Miami's chances.

Miami should leave the Griffin chase to teams like the Browns and Redskins. If one of those clubs give into St. Louis' demands by the end of this week, that is one less team Miami has to compete with for Manning and Flynn.