Ryan Clark is right, and it’s not difficult to understand why. In a tweet last night the Steelers safety said that free agents have no desire to join the once prestigious Miami Dolphins, saying that he almost signed on, but is now quite happy that he bailed on the Dolphin experience.
Now Miami has spectacularly whiffed on Peyton Manning and Matt Flynn, and like a desperate Jersey Short caricature in the early morning hours as the dim bar lights are about to be flicked to the “on” position, they’re left courting Alex Smith. Yesterday they met for five hours with the suddenly efficient quarterback who threw just five interceptions during the 2011 regular season while being tasked with mostly handing off in the 49ers offense, and not screwing up when he didn’t hand off.
With the 49ers chasing Manning and patiently waiting on an answer–any answer, please–Smith took the hint, and became the desperate QB chasing the desperate offense of a franchise starving for news that could be classified as remotely good. It seems like an easy match: Smith is angry at the 49ers, and the Dolphins are angry at the world.
The bonus for Miami would also be that if San Francisco whiffed on Manning too, then GM Jeff Ireland would be forcing the 49ers’ hand, and a team that was one win away from the Super Bowl would then have to roll with either second-year QB Colin Kaepernick (who isn’t ready), or maybe Josh Johnson (who isn’t good).
Yes, it seems perfect, which means it’s destined to unravel instantly. This is Miami, a franchise in which dysfunction and disarray during the offseason are far more common than any functionality whatsoever.
Here’s your string, Armando Salguero. Please begin the unraveling:
Multiple sources tell me that the only way Alex Smith is going to sign with the Dolphins is if Peyton Manning goes to San Francisco.
That’s right, even the jilted 49ers quarterback would prefer to return to the team that jilted him over the Dolphins organization that on Sunday tried to recruit him to Miami. Smith’s camp has made this clear to the Dolphins.
Free agency is often a process of pursuit, protection, and leverage. Teams pursue names–both marquee and otherwise–but they also have to protect their own assets. Meanwhile, the process as a whole is a battle of leverage between player and team, and this move by Smith is little more than a leverage play, one that also functions as a player protecting himself.
Smith is showing San Francisco GM Trent Baalke the strength of the market for his services, and demonstrating how quickly that market will move if Manning plays for a team not named the 49ers. He’s also simply protecting himself, and ensuring that he has a leg up on the competition for the remaining QB vacancies around the league. That’s an important play with David Garrard visiting the Dolphins today.
Garrard’s visit and Salguero’s report offer another sad commentary on the state of football in Miami. The Manning to Miami movement failed, along with the attempt to bring in a quarterback who spent four years learning under Joe Philbin in Green Bay.
Now the Dolphins are merely being used and abused as Smith’s pawn, and they’ll be left to either sign someone of Garrard’s ilk to play behind Matt Moore, or draft Ryan Tannehill and hope he matures quickly.
There’s never been more pressure on Ireland to find a solution at a position that’s still floundering 13 years after Dan Marino faded off into the Miami sunset. He’ll need security personnel around his office 24 hours a day if that solution is David friggin Garrard.