The Miami Dolphins have been looking to rekindle the glory days since Dan Marino retired. When Marino stepped away in 1999, Miami had earned playoff berths in each of his last three seasons, seven of his last 10 years, and a total of 10 time during his 17 year career. Since Marino left, Miami has experienced the postseason three times in 13 years and just once since 2001. With a long tenure of futility, GM Jeff Ireland, and owner Stephen Ross, are going to the Jerry Jones/Daniel Snyder playbook. They're going to try to buy a championship. It likely will not work.
Spending money recklessly is difficult in the salary cap era. Since every team is working with essentially the same budget, if you spend in excess, and others do not, you end up with major problems. Sure Mike Wallace is better than Davone Bess, but five times as important? Bess will earn $2.6 million in 2013 while Wallace will get something around $13 million. This is not a big issue for next year. However, when Bess becomes a free agent in 2014, and Wallace is locked in to $65 million, while Brian Hartline is owed $31 million, there won't be any cash, even a reasonable $4 or $5 million for Bess. Perhaps at wide receiver that is alright, but by signing marquee players to rich contracts, the margin for error and ability to deal with injuries or poor play is razor thin.
Good organizations build from the draft. With few exceptions the best players on each of the last three Super Bowl teams were home grown. Adding one or two key cogs to a team that is very close makes sense. Anquan Boldin was traded from Arizona to Baltimore and helped the Ravens get over the top. Percy Harvin could provide the same spark for Seattle. Miami is not one player away.
They also are not two players away. The Dolphins inked linebacker Dannell Ellerbe to a five year contract worth $35 million. While some people criticize the Wallace signing because he possesses only one elite skill, speed, Ellerbe was a key cog in the Ravens title run and without question represents an upgrade for Miami. However, what does this do to the chances of Miami re-signing Jake Long, and Sean Smith this year, and cornerstone pieces like Paul Soliai, and Mike Pouncey when they hit free agency over the next couple of seasons? A team with Ellerbe and Wallace is not necessarily better than one with Long and Smith if it costs you Bess, Soliai, or Pouncey. At some point you are just moving pieces around, not actually improving.
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The Dolphins have had a losing record in four straight seasons. Ireland is desperate. Wallace and Ellerbe are better than what they had on Monday. Growing your team around Ryan Tannehill makes sense, force feeding him overpaid top talent before he is ready to flourish, and doing so at the expense of your future ability to make moves is rash and heavy handed. The Ravens, Giants, and Packers won Super Bowls after Joe Flacco, Eli Manning, and Aaron Rodgers were ready to win and they could make a key addition or two to put themselves in position to succeed. The Dolphins will enjoy nice South Beach weather next season when the Super Bowl is played in New York because they will not be buying their way into the big game.