Let's Make A Deal!
Ladies and gentlemen! Boys and girls! Children of all ages! It's time to play "Let's Make a Deal!", the gameshow where *you*, a simple audience member, get a chance to build your own NFL football franchise by wheeling and dealing your way through the vast swamp of NFL ownership!
Just think of all the fun you'll have - negotiating with slimy agents - dealing with arrogant, immature players - trying to pacify irate fans and nosy owners - speaking with the press! Why, it's the most fun you can have with your clothes on!
So don't wait! Get in on the fun right now! For a mere $800 million, you can purchase your own NFL team and participate in one of the most exciting and entertaining spectacles in sports - the annual contest for the services of the best players in the game.
( Or, at least - those who think they're the best. )
So don't wait - get in on the fun right now! Tune your computers to channel 13 and point your antenna south towards Florida for this year's edition of "Let's Make a Deal!".
Our first contestant is a two-time SuperBowl winning coach from South Florida, who enjoys fishing, partying and styling his hair - let's give a warm welcome to Coach Jimmy Johnson! So tell us coach Johnson - what are you looking for in a free agent player?
Well, Monty - I'm looking for value. With the salary cap, we have to be careful not to blow all our money on one individual. Since football is a team sport, it's important to have a team full of competitors. It doesn't make any sense to get one great player only to give away two or three other players that are important to the success of your team.
So, Coach - what you're telling us is that you'd rather spend a little less money on someone who can help the team become a little better than spend a whole lot of money on someone who can help the team become a lot better?
No, that's not what I meant, Monty. I'd be more than happy to spend a lot of money on a guy who's going to come right in and be a big playmaker - as long as I don't have to tear down some other part of the team to do that.
Oh - so then you'd be willing to pay some big bucks for the right player, but you wouldn't trade away any of your starters, is that what you're saying?
Yes, that's about right, Monty.
OK, coach - well, we know that you're a man who sticks to his guns. With that in mind, folks, it's time to get started. Coach Johnson - we have 3 doors here. Behind each door is a player that you might be able to get in free agency. It's up to you to decide which one is worth the money you have to spend. Are you ready?
I'm all set, Monty.
Great! That makes it time to play "Let's Make a Deal!"....
And deal, he did. Without delving into it too deeply, I think that it's fair to say that JJ did as much serious free agent work this year as he has since he's been in Miami.
In my not-so humble opinion, he's signed more free agents who have a chance to make a difference on the team this year than he's signed in the past.
That's not from lack of trying in past years, you understand. But some things are beyond even JJ's control.
This year, however, things seemed to be going JJ's way from Day 2 of the free agency period. The reason I say day 2, of course, is that most of the wide receivers he was really interested in were given the franchise tag on (or before) day 1.
Despite that, JJ managed to come up with a genuine deep threat receiver to fill that gaping hole on offense.
Still, there were no last-minute changes of mind this year; no bidding wars against other teams and no outrageous demands (that we know of, anyway).
And yet JJ managed to get at least one of each type of player that he felt he needed to put the Dolphins over the top this year.
Starting at the areas of most need - wide receiver and running back - JJ got two bargains that both could make a tremendous impact on the team, although I think that one player is more likely to make an impact than the other.
I'm speaking, of course, of Tyrone Wheatley and Tony Martin. Tony Martin will certainly start this year (if he's available) and Tyrone Wheatley could challenge for a starting job, depending on how he looks in camp.
But will Tony Martin be available to play this year (I hear you cry...)?
Well, without consulting his horoscope, reading his palm, checking out his Tarot or consulting the runes, it's difficult to know whether or not Martin will play. Personally, I think that it's likely that he will play, as least for part of the season, but there's no way to know for sure.
The charge against Martin is money laundering. The case rests on the fact that Martin paid off some debts for a friend who turns out to be a drug dealer. The Dolphins did some intensive investigation of Martin and his case before they signed him and the team is confident that he'll be playing this fall.
Martin has managed to hire himself one of the best attorneys in Florida in the person of Roy Black, who (among other high profile cases) managed to get William Kennedy Smith acquitted of rape in Palm Beach. So Martin's lawyer is a "playmaker", to use some football jargon.
And, as Robert Frost once said "A jury is twelve persons chosen to decide who has the better lawyer". In this case, Martin is in good hands.
The real question that I have is not whether or not Martin will do any jail time. The real question is whether or not the NFL will suspend him - especially if he cuts some kind of a deal to stay out of jail. If Martin is acquitted, he is unlikely to face any penalties from the NFL. However, if he cuts a deal with the prosecution to stay out of jail and pleads guilty to some lesser offense, what will the NFL do? My guess is that they'll suspend him for a year and that will eliminate him from the Dolphins' plans for 1999.
Of course, if he's convicted, he'll go to jail and that's the end of that.
I think the most likely scenarios are that the charges are dismissed in exchange for his testimony against his friend in a drug case or a postponement of the trial.
In other words, I think he'll be playing for the Dolphins this year.
If he does play - what will his impact be? Again, it's hard to tell for sure, but I don't think you'll see him put up 1000 yards like he did last year. With his speed and ability to separate from defensive backs, what he should do is lead the team in yards per catch. The way that the Dolphins want to use him is as a speedy deep threat - a specialist in going for the long ball.
He'll be used to take the double coverage off of OJ McDuffie and to force teams to drop their safeties back into pass coverage to keep him from getting deep, instead of allowing them to cheat up and play the run. If he is successful in this role, he won't need to catch a lot of passes to be effective.
For Miami, he is almost as effective as a threat as he is at catching passes.
Provided that he does play, he'll start opposite OJ McDuffie. That will create the kind of receiving tandem that JJ had in Dallas with Michael Irvin and - a possession receiver and a deep threat.
The other big need position this off-season was running back and while JJ addressed that mostly in the draft, he also picked up Tyrone Wheatley in a trade to the New York Giants for a 7th round draft pick.
Wheatley was initially a first round draft pick by the Giants back in 1995. He is big (6'0" and 235 pounds), fast (he ran track in college), and reportedly had good instincts. But somehow or other, he got into the doghouse early in his career in New York and never got out of it.
The reports up here vary depending on who you talk to. Some call him a lazy player with a bad attitude. Certainly, he didn't get along with Dan Reeves or Jim Fassel, the Giants' two head coaches while he was in New York.
Other folks up here say that he never really got a fair shot and that he was better than anyone the Giants had, but didn't get the chance to play because he didn't get along with the coaches. The word is that JJ talked with some of the assistant coaches from New York that had worked with Wheatley and concluded that Wheatley didn't get a fair chance to prove himself.
Whichever story is true (and I suspect that both stories have some truth in them), Wheatley's career rushing average (3.6 ypc) is better than the Karim Abdul-Jabbar's average of 3.5 ypc. While that doesn't mean much, it does indicate that, at the very least, the Dolphins got someone who can compete for the starting running back job.
I've watched a few highlights of Wheatley on video and from what little I've seen, I think that Wheatley will be more effective than Karim Abdul-Jabbar in power running situations, but that he doesn't cut back as well as Karim does. Still, the Dolphins had much bigger problems in short yardage last year than anywhere else, so Wheatley should help the team there.
Wheatley also has enough speed to get outside, so he would probably make a good every-down back - if his attitude is good. Like I said before, I don't know what the real story is on Wheatley's attitude, but I'm sure that we'll find out more about him this summer.
JJ will give Wheatley the chance to compete for the starting job, just like he gives every player. I don't think that Wheatley will win the starting job, however, because I think he's the second best back on the team right now and JJ will start the best back.
Who is the best? Well, I think that the best running back on the team right now is...
...but that would be giving it away, wouldn't it? In deference to network television, which is about to drive us all crazy with their end of the year episodes of our favorite shows, I think that I'll wait until my next issue before I tell you. After all, I wouldn't want to give away my big secret too quickly, now would I?
But don't fret. I will let you know soon who I think will step forward and carry the ball for the Dolphins this year. In my next issue of "On Porpoise", I'll cover the rest of the free agents and maybe even some of the draft picks.
And when I finally do tell you who I think will be the starting tailback for Miami this season, I will definitely be doing so...
... On Porpoise.