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Tannenbaum Optimistic On Dolphins’ Offseason Priorities

Posted Feb 24, 2016

While free agency no doubt will play a key role in the Dolphins’ roster make-up for 2016, Mike Tannenbaum said he viewed it as but one aspect interconnected with everything else that happens in the offseason.

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Mike Tannenbaum had an informal media session at the scouting combine, but the biggest topic of conversation was free agency. Specifically the Dolphins players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents when the new league year starts March 9.

The Dolphins have 10 players scheduled to become UFAs, not including recently released veterans Brice McCain, Jason Fox and Quinton Coples. The list of potential UFAs isn’t necessarily huge by NFL standards, but it includes several significant players.

Perhaps the biggest name on the list is defensive end Olivier Vernon, the former University of Miami standout who led the team with 7.5 sacks in 2015 and was third in the NFL with 36 quarterback hits.

Tannenbaum couldn’t resist cracking a joke after the first question when he was asked where the Dolphins stand with Vernon.

“I think we're on the east side of the stadium,” Tannenbaum joked. “We're on the precipice of free agency and we'll see what happens. He's earned the right to be a free agent and he has options, we have options. We're going to keep assessing those.”

One option for the Dolphins would be using the franchise or transition tag on Vernon, with the deadline for that option being March 1.

“We have options and so does he,” Tannenbaum said. “We haven't made any decisions. We have a deadline coming up in another handful of days. We haven't made any decisions. We're just looking at options.”

The other Dolphins players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents are running back Lamar Miller, wide receiver Rishard Matthews, defensive end Derrick Shelby, linebacker Kelvin Sheppard, quarterback Matt Moore, safety Louis Delmas, linebacker Spencer Paysinger, guard Shelley Smith and guard/center Jacques McClendon.

The potential return of Vernon has been tied in media speculation to the status of fellow defensive end Cameron Wake, who is coming off a torn Achilles tendon. Wake had seven sacks in seven games in 2015, but it has been suggested he could be asked to restructured his contract because of his age (34) and cap number.

Tannenbaum was asked whether Wake’s status could play a role in whether the Dolphins can retain Vernon.

“Those are all part of the variables,” Tannenbaum said. “They are somewhat dependent on each other, but they're also their own narrative. They're both good players, good people in our locker room and both really good players. We'll see how it goes. We have a few more days to make those decisions.”

While Tannenbaum said it wasn’t realistic to expect the Dolphins to be able to keep all their free agents, he said he was hoping to bring back Miller, like Vernon a former University of Miami standout.

“I'm an optimistic person by nature,” Tannenbaum said. “I was optimistic that was going to ride 46 miles (in the Dolphins Cancer Challenge on Saturday), and somehow I got that done. We'll see what happens. We've done a lot of deals with his agent (Drew Rosenhaus) over the years. Lamar is another homegrown talent. A great guy off the field. We'll see what happens.”

While free agency no doubt will play a key role in the Dolphins’ roster make-up for 2016, Tannenbaum said he viewed as but one aspect interconnected with everything else that happens in the offseason.

“To me, it’s never about the free agent priorities, it’s the offseason priorities,” he said. “We have looked at constant scenarios. If we re-sign Lamar, if we’re fortunate enough to do that, we’re probably not going to draft a running back. If we lose Lamar, running back becomes that much more important. To me, it’s about the offseason continuum and looking at all those decisions over the course of several months knowing that, look, we’re not going to be able to keep all these players. I think we all know that. And then, who else can we sign? Where are the value signings? And what can we do in the draft? We’re sitting there with the eighth pick and maybe we move up a little bit, move back. I think all these decisions depend on one and another.”

While Tannenbaum and the rest of the Dolphins contingent are in Indianapolis this week, they’ll be evaluating prospects they’ll be considering for the draft.

While they’ll be interested in on-field workouts and medical evaluations, Tannenbaum said his biggest focus this week is on getting to know the prospects.

“The interviews at night with the players,” Tannenbaum said. “We get 60 of those, which is great. We get to know these players, see how they learn. Is football important to them? For me, that’s by far the most important part of it.”