Miami Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin, coming off a high-profile bullying scandal that rocked his team and the NFL, said Tuesday he will be more visible and accessible to his players.
Miami's scandal in 2013 led to a league investigation into the Dolphins' locker-room culture. Philbin has maintained he was blindsided by an NFL investigation that Richie Incognito and two other offensive linemen (John Jerry and Mike Pouncey) harassed former teammate Jonathan Martin, who left the team in October. Martin was traded to the San Francisco 49ers earlier this month.
Philbin took responsibility Tuesday at the NFL meetings in Orlando, Fla., saying the situation will prompt a change in the way he coaches.
"As I examined some of the things as head coach of the Dolphins I can do better, I think the visibility factor can be the difference," Philbin said. "That's one of the things that I'm going to do. It's not that I (had) never been (visible). But I think one of the things that happens sometimes to coaches is you're conflicted of whether I should watch that blitz tape or third-down film.
"Sometimes a better use of a head coach's time is to walk through the training room, walk through the locker room, walk through the hallways. It's not that I've never done that stuff, but I think it's fair to say I'm going to do it more."
According to the Ted Wells report, Martin never told any of his superiors, including Philbin, that he was being harassed.
"I think a lot of times what happens in the building in the National Football League is everybody doesn't want to be the bearer of bad news sometimes," Philbin said. "The head coach is busy, so don't bother him. He's watching film, doing this and doing that.
"But we got to get away from that. Frankly, I have to be a little more vigilant in the enforcement of the policies and procedures that I want to have in the locker room that I want to have. That falls on me."
The locker-room culture has been a priority topic at the meetings and the bullying scandal prompted conversation and change throughout the league.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the three players involved in the bullying scandal -- Mike Pouncey, John Jerry (now with the Giants) and Incognito -- must be evaluated medically before returning to the field.
Philbin acknowledged the scandal has caused some sleepless nights.
"When you coach, you want everybody to have a great experience," Philbin said. "You want to make an impact. I can't speak for 31 other guys, my colleagues, on why they got into coaching. But I know why I got into coaching. You want players to leave (here feeling they had) a great experience playing. When it's not, it's bothersome."
--Left tackle Branden Albert was the top target of the Miami Dolphins, who reeled in the veteran with a five-year, $46 million deal that includes $25 million guaranteed.
The contract will become official pending a physical.
The Dolphins allowed a NFL-worst 58 sacks last season and must rebuild an offensive line that, at this time last year, listed Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin as starters on the right side.
Miami pursued Albert heavily last offseason, when he was designated the franchise player of the Chiefs. The 29-year-old who spent his previous six NFL seasons with Kansas City, was probably the best tackle on the market.
Of course, Albert won't cure all that ails the offensive line, but it is a definite upgrade and the start of what will remain an ongoing offseason focus.
And the Dolphins could afford even more improvement because they have money to spend. They had $36 million remaining after re-signing cornerback Brent Grimes to a four-year, $32 million contract with $16 million guaranteed.
Grimes and defensive tackle Randy Starks might be the only significant players the Dolphins re-sign among their own free agents. Expect Incognito, right guard John Jerry, right tackle Tyson Clabo, free safety Chris Clemons and cornerback Nolan Carroll to play elsewhere next season. Carroll signed with the Eagles, while Jerry signed with the Giants and Clemons with Houston.
Miami signed former Detroit free safety Louis Delmas, which means three of their four starting jobs in the secondary are taken among Delmas, strong safety Reshad Jones and Grimes. The remaining cornerback spot opposite Grimes is up for grabs. The Dolphins released cornerback Dimitri Patterson and saved $5.4 million against the salary cap.
The biggest job facing the Dolphins in free agency could be signing another starting-caliber offensive lineman whether it's a right guard, left guard or right tackle.
The Dolphins needed two starting tackles and two starting guards to play alongside Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey. To accomplish that goal they need a combination of free agency and the draft. There's a good chance they try to get two starters via free agency and two starters via the draft.
Miami also wants to upgrade at linebacker. One scenario has the Dolphins signing a middle linebacker, and moving middle linebacker Dannell Ellerbe to strong-side linebacker, which would send linebacker Koa Misi to the bench.
The linebackers are catching lots of blame for the Dolphins ranking 24th in rushing defense.
Miami also needs an upgrade at running back, but that isn't considered a big priority in free agency.
It should be noted this is the second consecutive season the Dolphins have grabbed what could be considered the No. 1 free agent on the market. Last year the Dolphins signed former Pittsburgh wide receiver Mike Wallace to a five-year, $60 million deal.
Miami also acquired Grimes last year in free agency, and he turned into a Pro Bowl player, albeit a costly one.
The Dolphins wisely positioned themselves to have money to spend the last two years, and are hoping the resulting moves end their five-year playoff drought.
--The NFL announced each team's preseason schedule without precise dates or times, except for national TV games and the final preseason week in which all games will be on Thurs. Aug. 28. Week 1 games are Aug. 7-10, Week 2 Aug. 14-18 and Week 3 Aug. 21-24.
The Dolphins will play at home against Dallas in Week 3 and St. Louis in Week 4, while going on the road to play Atlanta in Week 1 and Tampa Bay in Week 2.
--Dolphins owner Stephen Ross plans to meet with former quarterback Dan Marino about offering the Hall of Famer a role in the team's front office, according to the Miami Herald.
Marino recently left his analyst job with CBS. Speculation has swirled that he could return to his former team. It is not clear what kind of capacity Marino would serve.
In 2004, Marino was named the team's senior vice president of football operations but stepped down after just three weeks. At the time, he said he not ready to make the "lifestyle" adjustments the job required.
Marino was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2005.
--Guard Richie Incognito, who was at the center of the Dolphins bullying scandal and recently underwent treatment at a mental-health facility, said he wants to return to the team.
"Returning to the Dolphins was my No. 1 goal from the time I got suspended," Incognito told WSVN-TV in Miami on Wednesday. "I want to return to the community in Miami and resume my playing career as soon as possible."
Incognito's contract has expired and the Dolphins have shown no interest in bringing him back.
Incognito confirmed that he entered a private mental-health facility to deal with the stress he was experiencing following his suspension and subsequent release of the Ted Wells report. Incognito admitted himself after smashing his own Ferrari in a fit of rage on Feb. 26.
"I was stressed," Incognito said. "I believe in post traumatic stress syndrome, and I believe in private mental health care."
On Wednesday, Incognito posted his first tweets since Feb. 18. A person familiar with Incognito's situation told ESPN.com the veteran lineman was exhausted after being "dragged through the mud" in recent months.
"Dolphins fans, Richie is well," Incognito told WSVN. "Richie wants to come back and play. But the business has to handle the business end, and that's it."
Incognito said he only "skimmed" the Wells report and takes responsibility for his actions.
"I want a clean slate," he said. "I'm at peace with everything that happened. I'm at peace with the attorneys and myself. Go to my Twitter page. I'm back online, and I'm not mad at anybody."
--The Dolphins re-signed defensive tackle Randy Starks, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, with a two-year, $12 million deal Wednesday.
Starks had 49 tackles and four sacks while playing all 16 games last year.
"I've been a part of this organization for six years and I think I'm established here," said Starks, who has started 81 of the 96 games he has played for the Dolphins. "I'm just happy to be back and this was my first choice and that's why I didn't take any visits. I had options out there but this is where I want to be. I want to finish my career here and I think this two-year deal gives me a chance to do that."
Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey was optimistic earlier in the day that a deal was going to get done with Starks.
"We couldn't be happier to have him return to the Miami Dolphins," Hickey said. "He's a quality football player, a quality person and I know he's been very active in the community. He's what we always talk about, a good teammate, a good person in the community and an excellent football player.
"Today shows a lot about our commitment up front and how important that is and Randy Starks is a two-time Pro Bowler, a versatile defensive lineman that can play the run, that can rush the passer and that can do a lot of things."
--Cornerback is a bit of concern considering the Dolphins cut Dimitri Patterson (saving $5.4 million) and Nolan Carroll left as a free agent. The Dolphins drafted CBs Jamar Taylor (second round) and Will Davis (third round) last year so cutting Patterson (four interceptions in six games) might be an indication they think one of the rookies might come through next season. Carroll isn't expected to return.
--Miami's offense is quietly in the middle of a major reconstruction. There's a new offensive coordinator (Bill Lazor), a new OL coach (Jack Bicknell, Jr.), as many as four new starting linemen, and the search continues to upgrade at running back. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill said the offense will be different under Lazor but isn't quite sure on specifics because he hasn't had a chance to work closely with Lazor yet due to NFL rules.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--The Dolphins signed unrestricted free-agent tackle Jason Fox to a one-year contract. The 6-foot-6, 314-pound Fox joins Miami after spending the past four seasons with the Detroit Lions (2010-13).
"I think every athlete wants to be a starter, and there's some openings on this offensive line," Fox said in a teleconference with Miami reporters. "I came in here to give it everything I have to and to earn a starting job. Whether it's right tackle or whether it's inside somewhere, I'm here to help this team out in any way I can."
Fox appeared in 13 regular-season games with three starts during his tenure with Detroit. In 2013, Fox opened the regular season as the Lions' starting right tackle and overall appeared in eight games with three starts that season. Fox saw action in one game for the Lions during the 2012 campaign. He was inactive for eight games in 2011 prior to being placed on injured reserve on Nov. 11, 2011.
Fox was selected by Detroit in the fourth-round (128th overall) of the 2010 NFL Draft.
Fox returns to South Florida where he was an All-ACC performer and two-time team captain for the Miami Hurricanes.
--The Dolphins signed unrestricted free agent running back Knowshon Moreno signed a one-year contract.
According to reports, the deal is worth up to $3 million.
"I would like to welcome Knowshon Moreno to the Miami Dolphins," Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey said. "Knowshon is an experienced, productive, three-down player and adds another multi-threat to our backfield.
"He is an accomplished 1,000-yard rusher who also caught 60 passes out of the backfield last season as well. We are excited about the contributions he will make to our offense."
Moreno, who met with the Dolphins last week, was the main back for the Denver Broncos last season. He rushed for 1,038 yards and 10 touchdowns and caught 60 passes for 548 yards and three scores.
Moreno, who averaged 4.3 yards per carry, will likely compete with Lamar Miller for carries. Miller and Daniel Thomas totaled 1,105 yards and six touchdowns as Miami's leading rushers last season.
"I think the main thing (behind choosing Miami) was just getting the opportunity to go down and meet with the coaches and meet with the different people working at the facility and just building a short relationship with those guys and coming in and having a good time," Moreno said. "You know when I get out there I'm going to work hard. Do what I have to do to learn the new system and meet the new guys and build relationship and get to work from there."
--TACKLE: The Dolphins signed LT Branden Albert but they'll still need three additional starters through free agency and the draft. But solidifying the position vacated by Jake Long and Jonathan Martin in the last two seasons was the No. 1 priority.
--GUARD: LG Richie Incognito and RG John Jerry (Giants) are both free agents, and both were implicated in the Wells Report and bullying scandal. Perhaps veteran Nate Garner, second-year player Sam Brenner or third-round pick Dallas Thomas can become a starter, but that won't be the plan entering OTAs. Shelley Smith was signed, but that's just a start.
--FREE SAFETY: Miami signed Louis Delmas, formerly of the Detroit Lions. He'll replace Chris Clemons, who left as a free agent. This should be an upgrade but Delmas isn't a surefire difference-maker because of his injury history.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)
--G Danny Watkins (not tendered as RFA) never broke into the rotation after being signed at mid-season when the team badly needed help. That's not good. He'll have to fight to return.
--OT Will Yeatman (not tendered as RFA) sustained a season-ending knee injury during practice midway through the season. If he's healthy the Dolphins would like to have him back.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--LG Richie Incognito won't be back. Owner Steve Ross said as much. Not much more needs to be said.
--TE Dustin Keller sustained a horrifying knee injury in preseason, tearing multiple ligaments. He signed a one-year contract last year. He might return for a minimum-salary deal.
--LT Bryant McKinnie was signed mid-season and seemed to help, but not enough. That's why the Dolphins signed LT Branden Albert from Kansas City. There's an outside chance McKinnie stays as the right tackle but it's doubtful.
--WR Marlon Moore was acquired midway through the season and didn't make much of a contribution from scrimmage. He was a core special teams player and that might be his best hope to return.
--LB Austin Spitler was a core special teams player and will probably return. Spitler hasn't had much opportunity from scrimmage.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
--WR Armon Binns: ERFA; terms unknown.
--LB Jonathan Freeny: ERFA; terms unknown.
--CB Brent Grimes: Potential UFA; $32.025M/4 yrs, $6M SB/$16.95M guaranteed.
--DT Randy Starks: UFA; $10M/2 yrs.
--T Branden Albert: UFA Chiefs; $46M/5 yrs, $8.5M SB/$25M guaranteed.
--WR Kevin Cone: Not tendered as ERFA by Falcons; terms unknown.
--S Louis Delmas: FA Lions; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--CB Cortland Finnegan: FA Rams; $11M/2 yrs.
--T Jason Fox: UFA Lions; $795/1 yr, $65,000 SB.
--DT Earl Mitchell: UFA Texans; $16M/4 yrs, $9M guaranteed.
--RB Knowshon Moreno: UFA Broncos; $2M/1 yr, $500,000 SB/$1.25M guaranteed.
--G Shelley Smith: UFA Rams; $5.5M/2yrs, $500,000 SB/$1.5M guaranteed.
--WR Damian Williams: UFA Titans; $800,000/1 yr.
--CB Nolan Carroll: UFA Eagles; $5.2M/2 yrs.
--S Chris Clemons: UFA Texans; $2.7M/2 yrs, $450,000 SB.
--G John Jerry: UFA Giants; $770,000/1 yr, $25,000 guaranteed.
--CB Dimitri Patterson (released).
--T Jonathan Martin (traded 49ers).
--CB Christopher Owens: UFA Chiefs; terms unknown.
--DT Paul Soliai: UFA Falcons; $33M/5 yrs, $14M guaranteed.
--CB R.J. Stanford: Not tendered as RFA/Bengals; terms unknown.
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