Every cloud of the AFC's dust has a silver lining -- or something like that. For the Dolphins, the rickety Tunnel of Flubs they called a season has spit them out at 12th pick on the upcoming NFL Draft board.
Not too shabby of a spot, if you ask the teams that picked up Jonathan Vilma, Warren Sapp, and Warrick Dunn.
If you ask the Dolphins they'll point you to three years of Marco Coleman -- and then see him off to the Chargers. Funny how that works.
1. St. Louis (1-15)
2. Detroit (2-14)
3. Tampa Bay (3-13)
4. Washington (4-12)
5. Kansas City (4-12)
6. Seattle (5-11)
7. Cleveland (5-11)
8. Oakland (5-11)
9. Buffalo (6-10)
10. Jacksonville (7-9)*
11. Denver (from Chicago 7-9)
12. Miami (7-9)
13. San Francisco (8-8)
14. Seattle (from Denver 8-8)
15. New York Giants (8-8)
(Yeah, that's a three-way tie for 10th-worth record in the league. 305! 305!)
If there's one thing we learned on the way down this year, it's that the Dolphins have a variety of needs. What Bill Parcells and the staff will have to figure out now -- yes, we're convinced the Tuna isn't swimming away -- is which they can best fill through free agency and which they need to acquire through the draft.
Some of the positions they'll consider:
Nose tackle: the Dolphins' run defense plummeted from 4th as low as 14th when Jason Ferguson went down with a season-ending quad injury. Though Ferg said today he's well into the 6-8 month recovery period and wants to return in 2010, he's also going to be 36 years old. And meanwhile, we've learned Paul Soliai isn't much of a solution.
The problem is, it'll be shocking if the top two nose tackles (out of three) in this year's draft, Nebraska's manbearbeast Ndamukong Soh and Oklahoma's Gerald McCoy, aren't gone by the sixth pick.
Linebacker: Inside, outside, whatever. Miami needs to shore up both, because what they have now is either inadequate or aging, or running up the wrong lane or jumping onto the pile late just to get some action and we're looking at you, Mister Channing Crowder.
On the outside are Joey Porter and Jason Taylor, both petering out and one valiant. The Dolphins really ought to bring Taylor back for proper use against the pass and his most welcome veteran leadership (read: he can scream at rookie corners really, really well). We'd take Texas' Sergio Kindle or Penn State's Navarro Bowman -- and not, for once, because they're named Sergio Kindle and Navarro Bowman, but because Joey Porter just aged a dog year in five months.
Receiver: This wasn't as bad of late, with Brian Hartline stepping up and Davone Bess proving reliable, if unspectacular. But if the Dolphins want an offense worthy of the playoffs, they've got to have a playmaker. You know, someone who can run -- not just to sidelines -- and catch.
Safety: [bangs head on desk] This one might best be solved in free agency: Arizona's Antrel Rolle expects to be released because he's done too well. With performance incentives met, his salary would balloon to $14 million in 2010 and the Cards haven't approached him to redo his contract. It would be perfect, really -- which probably automatically disqualifies it, somehow, for Miami.
And then there's tight end, and running back, and return specialist (there's NO WAY we're keeping Ginn, right?) and, well, here's hoping the Tuna is particularly good this year. It's hard to imagine, at any rate, that the Dolphins could get worse.