By Chip Turner
In 1973, David Essex released a staggeringly awful song called “Rock On.” It inexplicably climbed the charts as a pop hit, making David a ton of money. In 1989, Michael Damian released an equally awful cover of the song, once again assaulting pop charts and the ears of the world’s youth. After Buffalo thoroughly demolished the Dolphins in the last game of the regular season this year, “Rock On” lyrics that had been non-consensually burned into my memory bubbled to the surface: “Where do we go from here? Which is the way that’s clear?”
One thing Brian Flores has certainly shown in his tenure as head coach is the ability to shake off a bad loss and keep moving forward. As the organization moves on into 2021, here are dates to mark on your NFL calendar. Remember, the NFL season never actually ends….it just slows down a little.
January 30th: Senior Bowl.
This date became tremendously more important this week due to the announcement that the Miami Dolphins staff would coach one of the teams. Brian Flores and his staff now get to spend a tremendous amount of time with some of the top draft prospects in the country. With four draft picks in the top 50 overall, this gives Flores and Chris Grier an opportunity to make the most of the NFL draft.
March 9th: Designation of Franchise and Transition Players.
While this doesn’t affect the Dolphins much directly (they’re unlikely to franchise tag anyone), the 2021 salary cap is going to make things interesting around the league.
March 15-17: Contact with pending Free Agents.
Here’s where the fun begins. While the salary cap might be more than the $175 million floor that seems to be agreed upon by the NFL, it’s certainly not going to be what was expected. This leaves more than a few teams in salary cap trouble, with Philly and New Orleans projected to be over $75 million in the wrong direction.
This means a couple things: First, there are going to be numerous talented, high-priced players released from their contracts. Second, many of these players won’t be able to acquire high-dollar 2021 contracts, because there are only a few teams with a LOT of cap space. Miami has the 10th most cap available for 2021, so they’ll be in play for an infusion of much-needed talent.
March 17 at 4:00 pm: The 2021 NFL year begins…
…and so does the complaining. No matter whom Chris Grier and Brian Flores acquire in Free Agency, 1/3 of the Dolphins fanbase will love it, 1/3 will insist for the 3,917th time that Flores and Grier should be fired immediately, and 1/3 will be unsure how or unable to react, because they’re celebrating a completely different event.
You see, March 17th is also St Patrick’s Day. Erin Go Bragh!
April 29-May 1: The NFL Draft.
With Free Agency done, Miami will look to fill the rest of the team’s needs with 9 picks over three days. These days are the culmination of months of speculation, mock drafts, smoke screens, rumors, and pontificating. And up until the Miami Dolphins actually make their picks, nobody but a select few people in the Dolphins organization will know what’s going to happen.
There will be plenty of “experts” who tell you they know how a player will project to the NFL. Some of them actually ARE experts, with experience at the collegiate and NFL level. The majority of them are “message board experts” with experience at watching YouTube and making ham sandwiches. I fall mostly into the latter category; sometimes I’m right about a player, but more often I say things like, “I’m pretty sure Storm Johnson is going to stick on an NFL roster for a long time.”
Regardless, it’s one of the more fun weekends of the off-season, and it’s only about 3 months away. This gives us just enough time to cleanse our memory of the final game of the 2020 Dolphins season and move forward into the Summer of 2021.