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Hey, big spender

Miami has set itself up for big offseason; your e-mail

Posted: Tuesday February 12, 2008 4:37PM; Updated: Tuesday February 12, 2008 5:57PM
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Lance Briggs
Bill Parcells and the Dolphins have the money to land a marquee free agent like Lance Briggs.
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The Miami Dolphins are very quietly setting themselves up to be an offseason power in the NFL. The waiving of quarterback Trent Green, wide receiver Marty Booker and offensive tackle L.J. Shelton this week added $9.9 million in savings to the 2008 salary-cap total, and helped boost the Dolphins' cap number from $29 million to $40 million.

The Dolphins are now positioned to make a run at one of a number of in-their-prime free agents -- linebacker Lance Briggs (27 next opening day), cornerback Asante Samuel (27) or safety Gibril Wilson (26) -- as well as having plenty of room to be mobile on draft day. The Dolphins can sit with the No. 1 pick and take a quarterback of the future, such as Boston College's Matt Ryan, or a defensive cornerstone, such as lineman Chris Long of Virginia, or they can trade down for multiple picks.

The money for Samuel and Briggs is going to be ridiculous. Samuel, who put on a poor performance in the Super Bowl, is still likely to command $11 million a year at a need position with so few good corners slated to be unrestricted. Briggs will likely be at least an $8-million-a-year catch. The trade-down prospect might be the toughest part of this scenario, obviously. No one's clamoring to move up to No. 1, not with the prospect of paying the top pick a guaranteed $30 million.

Look for the Dolphins, with Bill Parcells running the show, to play this thing close to the vest. You might hear some rumors out there about what they're interested in doing, but the only one I place any stock in right now is the one that NFL Network's Adam Schefter reported on Sunday, something which I know to be about as true as any draft-related rumor can be right now -- Miami is leaning toward making Long the first pick if they don't deal it.

But with 74 days 'til the draft, that decision could shift four or five ways by the time it really has to be made. I've said this before -- the second season in the NFL is draft season, and fans in a lot of markets like it more than they do the regular season. Never quite figured that one out, but it's a fact.

Before I get to your e-mail, a cute story from last Thursday. Eli Manning, still basking in the post-Super Bowl glow, was eating dinner with fiancee Abby McGrew and center Shaun O'Hara at the famous Rao's Restaurant in Harlem. Manning saw Yogi Berra there and went to his table to say hello. He told Berra his dad was a huge fan, and he asked how many championships Berra had won with the Yankees.

"Ten,'' Yogi said.

"Wow,'' Manning said. "I only have nine to go to catch you.''

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