WEIGHING WALE OPTIONS

One of the most important offseason issues the Dolphins still have to resolve involves the status of defensive end Adewale Ogunleye, who isn't happy GM Rick Spielman said the Ogunleye situation had been on the backburner. But given that the Dolphins still own his rights, Spielman was right in saying it's not an issue that needs to be addressed immediately. But it will have to be addressed.

As a player with three accrued NFL seasons, Ogunleye is a restricted free agent, and the Dolphins secured their rights to him by extending a tender of $1.852 million.

That was the highest tender possible for Ogunleye, and it gave the Dolphins the right to match any offer sheet Ogunleye signs or receive as compensation first- and third-round picks.

Teams have until April 16 to sign Ogunleye to an offer sheet. After that, he can negotiate only with the Dolphins.

Of course, another option is for the Dolphins to sign Ogunleye and then trade him for the best offer they can get.

It has been reported that both Minnesota and Chicago are interested in acquiring Ogunleye, but neither is willing to fork over a first-round pick for him.

The Dolphins would prefer keeping Ogunleye, but certainly would consider trading him if they can get enough in return. And enough has to start with a first-round pick.

Remember, Ogunleye led the AFC with 15 sacks last season and pass rushers don't fall off trees.

The best-case scenario is re-signing Ogunleye to a long-term, but he won't come cheaply. The issue, then, is how much is too much.

Jason Taylor, who plays opposite Ogunleye and simply is a better player, already makes big money. So do Zach Thomas, Patrick Surtain and Sam Madison.

So at some point you can't pay everybody big money, otherwise you will not salary cap problems.

The Dolphins do have depth at defensive end, with the likes of Jay Williams, David Bowens and promising youngster Otis Grigsby. But Ogunleye is a proven pass-rushing commodity, and the Dolphins should hang on to him, unless they get blown away by a trade offer.

Ogunleye has said he will not play for the one-year tender, but his problem is he really has no leverage other than to sit out until midway through the season, then come in to finish off the season and get himself another accrued season to become an unrestricted free agent next spring.

But that doesn't seem a likely scenario. Hopefully, the Dolphins can sign Ogunleye to a long-term deal, but we see a worst-case scenario as Ogunleye signing the one-year tender, not being happy for a while and then playing out his contract.

A trade sounds great to a lot of people because it would give the Dolphins good draft ammunition, but if you trade Ogunleye, don't you have to draft a defensive end to replace him? Or do you count on the veteran Williams to be able to do the job on a full-time basis?

We say, stick with what you know is effective, and that's Taylor and Ogunleye starting at opposite ends of the defensive line.


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