If indeed the Dolphins did begin contract negotiations with Long and/or Gholston, it's just a case of them doing their due diligence. We certainly wouldn't expect a major announcement of a deal being reached with any prospect until close to the draft.
For one thing, the Dolphins still would prefer being able to trade the selection, even though that might not be realistic given the financial ramifications of the pick.
If they're indeed going to stay at No. 1, the Dolphins no doubt would like to have the player signed before the draft to avoid a holdout like the one that kept Oakland's JaMarcus Russell from making it to the start of training camp last summer.
But because there's no "can't-miss" franchise prospect in this year's draft, it's not like the Dolphins are banging down doors to get "their" guy signed.
It's been suggested, and with good reason, the Dolphins likely will talk to several top prospects -- Jake Long, Gholston, Chris Long, Glenn Dorsey -- to see what kind of deal it would take to sign any of them.
While it probably won't be the determining factor, "signability" certainly could make a difference in the end in who the Dolphins take.
In that instance, the Texans were heavily criticized because many observers felt Bush was more of a difference-maker than Bush, even though it's now looking like Houston clearly made the right choice.
In the Dolphins' case this year, they get to choose between a handful of prospects who are seen as pretty even.
Chris Long is considered the safest prospect of the bunch, but he also doesn't have quite the upside that Gholston has. Meanwhile, there are minor question marks about both Jake Long (how good of a left tackle can he ben in the NFL?) and Dorsey (injury issue).
In the end, the Dolphins probably wouldn't go wrong with any of them, although Dorsey seems like a bad fit for a 3-4 defense.
That's why the issue of a contract comes into play. If the Dolphins can get one of those prospects signed at a much better price, that might push them in that direction.
In case you're wondering about Matt Ryan or Darren McFadden, neither makes much sense for the Dolphins because Ryan probably would want a huge deal at No. 1 and he also comes with too many questions about decision-making and lack of a top-flight arm, while McFadden plays what might be the Dolphins' deepest position.
That's why Long, Long and Gholston -- and maybe Dorsey, even though we still don't see it -- figure to be the targets.