A Major Hint?

General Manager Jeff Ireland held a press conference on Thursday to discuss the upcoming draft and made it clear he didn't want to discuss specifics in terms of players or strategy. But did he tip the Dolphins' hand when he talked about the kind of player the team would want with the first overall pick?

"I'm going after the player that best fits us," Ireland said. "That's the best way I can say it. I don't want bad guys on our team. Of course, I want guys that have great upside. It's the first pick in the draft."

Here comes the interesting part: "This guy is going to be .. you hope that he's a pillar of your defense for a long time. Of course, we think he's going to have upside. The economics, to me ..."

At that point, Ireland was interrupted by a reporter pointing out that he had said a pillar of the defense, as opposed to a pillar of the team or a pillar, period.

"Pillar of your defense or offense, your team," Ireland replied. "A Freudian slip."

Another reporter jokingly asked whether Ireland's comment, something he said he uses.

"I'll let you guys decide," Ireland answered.

Ireland's comments come after several published reports suggesting the Dolphins have begun contract negotiations with Michigan offensive tackle Jake Long.

The top defensive prospects in the draft are LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, Virginia defensive end Chris Long and Ohio State defensive end Vernon Gholston.

Of those, Gholston clearly is the best fit for the Dolphins.

The Dolphins are expected to employ a 3-4 defense under new coach Tony Sparano -- Ireland even mentioned Thursday nose tackle among the "core positions" on a team -- and Dorsey appears to project as a 4-3 defensive tackle. Long appears best suited to play defensive end in a 4-3, but Gholston dropped in coverage at times at Ohio State and looks like he has the athleticism required to make the switch to a pass-rushing 3-4 outside linebacker.

Among other topics Ireland touched on Thursday:

• Along with nose tackle, he identified core positions as cornerback, left tackle, "a pressure player," quarterback and a No. 1 wide receiver. He then said, "We don't have a whole lot of those."

• Ireland said he had received a few phone calls regarding a trade involving the No. 1 pick, but expected more conversations starting next week.

• ireland described the group of offensive tackle prospects as a "strong class altogether," and said there were several who could be first-round picks.

• The idea of passing on the first overall pick to avoid the huge signing bonus given to the player has been suggested in various media outlets, but Ireland said it was "all speculation." When asked point blank whether that possibility could be put to rest, he replied, "Yeah."

• There's no such thing as a "can't-miss" prospect, as far as Ireland is concerned. He called the draft a 50-50 proposition, adding, "I'm not really one to take a risk. I like guys who fit what we do."

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