FREE AGENCY AT HAND

The Dolphins might not be on the phone the second the free agency period begins, but it might not be long after that. Free agency 2003 officially opens at 12:01 a.m. Friday, and the Dolphins again will be focusing on their own free agents.

"Our philosophy has not changed," said Coach Dave Wannstedt. "It won't change this year from previous years. The first goal is to try to keep as many of our own guys as we possibly can. Sometimes that's possible, sometimes not."

The Dolphins have 12 unrestricted free agents, not including players who have been released in the offseason, such as wide receiver Dedric Ward.

Already, there is word the Dolphins are about to re-sign offensive lineman Mark Dixon, who is one of those 12.

The other 11 are DE David Bowens, WR Cris Carter, TE Desmond Clark, WR Oronde Gadsden, LB Scott Galyon, FB Rob Konrad, CB Paul Miranda, P Mark Royals, T Brent Smith, T Marcus Spriggs and TE Jed Weaver.

The Dolphins also have four restricted free agents — S Arturo Freeman, S Trent Gamble, CB Ray Green and DT Jermaine Haley.

The Dolphins were expected to extend qualifying offers to Freeman, Gamble and Haley, but might let Green walk.

Among the unrestricted free agents, Carter is gone because he wants to be a starter and the Dolphins don't view him that way; Spriggs probably won't be back because he wants to be a starter; Miranda is not a priority; and the Dolphins realistically can only sign one of the two tight ends.

As far as what the Dolphins might go after, a left tackle is a strong possibility, as is a punt returner, a nickel cornerback and a wide receiver.

The Dolphins could use an upgrade at outside linebacker, but Wannstedt expressed on Tuesday that he is satisfied with Morlon Greenwood and Derrick Rodgers.

One thing for certain: Don't expect the Dolphins to throw big money at any one player, the way they did last year with Chicago center Olin Kreutz, who wound up re-signing with the Bears.

"Because of his youth and his ability level we would have pursued him," Wannstedt said. "But this year I don't see that happening, to be quite honest with you. There are a couple of guys out there, but at the position that they are, it just doesn't make as much sense to us."


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