This group of new Miami Dolphins free agents? These very rich guys who come fully formed as NFL players and bring their own opinions, own goals, own personal circumstances? They all have something in common.
They picked the Dolphins as much as the Dolphins picked them.
Unlike the draft picks the Dolphins are scheduled to select in April, these players didn’t have to come here. They chose to come here.
Why come to a team that has not had a winning season since 2016 and only two the past 13 seasons? Why come to a team without an elite quarterback?
Why the Dolphins?
Well, each of the eight players the Dolphins made available to reporters for the first time on Thursday was asked that question. And the answers were intriguing.
And let me get this out of the way right now: All these are professional football players. So money obviously had to do with it. And Florida is a paradise with no state income tax so that obviously had something to do with it.
But there’s more to it than that.
Multiple players, mostly the players who made the switch from the New England Patriots, pointed to their relationship with Dolphins coach Brian Flores.
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”Just, I respect him as a coach, what he brings to the table, what he’s all about on the field and off,” linebacker Kyle Van Noy said. “As you guys have grown to know him a little bit better, I feel like you’re getting a sense of how he is as a person and a coach. And you probably wish you could play for him if you played football — just the type of attitude he has, the grit he has, the competitiveness he has.
“I mean, who doesn’t want to play for a coach like that? He’s ready to go all the time. And he brings that energy each and every day. That’s what you want as a coach. And as a player, that’s who I want to play for.”
Van Noy, Elandon Roberts and Kamu Grugier-Hill played for Flores on defense in New England. But center Ted Karras obviously plays on offense and he, too, pointed to Flores as a significant reason for making the move to the Dolphins.
“I got a couple offers, and I really believe in what Coach Flores is building and doing here, and I kind of wanted to get in and help him build it,” Karras said. “So I’m really excited. Hopefully [I will] get down there soon.”
Relationships are important in football, and for Shaq Lawson, who had a choice to return to the Buffalo Bills, he felt a kinship to a different Miami coach — defensive line coach Marion Hobby, who coached him at Clemson — and to a couple of former Clemson teammates.
“I found out Miami had interest in me at the time it opened up, and I have a great relationship with Marion Hobby down there,” Lawson said. “...He developed me into the player I am so that made my decision easy to go down there. And I know I have guys I’m familiar with, I have Christian Wilkins down there, I have [Cordrea] Tankersley.
“Tankersley was my roommate at Hargrave [Military Academy], so I have a relationship thing down there.”
Offensive guard Ereck Flowers loved his time with the Washington Redskins and resurrected his career there after struggling with the New York Giants. But the chance to return to the Redskins could not overcome Flowers’ desire to return to South Florida, where he was born, went to high school at Miami Norland High and college at the University of Miami.
“Being from Miami, it was a chance to come home to be where I’m from, where I grew up, where I been my whole life, and play at the pro level,” Flowers said. “So for me it was really kind of a tough choice, but I felt it was really the right choice as far as doing what I’ve always dreamed of being able to do and where I’ve wanted to play.”
And then there’s defensive lineman Emmanuel Ogbah...
He’s not from Miami. He has never played for Flores. But when free agency began, he loved the idea of playing in Miami for Flores.
“Once free agency started, the Dolphins were on me hard,” Ogbah said. “Other teams wanted me, too, and I just felt at home with the Dolphins because I’m always in South Florida because I train out here during the offseason.
“So I just felt wanted by the Dolphins, and I’m excited to play for coach Flores. I can’t wait.”
Byron Jones has no natural connections to the Dolphins or the region, either. Well, he does now that he signed the richest contract for an NFL cornerback ever — a five-year deal worth $82.5 million.
But Jones had options so it wasn’t just about the money. Yet the idea of the Dolphins apparently fascinated him.
“What really brought me to Miami was the idea of joining a young team and being a leader on that team and kind of being a catalyst for cultural change and helping this team win,” Jones said.
“I wanted to be a part of the building of something special and more than anything, just being that guy — a guy that people look up to in the locker room to lead them in the right direction, really.”
Everyone knows the Dolphins are rebuilding. Everyone knows there is no certainty of success in that because the Dolphins have rebuilt, no exaggeration, a dozen times this century.
But running back Jordan Howard felt good about this attempt.
“I felt it’s an up-and-coming team,” Howard said. “I’ve heard from people about the exciting things they’re doing. I know a lot of people saying they were trying not to be competitive last year, but they beat a few good teams last year late in the season. So, I definitely feel it’s a team on the rise.”