1.Sign a top free-agent receiver like Mike Wallace,Dwayne Bowe or Greg Jennings. Each is under 30. Each has a portfolio this offense needs. Sign one, problem solved, right? Not so simple, as the Brandon Marshallsigning showed.
This goes beyond dollars, too. Who passes Joe Philbin's attitude test (see Marshall, Vontae Davis, Chad Johnson). Does he like Jennings, who has had injury issues this year but has at least nine touchdowns four of the past six seasons?
2. … it continues in the draft. The talk for the next several months will be it's a draft heavy with linemen and no clear-cut franchise receiver. That's fine. The Dolphins couldn't reach that high with a middle-of-the-pack pick (they're 15th entering Sunday). No matter what, their top needs are for a receiver, tight end and tackle. Shuffle the names how you want in coming months. They need impact from each position next year.
3. Say good-bye to Jake Long. Everything points to Long playing elsewhere in 2013. He hasn't finished the last two seasons and his body has started to crumble – shoulder, knee, now triceps – taking his once-elite game with it. Throw in rookie Jonathan Martin being more comfortable at left tackle than right tackle and this confirms Long won't be back.
4. Don't overspend on Sean Smith. Smith could have made things easy for him and the team with a better season. Instead, his fourth year was much like the other three – some good, some bad and a lot of questions if he'll ever be a dominant cornerback. If you're asking that after four years, you have your answer. Slap the franchise tag on him for $10 million? That's the temptation Ireland will have to weigh against his off-season plans.
5. Time to extend Reshad Jones. He's the one Dolphin with a break-out season.You wantedCharles Clay, Daniel Thomas or any of the receivers to join him. But Jones was among the top-rated safeties by Pro Football Focus, led the team with six turnovers and, if he can deal with success, will be an elite player for years. With a year left on his contract, it's in everyone's best interests to extend that this off-season.
6. Sign Reggie Bush for little and Brian Hartline for a little more. At some point, Ireland decided to stop negotiating during the season surely with the idea teams over-spend in mid-year contracts. Bush and Hartline must have different ideas of their value than Ireland. Bush won't come close to the two-year, $10-million contract he signed to join the Dolphins. Hartline is good but not game-changing great. Both are pros, produce and you want at the right price.
7. The dilemma of Randy Starks. You don't want to weaken a strength on the defensive line. Starks won't break the bank. He also went from a dominant September to just a good last half of the season. Let him hit the market and see what he's worth. Then probably bring him back much like it worked with Paul Soliai.
8. Bring back Armon Binns. Officially adopted as a player-to-watch for 2013. A big, fast and cheap ($480,000 in '13) receiver on a team that needs all that. Who knows what he becomes, but why did Cincinnati release him?
9. Don't forget back-up quarterback. Former Green Bay general manager Ron Wolf had the idea of investing in a quarterback somewhere in every draft. Better yet, is there anyone in the back-up stage of his career? Tannehill proved durable as a rookie, but would use a veteran backing him up.
10. Evaluate Jeff Ireland. This is the off-season that defines him. Even discounting his years under Bill Parcells, his results are a mixed bag. His 2011 draft looks a wash after center Mike Pouncey (Thomas, Charles Clay, Clyde Gates, Jimmy Wilson …) But 75 percent of a general manager's job is finding a quarterback and Ireland has provided hope with Tannehill.
Now Ireland has lots of decisions and more chips at his disposal than in years. Who is he, once and for all? We're about to find out.