Bill Barnwell, who grades the Miami Dolphins offseason a D-plus, is graded on his analysis
  • Uplandram2

    Bill Barnwell, who grades the Miami Dolphins offseason a D-plus, is graded on his analysis

    by Uplandram2 » Sun May 21, 2017 1:49 am

    Bill Barnwell of is a respected analyst who annually takes on the gargantuan task of grading every NFL team’s offseason moves. I don’t recall ever meeting Barnwell. I’ve never seen him at a Miami Dolphins practice, or game, or in the locker room.

    But I’m quite certain Barnwell doesn’t like the team’s method of doing business very much.

    That’s because this year Barnwell gave the Dolphins a D-plus grade for their offseason work -- the lowest grade of any AFC East team.

    And last year Barnwell awarded the Dolphins a D-plus grade for their offseason work -- the third-lowest of the four AFC East teams.

    I tried for about two seconds to search for Barnwell’s 2015 offseason grades but gave up because the two years I just mentioned were so filled with errors, poor assumptions and flawed analysis that I figured I’d stick to those two pieces for my purposes here.

    And my purpose is to put Barnwell’s grading of the Dolphins offseason under the same type of scrutiny he just put the club under.

    Let’s begin chronologically. In 2016, Barnwell thought the Dolphins got taken on the trade with Philadelphia that brought Kiko Alonso and Byron Maxwell to Miami in exchange for moving from the No. 8 overall selection in the draft to the No. 13 overall selection.

    I know Barnwell thinks this was a bad move because he writes about the trade under the heading, “What went wrong.”

    Barnwell was indifferent about the Dolphins taking “a flier” on Kiko Alonso to play middle linebacker but he really disliked the Dolphins taking Byron Maxwell in the deal because the cornerback didn’t play well on an Eagles team where no players played well enough to save Chip Kelly’s job.

    The problem with Barnwell’s stance is that, for the Dolphins, the trade turned out quite nicely. Alonso was one of the team’s best defenders last season and now is considered a defensive stalwart. And Maxwell, after a very rough start, settled into his starting job and will probably keep that job again this year before probably moving along next year.

    So by Barnwell’s own analysis the Dolphins gave up the equivalent of a fifth-round pick for two defensive starters. He thought that was a bad deal. He was wrong.

    Barnwell correctly called the addition of Mario Williams in place of Olivier Vernon “a downgrade.”

    And he correctly questioned the trade-up for receiver Leonte Carroo, who caught only three passes last season and was particularly disappointing late in the year. (Quick reminder: The actual grade on this move has to be incomplete because obviously Caroo’s career is not over.)

    But Barnwell missed it on Xavien Howard. He questioned Miami’s move up five spots to get Howard in the second round. He didn’t mention the Dolphins badly needed a starting cornerback at the time, which more than made the move up understandable. And as with everything, the proof is in the play on the field, where Howard has already earned a starting job.

    The only question coaches have about Howard today, after seeing him practice and play, is not whether he has ability but whether he has durability.

    Barnwell wasn’t a fan of the Dolphins extending Cameron Wake’s contract last offseason. This is what he wrote:

    “At 34 and coming off of a torn Achilles, there's a legitimate chance that Wake won't regain his form as one of the better pass-rushers in all of football. The Dolphins had Wake signed for one more year with a cap hit of $9.8 million, but over the weekend, they re-signed him to a two-year extension with $10 million in new, fully guaranteed money.

    “Before agreeing to this deal, there was a chance that a monster season from Wake would have forced the Dolphins to spend the franchise tag on him in 2017. But the chances are greater that the Dolphins paid for the player they're hoping Wake still is instead of the guy who shows up this upcoming season.”

    Wake produced a team-high 11.5 sacks last season and also led the team with 24 quarterback hurries. He was an NFL comeback player of the year candidate.

    The Dolphins got it right on Wake. Barnwell was wrong.

    This year’s analysis, with its subsequent division-worst grade, is also filled with questionable assumptions -- not to mention some factual errors.

    Look, it’s fair for an analyst to project. It’s fair to have an opinion. I make a living doing it. But I recognize, and Barnwell must recognize, once you put your work out there, people can dissect it.

    Barnwell dissected the merits of the Dolphins’ work. I’m dissecting the merits of Barnwell’s work.

    I welcome anyone to dissect my work. I’m a big boy.

    Amid all this biology class dissecting, facts are important in forming opinions. So when the facts are wrong or misleading or incomplete, the opinions formed from those misbegotten facts lose credibility.

    To wit:

    Barnwell writes the Dolphins took “a worthwhile flier at just $1.3 million” on safety T.J. McDonald this offseason. Cool, except McDonald is suspended the first eight games and will not be paid during that time. The fact is the Dolphins will pay McDonald no more than $800,000 in 2017 and that’s if he plays in all eight games after his suspension is over.

    So Barnwell graded the Dolphins based on this incorrect fact to form at least a small percentage of his grade. And as you’ll see, the incorrect facts will begin to add up in a minute.

    Barnwell writes the Dolphins “continually outspent the market to bring back their own players.” And he cites Kenny Stills, Reshad Jones, and Andre Branch as examples.

    Let’s see ... Stills said “three major players,” meaning teams, were interested in him and bidding on him during the legal tampering period before the start of free agency. At least one of those, the Philadelphia Eagles, outbid the Dolphins for Stills. Stills made a decision to nonetheless return to the Dolphins even if it was for less money because he felt a comfort level with coach Adam Gase, the offense, the town, all of it.

    So how did the Dolphins outspend the market on Stills when they offered less than at least one other team? Oh, they didn’t. Barnwell claimed something that simply wasn’t true.

    Barnwell also says Stills got paid based on “an unsustainable” touchdown production. Stills scored nine touchdowns last year. That’s admittedly a very high mark. But how can Barnwell state unequivocally the mark is unsustainable? He doesn’t know that. He may think it, but he doesn’t know it.

    That’s simply a statement made based on ... opinion, projection, hope?, air.

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