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Miami Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin, coming off a high-profile bullying scandal that rocked his team and the NFL, said Tuesday he will be more visible and accessible to his players.
Miami's scandal in 2013 led to a league investigation into the Dolphins' locker-room culture. Philbin has maintained he was blindsided by an NFL investigation that Richie Incognito and two other offensive linemen (John Jerry and Mike Pouncey) harassed former teammate Jonathan Martin, who left the team in October. Martin was traded to the San Francisco 49ers earlier this month.
Philbin took responsibility Tuesday at the NFL meetings in Orlando, Fla., saying the situation will prompt a change in the way he coaches.
"As I examined some of the things as head coach of the Dolphins I can do better, I think the visibility factor can be the difference," Philbin said. "That's one of the things that I'm going to do. It's not that I (had) never been (visible). But I think one of the things that happens sometimes to coaches is you're conflicted of whether I should watch that blitz tape or third-down film.
"Sometimes a better use of a head coach's time is to walk through the training room, walk through the locker room, walk through the hallways. It's not that I've never done that stuff, but I think it's fair to say I'm going to do it more."
According to the Ted Wells report, Martin never told any of his superiors, including Philbin, that he was being harassed.
"I think a lot of times what happens in the building in the National Football League is everybody doesn't want to be the bearer of bad news sometimes," Philbin said. "The head coach is busy, so don't bother him. He's watching film, doing this and doing that.
"But we got to get away from that. Frankly, I have to be a little more vigilant in the enforcement of the policies and procedures that I want to have in the locker room that I want to have. That falls on me."
The locker-room culture has been a priority topic at the meetings and the bullying scandal prompted conversation and change throughout the league.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the three players involved in the bullying scandal Mike Pouncey, John Jerry (now with the Giants) and Incognito must be evaluated medically before returning to the field.
Philbin acknowledged the scandal has caused some sleepless nights.
"When you coach, you want everybody to have a great experience," Philbin said. "You want to make an impact. I can't speak for 31 other guys, my colleagues, on why they got into coaching. But I know why I got into coaching. You want players to leave (here feeling they had) a great experience playing. When it's not, it's bothersome."
Left tackle Branden Albert was the top target of the Miami Dolphins, who reeled in the veteran with a five-year, $46 million deal that includes $25 million guaranteed.
The contract will become official pending a physical.
The Dolphins allowed a NFL-worst 58 sacks last season and must rebuild an offensive line that, at this time last year, listed Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin as starters on the right side.
Miami pursued Albert heavily last offseason, when he was designated the franchise player of the Chiefs. The 29-year-old who spent his previous six NFL seasons with Kansas City, was probably the best tackle on the market.
Of course, Albert won't cure all that ails the offensive line, but it is a definite upgrade and the start of what will remain an ongoing offseason focus.
And the Dolphins could afford even more improvement because they have money to spend. They had $36 million remaining after re-signing cornerback Brent Grimes to a four-year, $32 million contract with $16 million guaranteed.
Grimes and defensive tackle Randy Starks might be the only significant players the Dolphins re-sign among their own free agents. Expect Incognito, right guard John Jerry, right tackle Tyson Clabo, free safety Chris Clemons and cornerback Nolan Carroll to play elsewhere next season. Carroll signed with the Eagles, while Jerry signed with the Giants and Clemons with Houston.
Miami signed former Detroit free safety Louis Delmas, which means three of their four starting jobs in the secondary are taken among Delmas, strong safety Reshad Jones and Grimes. The remaining cornerback spot opposite Grimes is up for grabs. The Dolphins released cornerback Dimitri Patterson and saved $5.4 million against the salary cap.
The biggest job facing the Dolphins in free agency could be signing another starting-caliber offensive lineman whether it's a right guard, left guard or right tackle.
The Dolphins needed two starting tackles and two starting guards to play alongside Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey. To accomplish that goal they need a combination of free agency and the draft. There's a good chance they try to get two starters via free agency and two starters via the draft.
Miami also wants to upgrade at linebacker. One scenario has the Dolphins signing a middle linebacker, and moving middle linebacker Dannell Ellerbe to strong-side linebacker, which would send linebacker Koa Misi to the bench.
The linebackers are catching lots of blame for the Dolphins ranking 24th in rushing defense.
Miami also needs an upgrade at running back, but that isn't considered a big priority in free agency.
It should be noted this is the second consecutive season the Dolphins have grabbed what could be considered the No. 1 free agent on the market. Last year the Dolphins signed former Pittsburgh wide receiver Mike Wallace to a five-year, $60 million deal.
Miami also acquired Grimes last year in free agency, and he turned into a Pro Bowl player, albeit a costly one.
The Dolphins wisely positioned themselves to have money to spend the last two years, and are hoping the resulting moves end their five-year playoff drought.