Brandon Marshall's two year Dolphins career -- filled with highs, lows, and plenty of off-field drama -- ended unceremoniously Tuesday when the Dolphins traded him to the Chicago Bears for two third-round draft choices.
The deal frees up $5.8 million in cap space, leaving Miami less than $15 million under the cap and with multiple needs to fill.
The Dolphins are saving much of that space for a quarterback, which they hope will be top choice Peyton Manning or second choice Matt Flynn. As of Tuesday afternoon, they believed they were alive in the Manning sweepstakes after Monday night's meeting with him, but were not especially optimistic.
ESPN's Chris Mortensen named Tennessee and Denver as the favorites for Manning, and ESPN's Bill Polian, the former Colts' executive, said he believes Manning will not end up with Miami. Unlike Denver, which contacted Reggie Wayne, the Dolphins made no attempt Tuesday to sign players close to Manning. Wayne re-signed with the Colts late Tuesday.
The Dolphins engaged in serious talks with the agent for Flynn, making Flynn aware of Miami's strong interest if it doesn't get Manning. Coach Joe Philbin called Flynn and there were plans to discuss parameters of a contract, so that Miami can pounce on Flynn once it knows for sure it is out of the Manning race.
Flynn has high regard for Philbin, his former offensive coordinator in Green Bay. But he also is expected to consider interest from Cleveland and Seattle.
"The team that gets Matt is going to be very happy," Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers told NBC's Peter King.
"They'll be getting a top-15 quarterback."
Meanwhile, the Dolphins booked a meeting with former University of Miami standout offensive lineman Eric Winston, who was released by Houston on Monday. Winston, 28, considered the best right tackle available in free agency, said he will visit the Dolphins on Wednesday but does not yet have an offer from Miami. Winston, whose brother is a Dolphins scout, will also visit the Chiefs and Rams.
The Dolphins are also bringing in veteran cornerback Richard Marshall, who has 17 career interceptions, including three last season for Arizona. Marshall spent his first five seasons with the Carolina Panthers, starting in every game in the 2009 and 2010 seasons. He started in nine games for Arizona last season and had 69 tackles with two sacks to go along with the three picks. The Dolphins have made finding a No. 3 cornerback a priority. Marshall can also play free safety, where the Dolphins would not mind upgrading over Rashad Jones, Chris Clemons and Tyrone Culver.
The Dolphins also reportedly have shown interest in Packers free-agent center Scott Wells, 31, who made the Pro Bowl last season. If Wells signs, the Dolphins would have the option of moving Mike Pouncey to guard.
As for Brandon Marshall, Philbin did not see him as a great fit. Marshall likes to be the clear cut No. 1 receiver, and the Dolphins reportedly were concerned about how he would adjust to their desire to spread the ball around to a lot of targets.
The Dolphins will receive the Bears' third- round picks in 2012 and 2013.
Marshall, due a combined $27.5 million over the next three seasons, caught 81 passes for 1,214 yards last season. He had six touchdowns but dropped at least five.
The trade leaves a gaping hole at receiver, with Brian Hartline and Davone Bess the only veterans with more than six NFL receptions. Clyde Gates, Marlon Moore and Roberto Wallace also are under contract.
It does not look like the Dolphins will land an established No. 1 receiver in free agency. Pierre Garcon signed with Washington and Vincent Jackson with Tampa. Free agents still available include Brandon Lloyd, Robert Meachem (Miami hasn't called) and Mario Manningham. The Dolphins have expressed interest in Cowboys free-agent receiver Laurent Robinson, who had 54 catches for 858 yards and 11 touchdowns last season despite starting only four games. He will visit the Jacksonville Jaguars on Wednesday.
Acquired from Denver for two second-round picks in April 2010, Marshall made headlines in Miami for unusual reasons: He was stabbed during a domestic incident involving his wife (charges against her were eventually dropped); spoke openly about his battle with Borderline Personality Disorder; angered teammates by saying he planned to get ejected from a game against the Jets (he didn't); and threw a ball off teammate Vontae Davis' head during a confrontation last season.
One teammate said last season that Marshall behaved oddly at times, and that the former staff often looked the other way. But Marshall was nevertheless generally well-liked. "Hate to see my boy, B-Marshall, go," Reggie Bush tweeted. "Chicago's getting one hell of a player."
Dolphins center Mike Pouncey tweeted: "Brandon Marshall out of Miami? Tell me this ain't true."
The trade reunites Marshall with Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, his former teammate with the Denver Broncos.
The Dolphins used some cap space Tuesday by placing tenders on offensive tackle Lydon Murtha ($1.9 million) and defensive lineman Phillip Merling ($1.26 million) and by re-signing linebacker Austin Spitler and tight end Jeron Mastrud for $540,000 apiece.
The Dolphins did not tender Lex Hilliard and Ryan Baker, who become unrestricted free agents. They could return on minimum contracts, though former CFL standout Jerome Messam will compete for the fullback job.
--The Dolphins made an offer Tuesday to Paul Soliai, but other teams are believed to be offering more. The Dolphins maintain interest in Kendall Langford but couldn't come to an agreement Tuesday.
--Though the Dolphins badly want pass rushers, they do not have the cap space to afford Houston's Mario Williams, who is meeting with Buffalo. And they cannot afford the top guards: Carl Nicks, who is talking with Tampa Bay; and Ben Grubbs, who is meeting with Baltimore.
--Chad Henne, who will not return to Miami, will visit the Seahawks and Jaguars.
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