INDIANAPOLIS - The Dolphins expect Minnesota to release quarterback Daunte Culpepper before the Vikings are scheduled to pay him a $6 million roster bonus on March 17.
Because of that belief, the Dolphins have resisted the offer to trade for Culpepper, who also is scheduled to make $2 million in base salary for the 2006 season.
The Dolphins and Vikings recently discussed a trade for Culpepper. Although no exact compensation was discussed, the Vikings are asking for more than the second-round pick that was reported this month.
Despite those discussions, the Dolphins are not interested in a trade at this point. They are examining a number of quarterback options.
The Dolphins are expected to speak with the agents for San Diego quarterback Drew Brees if the Chargers and Brees are unable to work out a contract extension by the end of next week.
The Dolphins also are monitoring what Tennessee will do with Steve McNair and what Washington will do with Patrick Ramsey.
On Thursday they held further talks with agents Tom Condon and Ken Kremer regarding quarterback Tim Couch.
Condon and Kremer also represent Brees.
Cornerback Sam Madison recently backed off his claim that he would not take a pay cut to stay with the Dolphins. Agent Drew Rosenhaus told the team in recent talks that Madison might be willing to take less in hopes of returning.
The Dolphins, who were not happy with Madison's performance for much of the 2005 season before he rebounded at the end of the year, are considering all options when it comes to upgrading at cornerback.
The team is looking at numerous cornerbacks in the draft and is expected to talk with Ty Law, who was cut this week by the New York Jets. Law is among several veterans being considered, but most of them are expected to be too expensive.
As for Madison, he is scheduled to cost the Dolphins $6.5 million against the salary cap. That includes $3.7 million in base salary and bonuses. If the Dolphins cut or trade Madison, they will save $2.7 million against the salary cap.
Rosenhaus could not be reached for comment.
After New Orleans declined to place a franchise tag on Pro Bowl center LeCharles Bentley and Seattle put only the transition tag on Pro Bowl guard Steve Hutchinson, the Dolphins immediately were considered an option for both of them.
However, the Dolphins are unlikely to pay the $5 million per year that Bentley is expected to demand. As for Hutchinson, the Dolphins also are unlikely to meet his demands because of other needs, particularly if the collective bargaining agreement is not extended. Seattle has the right to match any deal for Hutchinson because of the transition tag.
Other NFL news
Steve Hutchinson, an All-Pro left guard for Seattle, and Detroit right tackle Jeff Backus, were designated as franchise players. Hutchinson is guaranteed $6.39 million next season if he doesn't sign a long-term contract. Backus will get $6.98 million, and the Lions will get two first-round draft picks if he signs with another team. . . . Carolina's DeShaun Foster was made a transition player with the tender of $5.13 million. . . . San Francisco linebacker Julian Peterson and Oakland cornerback Charles Woodson were not protected, meaning they will be among the more attractive free agents.
INDIANAPOLIS · The fact that 10 of 12 playoff teams last season started left tackles who were drafted in the first three rounds wasn't surprising to Dolphins coach Nick Saban.
Neither is the likelihood that those players -- or any of the league's other top-tier left tackles responsible for protecting the quarterback's blindside -- will be obtainable or affordable for the Dolphins next Friday when the free-agent signing period begins.
"Most teams who have one don't let them ever get in [free agency], whether they end up franchising them, re-doing their contracts or whatever," said Saban, whose team may seek to replace two-year starter Damion McIntosh.
"I think there are certain positions that are difficult to [address] in [free agency]. Left tackle would be one of those without having to significantly overpay someone if they were available."
The projected free-agent tackle class is considered weak, with Denver's Matt Lepsis, Cleveland's L.J. Shelton and Atlanta's Kevin Shaffer the top candidates if not re-signed by their current teams. Compounding the problem: The incoming rookie class may not provide much immediate help even if the Dolphins were willing to address the position with their first-round pick.
When Saban and the majority of the Dolphins' staff arrive at the NFL Scouting Combine today, one analyst said the franchise will find that tackle "is the most disappointing position in this draft."
"An awful lot of people, including myself, thought this would be a great year for tackles," said Mike Mayock of the NFL Network. "Because of injuries and poor performances as seniors, it's down to one high-level tackle [Virginia's D'Brickashaw Ferguson] and a bunch of question marks after that."
Ferguson, who is widely considered the draft's top tackle, almost certainly won't be available when the Dolphins choose at No. 16. That leaves the franchise with more suspect options like Southern California's Winston Justice, who played under Dolphins assistant offensive line coach Tim Davis with the Trojans, and the University of Miami's Eric Winston.
Mayock said neither is worthy of being selected at No. 16. Justice would have to make the adjustment to left tackle after playing right tackle as a junior in 2005, while Mayock said he doesn't believe Winston is the same player since returning from a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered in 2004.
"It felt like on tape that Eric struggled with speed all season long and the same thing happened at the Senior Bowl," Mayock said. "He's got short arms. I think he's gone from a high-level first-round left tackle to at best a second-round right tackle."
Hoping to improve his draft stock, Winston decided to participate in combine running drills. He also will have another chance to impress NFL scouts March 4 at UM's Pro Day.
"I look at everything I've done and the competition I've gone through," Winston said. "I started 13 games at Miami as a true sophomore. Those are all things that weigh heavily in my favor."
The Dolphins have struggled to find stability at left tackle since Richmond Webb was not re-signed following the 2000 season. Wade Smith, a 2003 third-round pick, showed promise as a rookie but lost his starting spot to McIntosh early in the 2004 campaign. Converted to center after Saban became head coach, Smith spent 2005 on injured reserve because of a preseason arm injury.
McIntosh has started 30 consecutive games at left tackle for the Dolphins, but that probably won't keep the franchise from trying to find an upgrade at the position. McIntosh, who was arrested and charged last week with domestic violence, also carries a lofty 2006 salary cap number of $4.48 million.
The Dolphins waived long snapper William Delahoussaye and fullback Ben Moa. Both players were injured last spring after being allocated to NFL Europe and didn't play with the Dolphins in 2005.