A year ago this week, a new Dolphins administration got out the ax and started lopping off excess fat from a roster that had grown soft and flabby and unable to compete in the NFL.
Receiver Marty Booker was terminated. Quarterback Trent Green was terminated. L.J. Shelton, Keith Traylor and Zach Thomas? Terminated.
Soon, the same Dolphins administration, namely Big Tuna Bill Parcells and Tuna Helper Jeff Ireland, again will start making significant and, in some instances, surprising subtractions from the roster.
The hope is this time the Dolphins use a scalpel instead of an ax.
In the coming weeks, the Dolphins will settle the futures of as many as eight players. We are not talking bottom-of-the-roster guys here -- six were starters on a 2008 team that won the AFC East.
The players whose immediate futures might be decided include offensive tackle Vernon Carey, linebacker Channing Crowder, cornerback Jason Allen, receiver Ernest Wilford, defensive tackle Vonnie Holliday and three-fourths of the starting secondary -- cornerback Andre' Goodman and safeties Yeremiah Bell and Renaldo Hill.
Holliday, 33, is a surprising member of the list because he is under contract, is a good player and a team leader. But he's scheduled to make a $1.5 million roster bonus March 3 that comes in addition to the $2.8 million salary he is scheduled to make in 2009.
So Parcells and Ireland must decide whether to pay that bonus and ensure Holliday remains with the team, restructure Holliday's deal and somehow lower his salary-cap number, or decide he is too expensive to keep at a $5.75 million cap number and cut him.
It is a difficult decision involving more than math.
Holliday is coming off a good season in which his statistics neither impressed nor depressed. His 46 tackles led all defensive linemen, as did his 3.5 sacks.
But with youngsters Kendall Langford and Phillip Merling expected to push Holliday for playing time, and Randy Starks able to take snaps in reserve in 2009, the Dolphins might be tempted to think Holliday too expensive to keep.
The hope, the expectation, is Parcells and Ireland will look beyond bottom-line production and try to keep Holliday by restructuring his deal.
Along with nose tackle Jason Ferguson, Holliday invested valuable personal time to help immature Paul Soliai learn to be a professional. Holliday also helped Merling and Langford learn the NFL game.
And although he was helping the rookies, Holliday also served as an example how veterans should act while the team was rebuilding and retooling with youngsters.
Holliday, a team captain, never complained, never second-guessed and never asked out of Miami, as another notable veteran lineman did.
Holliday was exemplary in how he worked for the Dolphins. Now the Dolphins must avoid making an example of him.
If Holliday is deemed too expensive and asked to take a pay cut, or worse, terminated, that will send a message throughout the locker room that even players who do everything they are asked, even those who lead and produce on the field, can get whacked.
Trust within the locker room would be dealt a severe blow.
And Holliday's situation is not the only difficult decision the team must make in the coming weeks. Consider Carey's pending free agency.
Carey is a satisfactory starting right tackle who, in my estimation, could be dominant as a guard. It is clear the Dolphins want to keep him, but it is possible they might move him to a troubled guard spot if a superior rookie tackle falls to them during the draft.
That leaves Parcells and Ireland with a dilemma.
Do they pay Carey a big contract as a good starting right tackle, knowing that is what other teams will be willing to do in free agency?
Or do they offer Carey a more modest contract -- knowing Carey might end up at guard anyway -- and risk losing him in free agency?
If they allow Carey to walk in free agency, the offensive line they spent so much time upgrading last offseason immediately will require significant upgrading again this offseason.
If they offer Carey the contract he might get on the open market, the Dolphins might find themselves overpaying.
That's the type of difficult decision the Dolphins face this offseason that they didn't have to fear last year. This year, Parcells and Ireland won't be able to trim much fat from the roster.
This time, when they trim, they will have to be careful not to cut too much muscle.