INDIANAPOLIS -- Dennis Hickey was extra guarded Thursday, measuring every syllable when he addressed the national media for the first time as Dolphins general manager.
Word is he's just as cautious away from the cameras.
The Dolphins have more than a dozen free agents who are set to hit the open market in three weeks. And yet, Hickey is apparently taking a wait-and-see approach.
Hickey has told representatives of some of the Dolphins' pending free agents to shop around, see what the market bears and come back when they get an offer. If it makes financial sense, the Dolphins will make a counter.
Is it a savvy way to save some cash or a risky way to do business? Time will tell.
It ensures that the Dolphins don't bid against themselves and guards against overpaying.
But it could backfire. By allowing other teams to set the terms of negotiations, they could lose the players altogether.
Although agents are technically forbidden from talking with other teams until March, so-called tampering is a time-honored tradition at the annual NFL Scouting Combine.
Ever wonder how teams are able sign players so quickly on the first day of free agency? Because the terms had been unofficially in place for weeks.
It's going on in hotel rooms and restaurants all over the city this week.
The Dolphins, like everyone else, have had meetings with agents. And the early signs are that the new boss is the same as the old boss -- at least when it comes to contract negotiations.
When Hickey was hired last month, the Dolphins announced that he would oversee all aspects of football administration and report directly to owner Stephen Ross.
Executive vice president Dawn Aponte will report to Hickey on "all matters," not just the salary cap, the Miami Herald reported at the time.
But in the three weeks since, Aponte has shown that she remains in a position of great influence and might be more powerful than ever.
"She is the Dolphins; she runs the show," said a league source familiar with the team's dealings.
When asked how much Hickey has deferred to Aponte in contract negotiations, the source responded: "1000000000000000%" in a text message.
Given Hickey's inexperience as a general manager and Aponte's status within the organization, it shouldn't be surprising that he looks to her for guidance.
And it's a sign that the organization's internal chemistry has improved since Jeff Ireland's ouster last month.
At the outset of the search for Ireland's replacement, Ross made it clear that his next general manager must be a team player.
By all indications, Hickey is that. He has made it a point to praise coach Joe Philbin to the media every chance he gets.
"We are a team," Hickey said Thursday. "It's just like when I played in (junior college) or college. Regardless of where the credit or blame goes, we all have to work collectively to get the goal accomplished. That's what we're about as an organization.
"Communication, trust and respect -- that's what we're about."
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