The Dolphins dropped over $100 million in total contracts as NFL free agency opened on Tuesday. The big names were Mike Wallace and Dannell Ellerbe, but the Dolphins also have reportedly signed Philip Wheeler and Chris Clemons. Spending sprees like this come along fairly regularly in free agency, and they tend to fall into two categories: teams that are prepared to take the next step into contention, and teams that are prepared to spend to reach mediocrity. Both groups think they are spending into contention, but the core that's already on the roster is the real determining factor of how far a team can go.
It's a bit too soon to see which group the Dolphins are in, because free agency hasn't fully unfolded yet and they still have plenty of cap space, but the early returns are that the Dolphins haven't retained enough of their core to certifiably think they are in New England's class at the top of the AFC East.