EDS: UPDATES with Ireland quotes.
AP Photo NYJJ101
By STEVEN WINE
AP Sports Writer
DAVIE, Fla. (AP) -With the NFL draft barely under way Saturday, Miami Dolphins-bound No. 1 overall pick Jake Long brightened at the suggestion he might be joined in South Florida by his former Michigan teammate, quarterback Chad Henne.
``Whatever team drafts Chad is going to get a great player,'' Long said.
Hours later, they were reunited when the Dolphins used a second-round pick to take Henne. General manager Jeff Ireland didn't discount the possibility Henne will start as a rookie.
``That's up to him,'' Ireland said. ``It's going to bring some competition to the position. It's going to be a good battle.''
Henne will compete with John Beck, a second-round choice last year, and recently acquired veteran Josh McCown.
After going 1-15 last year, the Dolphins needed upgrades at plenty of positions. But instability at quarterback is perhaps the biggest reason they've missed the playoffs the past six years, a franchise record.
``I don't know if I'll have the opportunity to step in right now,'' Henne said. ``But I'll prepare like I'm going to compete for the starting job.''
The Dolphins used their first of two second-round picks to select Clemson defensive end Phillip Merling, which could signal the departure of six-time Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Taylor.
Despite speculation the new Miami regime led by Bill Parcells was on the verge of swapping Taylor for draft picks, no deal was announced. Ireland said the team conducted no trade talks Saturday.
``We didn't get any calls, so there was no discussion,'' he said.
As to the speculation?
``Obviously strictly rumor,'' Ireland said.
The Dolphins might still swing a deal Sunday, when they have six picks, including the first choice in the third round. They traded third-string running back Lorenzo Booker to the Philadelphia Eagles for a fourth-round choice, No. 115 overall.
``I don't think Lorenzo really fit our system we're trying to put in place here,'' Ireland said. ``We're looking for guys who play a lot of plays.''
On Friday the Dolphins traded their fourth-round pick to acquire linebacker Akin Ayodele and tight end Anthony Fasano from the Dallas Cowboys.
``We're in the business of collecting good players, and that is what we've done,'' Ireland said.
While Henne waited much of the day to be taken with the 57th overall pick, Long kicked off the draft in New York City with his ceremonial introduction as the top choice. He took the stage at Radio City Music Hall and held a Miami jersey bearing uniform number 1.
The Dolphins had committed to choosing Long when they signed him to a five-year contract Tuesday for $57.75 million, including $30 million guaranteed.
``I was a little more relaxed just knowing where I was going and just being here to make it official,'' Long said. ``That solidified it all. It was just breathtaking to walk out there and shake the commissioner's hand and hold up that jersey. It was a dream come true.''
Joining Long in New York were his parents, two brothers and girlfriend. They cheered when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced Long's name, but there were boos from fans of the New York Jets, the Dolphins' division rivals.
``I got booed pretty bad,'' Long said with a chuckle.
Merling was taken with the first pick of the second round, No. 32 overall. The 6-foot-4, 276-pound defensive end had seven sacks as a junior last season despite nursing a sports hernia.
He underwent surgery, resumed full workouts only in the past week and tried out for two dozen NFL observers Thursday at Clemson.
``I'm a dominant defensive end,'' Merling said. ``I can play the run extremely well and get to the quarterback. I think I do a lot of things. I play natural. I just do it.''
Henne, a four-year starter at Michigan, holds school records for passing yards and touchdowns. He capped his career by throwing for 373 yards and three scores to help the Wolverines beat Florida in the Capital One Bowl.
``We just brought another guy in to compete for the job,'' Ireland said. ``He's a four-year starter at the University of Michigan - I like that. He's a great leader. He's got an aura about him that you like about a quarterback.''
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