Jeff Ireland: Dolphins' goal to win AFC East

It's waaaaaay too early for 2013 predictions. But Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland is not afraid to set high expectations for his young team next season.

"That’s our goal -- win the division and ultimately put us in the playoffs," Ireland told reporters this week at the Senior Bowl. "That’s our goal every year, [and] that’s going to be our goal going into next season, is win the division. Again, we’ve got a gap to close. But I think a good offseason can certainly do that. Absolutely."

The "gap" Ireland was referring to was with the New England Patriots. The reigning AFC East champions swept Miami this year, which included a 28-0 victory for the Patriots in the regular-season finale. The loss capped a 7-9 season for the Dolphins.

Miami's 2012 season had some ups and downs. But a mostly competitive year and the development of rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill has Miami optimistic about its immediate future. The Dolphins also could have more than $40 million in cap room this offseason and five draft picks in the first three rounds.

The Dolphins are in prime position to make a jump if Ireland plays the right cards. Miami will be a major player in free agency and have enough draft picks to still stock the roster with top college talent. This offseason's moves will affect the direction of the Dolphins for the next few years.

"This is a big offseason for us, we understand that," Ireland said. "We plan to be active in every aspect of the avenues that are available to us. We look forward to making some exciting news here before too long."