David Garrard Signing Should Not End Miami Dolphins' Quarterback Pursuits

Dan Hope@Dan_HopeContributor IIIMarch 20, 2012

ORCHARD PARK, NY - AUGUST 27: David Garrard #9 of the Jacksonville Jaguars throws against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Ralph Wilson Stadium on August 27, 2011 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Rick Stewart/Getty Images

Since the start of free agency, the Miami Dolphins have been linked to many veteran quarterbacks.

The Dolphins were one of the main teams that courted future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning, but they did not become one of the favorites to acquire his services. At the time of publication, Manning’s agent and the Denver Broncos are in contract negotiations, as the four-time NFL MVP decided that is where he desires to finish out his career.

All along, I thought that the most likely new quarterback for the Miami Dolphins was Matt Flynn, who played for new Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin for four years as a backup quarterback for the Green Bay Packers while Philbin was their offensive coordinator. Instead, Flynn signed with another team in need of an upgrade at quarterback, the Seattle Seahawks.

On Sunday, the Miami Dolphins turned their attention to Alex Smith, meeting with him for five-and-a-half hours. That said, Smith left without a deal, and on Monday night, the Dolphins finally did sign a veteran quarterback, inking David Garrard to a one-year deal.

Garrard was told that he will be given a chance at being the Dolphins’ starting quarterback, which has some assuming that the Dolphins have ended their pursuit of quarterbacks, and that Garrard will compete with Matt Moore to start in Miami in 2012. Do not be so quick to make assumptions.

While Garrard will have a chance in the competition, and Moore will likely still be a part of the picture, the Dolphins should still be seeking out further options at the quarterback position.

Garrard was released by the Jaguars last season, and was then unable to sign with another team due to a back injury. He was never a top quarterback to begin with, and the 34-year-old’s career is in decline. Chances are Garrard may not even win a battle with Moore, who had a solid season for the Dolphins after taking over as starter for the injured Chad Henne, but is not viewed as a long-term franchise quarterback.

While the signing of Garrard could be a signal that the Dolphins did not make significant progress toward a deal in their meeting with Smith, this is another assumption that should not be hastily made. The Dolphins had already scheduled a Monday meeting with Garrard when they were meeting with Smith, and given that Garrard was only signed to a one-year deal, the latter player may have been signed as an insurance policy in the case of Smith returning to the San Francisco 49ers.

With Peyton Manning off the table, the 49ers will certainly continue to reach out to Smith in hopes of him returning, but he appears to have been turned off by the team’s courting of Manning, and if the Dolphins continue to make efforts to sign Smith, he may join Garrard in the competition to be Miami’s starting quarterback.

If Smith returns to the 49ers or finds another interested team, another potential quarterback option would be Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow. In the same reports about Manning negotiating with Denver, it has also been reported that the team will seek to trade Tebow if a deal with Manning is finalized.

The Dolphins could be a potential suitor for Tebow, a collegiate star for the Florida Gators who is very popular throughout the state. Tebow is a proven winner at the quarterback position who took over for the Broncos last season after a 1-3 start and led them to the playoffs. That said, he would not be a natural fit for the system that will be run in Miami by Philbin and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman, who could turn them off from Tebowmania.

Acquiring Smith or Tebow, both quarterbacks who led their teams to playoff victories last season, would be the best option for the Dolphins going forward at quarterback, but if the Dolphins do not acquire either of them, the most likely next step at the quarterback position is to select one early in the 2012 NFL draft. Do not be surprised if the Dolphins target Ryan Tannehill, who was Sherman’s quarterback for the last two seasons that he coached at Texas A&M, with their first-round draft choice.

I’ve written numerous times previously about why Tannehill should be a first-round draft selection, but the Dolphins are not going to settle on Garrard as their quarterback, and Tannehill will likely be the attractive choice for them. Having played in Sherman’s system as an Aggie quarterback, he would not have as steep of a learning curve as many rookie quarterbacks would.

That said, Tannehill is not nearly ready to start in the National Football League. He probably would not beat out Garrard and Moore initially for the starting quarterback position, but if he did, he could be exposed very quickly, much like Blaine Gabbert was in Jacksonville this past year.

The Dolphins could also wait and hope Tannehill falls to them in the second round of the draft, or focus on another quarterback in the third round, such as Arizona’s Nick Foles, Arizona State’s Brock Osweiler, or Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins. That said, do not expect the Dolphins to settle on Garrard and Moore going into 2012. If they do not sign Smith or trade for Tebow, they will most likely spend an early draft pick on a quarterback, and that signal-caller would most likely be Tannehill.

Adding Smith, Tebow, or Tannehill to the mix would not necessarily guarantee any of them the starting quarterback position in 2012, so Garrard could still get the chance to compete for the starting job that he has been promised. However, the Dolphins do not want to be in a position where they are relying on Garrard to start under center: His status as a starting-caliber quarterback has always been questionable, and at this point in his career, he is far from a reliable option, and better suited to be a backup.


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