As a lifelong Miami Dolphins fan and season ticket holder, it hurts to say this:
Zach Thomas is a Dallas Cowboy.
It just doesn't sound right.
There's some solace that he went to an NFC team rather than the division rival, New England Patriots.
All the teams he met with made him an offer.
Well, of course they did, with this resumé:
- Led the Miami Dolphins in tackles in 10 of his 12 seasons
- Over 100 tackles in his first 11 seasons
- Top four in tackles in six of the last seven seasons
- Selected as an All-Star 7 times
- Voted to the Pro Bowl 7 times (most by any Dolphins defensive player
- More tackles than any other linebacker in the Hall of Fame
- Fourth All-Time with over 1,800 tackles
- Tallied 18.5 sacks, 17 interceptions (four for touchdowns), 13 forced fumbles, and seven fumble recoveries
Not bad for a fifth round draft pick (154th overall) from the small town of Pampa, TX (est. 2006 population of 17,000). After high school he traveled an entire two-and-a-half hours away to college at Texas Tech in Lubbock, where he set a school record of 20 tackles in a single game.
Now that his tenure with the Miami Dolphins ended abruptly on February 14 (Valentine's Day—a heartbreaker for all true Fins Fans), he'll be returning to his home state and playing just six hours from his home town.
Both New England and New Orleans also offered him a contract, but in the end, he chose the familiar over the "new" accepting a one-year deal with the Dallas Cowboys worth $3 million. The deal reportedly includes a $1 million signing bonus, $1 million salary, and $1 million in incentives based on achieved playing time.
I know he was due over $5 million, but it's surprising that when he and Bill Parcells met, they couldn't come to a more cap-friendly restructured contract similar to the deal he signed with Dallas. He's given Miami all he ever had and would continue as long as he could as was still evident in his post-release comments, "I am healthy and look forward to playing in 2008, but will always consider myself a Miami Dolphin."
But the Dolphins just cut him? He had nothing left they could use? It doesn't make sense.
But what makes less sense is a player wanting to spend the twilight of his career with a team going through its third rebuild in four years, that just went 1-15 and hasn't been to the playoffs since 2001?
I think Bill did him the favor of looking like the bad guy and simply cut him, allowing him to find a more potential playoff team to join without looking like he was quitting on the Fins.
I like and respect Zach even if this hypothesis is true, and I hope he gets a championship and would hold no ill will toward his path to get there. He spent 12 years being the epitome of a loyal team player; he's earned the right to think of completing his personal career goals.
Sure to be a first ballot Hall Of Famer (a topic for another discussion), I look forward to seeing his statue in front of Dolphins Stadium flanking Gate G opposite Dan Marino's—hopefully Zach's will be carved wearing a Super Bowl ring.