Despite being classified as an unrestricted free agent under the old CBA's rules and potentially during the next one as well, the Miami Dolphins have tendered Tyler Thigpen a contract in the event he is considered a restricted free agent.
Whether or not the Dolphins' tender to Thigpen sticks is remains unknown, as his status as a free agent is entirely dependent on a potential new CBA between the league and the players' association.
Prior to the 2010 offseason, restricted free agents were those with three years of NFL service, and players with four or more years (such as Thigpen with four) were unrestricted.
In the uncapped year last offseason, however, players with four or five years of NFL service remained restricted, and unrestricted free agents needed at least six year of experience.
Selected in the seventh round out of Coastal Carolina by the Minnesota Vikings in 2007, Thigpen was claimed off waivers by the Chiefs before his rookie season and spent two seasons with the team. He was traded to the Dolphins in September 2009 for a fifth-round draft pick, serving as the team's third-string quarterback for most of the following two seasons.
Thigpen drew his lone start for the Dolphins in Week 11 of the 2010 season against the Chicago Bears after injuries to Chad Henne and Chad Pennington. He threw for 187 yards and an interception in 16-0 loss and was sacked six times.
For his career, Thigpen has started 12 of 22 contests (including 11 with Kansas City in 2008) and has completed 54.2 percent of his passes for 3,167 yards and 21 touchdowns with 17 interceptions.
There is still no word on whether or not five-year veterans Patrick Cobbs, Pat McQuistan, and Quentin Moses have also been tendered, as well as restricted free agents Nate Garner and Joey Haynos and exclusive-rights free agents Lex Hilliard, Lydon Murtha, and Kory Sheets.
Odds are the next CBA will revert back to the old rules of free agency, and thus this tender will not apply to Thigpen or any other four- or five-year veteran free agents the Dolphins have.
Despite that, and the fact that Thigpen is likely to go elsewhere in search of a starting job if given the opportunity to hit the open market, there is no reason for the Dolphins to not cover their bases here and hang onto him for another year a backup if they can.
While Thigpen isn't a realistic candidate to start and the Dolphins will probably be searching for a long-term prospect to add in April's draft, it makes sense to improve the offseason depth behind Chad Henne, which right now is limited to Tom Brandstater, who has never appeared in a regular season game.
As for the amount of the tender, it seems likely the Dolphins place an "original draft round" tender on Thigpen, which would result in the team receiving a seventh-round draft pick as compensation if Thigpen signed elsewhere. Such a tender would give the Dolphins the right of first refusal to retain him and would carry a $1.2 million salary if Thigpen re-signed.
Of course, as mentioned before, Thigpen is unlikely to be a restricted free agent once the league and the union finally hammer out a new CBA, so this could all be a moot point.
Update: According to Ben Volin, Thigpen actually received a second-round tender. This would carry a $1.835 million salary in 2011 and would give the Dolphins a second-round pick if Thigpen signed elsewhere. He is still likely to be an unrestricted free agent in the next CBA, however.
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Chris J. Nelson majored in journalism at Georgia State University and currently works for Turner Sports in Atlanta. He operates his own Miami Dolphins website, The Miami Dolphins Spotlight, and he can be followed on Twitter here.