The Miami Dolphins have tendered a contract offer to three-year veteran offensive lineman Nate Garner, who is slated for restricted free agency in the 2011 offseason, according to Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Garner, who was drafted by the Jets in the seventh round in 2008 and acquired off waivers as a rookie, spent all of last season on injured reserve with a foot injury.
It proved to be a fairly significant loss for the Dolphins offensive line, as Garner had exceeded expectations in spot starts at guard in 2009 and was expected to compete for a starting job last season.
Meanwhile, the Dolphins have declined to tender running back Patrick Cobbs, whose free-agency status will be determined by a new CBA.
Under pre-2010 rules, five-year veterans like Cobbs would be unrestricted free agents immediately when their contracts expired. If things stay as they were in 2010, however, Cobbs would have been a restricted free agent had he been tendered by the Dolphins.
However, by not tendering Cobbs an offer in the event that five-year vets remain restricted, the Dolphins essentially ensure he will hit the open market.
Acquired off waivers from the Pittsburgh Steelers back in 2006, Cobbs has developed into a core special teams player for the Dolphins and has had his share of big plays as the Dolphins 3rd-down back in recent seasons.
However, Cobbs saw his role on offense dwindle in 2010 behind Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, possibly due to a slow recovery from a torn ACL, suffered during the 2009 season.
Cobbs will join Brown and Williams as unrestricted free-agent running backs from the Dolphins in 2011. The contracts of Lex Hilliard and Kory Sheets are also slated to expire, though they will be exclusive-rights free agents and can easily be retained by the Dolphins.
Tendering Garner was a no-brainer, as he flashed starting ability in 2009. At the very least, he provides a valuable and versatile backup capable of playing any position across the line.
Unlike fellow RFA tight-end Joey Haynos, who was non-tendered and will be allowed to hit the open market, Garner was simply too valuable to give other teams a free shot at signing.
As for Cobbs, I'm a bit surprised that no tender was extended—even if he is likely to be unrestricted anyway if the old free-agency rules return under a new CBA.
You would think that, just as with four-year veteran Tyler Thigpen, the Dolphins would at least like to cover their bases and tender Cobbs in case it sticks.
But that is not the case, and it remains unclear if the Dolphins have any interest in retaining Cobbs. While he was good on special teams and was well respected throughout the organization, he doesn't offer starting ability and wouldn't justify more than roughly $1 million per season.
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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.