Miami Dolphins: Pennington & 5 Veterans Who Might Not Return for Training Camp
According to recently filed reports from Pro Football Talk, Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington tore his ACL playing basketball earlier this offseason. It is difficult to envision Pennington rebounding from yet another devastating injury, especially after he suffered back-to-back season ending shoulder injuries in '09 and '10.
But even before this news broke, Pennington was a long shot to remain with the Dolphins. He will be 35 this summer, and his durability has gradually worsened. Though he will likely head into retirement, there are a handful of other Dolphins veterans who might soon hit the waiver wire.
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Last year, backup safety Tyrone Culver raked in $1.25 million. That is more money than Pro Bowl kicker Dan Carpenter, the same income as stud fullback Lousaka Polite and only one quarter of a million dollars less than starting cornerback candidate Will Allen.
Yet, all Culver does is contribute on special teams and occasionally fill in as a defensive back. He competed for and lost the starting free safety job to Chris Clemons last summer, and will not have such an opportunity this summer.
Culver's special team prowess is invaluable, especially considering how abysmal Miami's coverage units are. But he is making too much for a player with a completely undefined role. Youngster Jonathon Amaya promises to provide competition for a permanent spot on the 53 man roster, so unless Culver shows he can provide more than just reserve contributions, he could be cut.
At what point does recent decline override past success? That is the question the Dolphins must answer with Lousaka Polite this summer. His chances of being cut are extremely slim, but Polite was not the same player in 2010 as he was during his historically dominant 2009 campaign.
Though a struggling offensive line shouldered most of the blame for the Dolphins' anemic 2010 rushing attack, Polite is at fault as well. His run blocking was not as effective as years past, and his streak of 20 straight third and fourth and short conversions ended in October.
Polite may still be an elite fullback, but he did not do much to reinforce that belief in 2010. His rushing skills are second to none, but Miami needs him to a blocker first—they have running backs to take care of those conversions. Again, the likelihood of Polite being cut is extremely thin, but if he does not shore up his blocking skills, the possibility will persist.
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In 2011, the Dolphins will probably keep the league norm three quarterbacks on their active roster. The first will be Chad Henne. The second, despite porous play last season, will be Tyler Thigpen. Miami placed a second round tender on him earlier this offseason as they continue their headstrong attempt to develop him.
But, the third? Unless the Dolphins do not draft a quarterback or acquire one via free agency or trade, it will not be Chad Pennington. The fan base loves him and the team has remained ardently loyal to him, but Pennington has almost no physical value anymore.
After a second shoulder surgery in two years, it is difficult to believe that Pennington will even be able to play, let alone merit a roster spot. Perhaps his knowledge of the game would be welcome on the Dolphins coaching staff, but his days wearing a uniform in Miami have likely come to an end.
UPDATE: Pennington reportedly tore his ACL playing basketball earlier this offseason. Terrible break for a great guy, but this all but assures he will not be playing for the Dolphins this year. Rather, given the opportunity, he could be coaching.
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Once Will Allen was ruled out for the 2010 season in training camp, the Dolphins need for a nickelback became apparent and pressing. Even though rookie Nolan Carroll had already emerged as a potential replacement, Miami decided to wide receiver Greg Camarillo to Minnesota in exchange for Benny Sapp.
Sapp's season with the Dolphins was productive, but unspectacular. He racked up 41 tackles and two interceptions. Solid numbers, but will he be able to hold onto a roster spot upon the return of Will Allen and progression of Nolan Carroll?
It ultimately depends if Will Allen returns at full strength and if Carroll progresses enough to demand a larger role. Sapp provides a great role player for Miami's secondary, but there simply might not be enough room for him on the roster.
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Although he was around before their reign began, Jeff Ireland and Tony Sparano have grown obviously fond of utility running back Patrick Cobbs. He's an explosive player who has served as a quality third down running back and return man over the past few seasons.
However, Cobb played virtually no role for the team last season, recording just four carries. At age 28, he really does not figure into the the Dolphins' future. The team will be in the market for at least two running backs this summer, and youngsters Lex Hilliard and Kory Sheets will likely compete for the third spot. Cobbs served Miami well, but his role and production are simply not significant enough to warrant a roster spot.