Jason Taylor returned to the Miami Dolphins in 2009 after a year in exile with the Washington Redskins. And while he didn't dazzle last year, seven sacks, three forced fumbles, and an interception highlighted an overall productive season for the 35-year-old.
After his Dancing with the Stars affair in the summer of 2008, it seemed Taylor had permanently destroyed his relationship with the front office and coaching staff. But a disappointing, injury-plagued campaign with the Skins resulted in his release, and Miami gave him a second chance after months of mulling over the possibility.
He returned a new man: ready to contribute however, wherever, and whenever the coaching staff deemed needed. Instead of being the focal point of the defense as he had in previous years, Taylor was a role player in '09.
The former Defensive Player of the Year embraced his new role, obviously happy just to be back home where he belonged. Instead of complaining about his role or demanding playing time like another Dolphins linebacker—Joey Porter—Taylor quietly took the field and let his performance do the talking.
When Matt Roth went down with a "hamstring injury," Taylor stepped in immediately and assumed the starting strong-side linebacker role. Critics said he would struggle to defend the run, but Taylor quickly proved them wrong. Of all the linebackers on the roster, No. 99 probably excelled in that category the most.
No, his 2009 season wasn't equal to that of his former All-Pro days, but even at his age, Taylor proved he's still a starting quality option.
But as of right now, he's an unrestricted free agent, and while he has said he would like to return to the team it doesn't appear the Dolphins have shown him much love to this point.
The veteran Taylor understands how this business works. Guys like him are picked up once teams sort through all the younger options, the draft, and eventual roster cuts. 35-year-olds are picked up late in the game and added mostly out of desperation.
That shouldn't be the case with him, though. Miami should lock him up now, regardless of how the rest of the offseason pans out. There's really nothing to lose in doing so either. Taylor will play for the minimum, he'll come off the bench, he'll probably even warm the bench if that's what it comes to.
The point is, he won't get in the way of developing younger talent or cause a headache for the coaches. He proved that a year ago.
With no proven starting-quality options at outside linebacker on Miami's roster, bringing him back would ensure the Dolphins have some security at the position. If it comes down to the wire and Miami hasn't found a replacement, Taylor will step in as a one-year plug.
It's likely that's the Dolphins' current plan, but for down the road and not the immediate future. General manager Jeff Ireland is likely operating under the assumption that Taylor will be waiting by the phone all summer in case he ends up needing him.
But isn't there an unnecessary risk in that approach? What if someone comes calling before Miami decides they need No. 99 back? What would the Dolphins backup plan be then?
The smart move is to bring him back now and move forward with business as usual. Add him to the roster, maybe bring in someone else in free agency, and draft the position as well. If Taylor emerges as a useful option, great. If he doesn't, nothing has really been lost anyway.
So what are the Dolphins waiting for?
We're not talking about a washed up vet. We're talking about a guy who can still start in this league—even at 35.
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