Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Swimming with the 'Phins

AP Photo/ J. Pat Carter

Bill Parcells and Jeff Ireland have pulled off another coup, and this time, it isn’t with an undiscovered player. It’s with a potential, and former, face of the franchise.

The Miami Dolphins came to terms on a one-year contract with one-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year and Dolphin fan favorite Jason Taylor. At a cost of $1.1 million plus incentives, there is no risk here for Miami, only possible reward.

The once-proud franchise went through a rough stretch the past few years, culminating in the awful 1-15 season in 2007. They were able to turn everything around last season though, making the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons and beating out rival Jets and Patriots to win the AFC East division championship.

Even though they had a poor showing against the Ravens in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, the 10-game turnaround brought the fans back to what is now called LandShark Stadium.

There was excitement. Fans were proud of their team.

Bringing in the most popular Dolphin since Dan Marino retired gives the fans even more reason to be excited, to cheer for their team, and to trust what the front office is doing with the team.

Even more important is what Jason Taylor can do on the field for the Dolphins. Yes, he struggled last year with the Washington Redskins, but he still has plenty left in the tank. Taylor is a six-time Pro-Bowler, three-time first team All-Pro, and, as stated before, 2006 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Taylor uses his athleticism and speed to wreck havoc on opposing offenses and quarterbacks.

Miami's all-time leader in sacks was hampered by a calf-injury last season in Washington and never adjusted to his new defensive scheme, but returning to familiar territory should benefit him.

Also aiding Taylor in his second tenure with the Dolphins is that he is not the only defender teams have to worry about. Joey Porter recorded 17.5 sacks last season, Channing Crowder and Akin Ayodele were second and third respectively in tackles on the team, and newcomer Cameron Wake was the equivalent of Jason Taylor in the CFL, utilizing his speed and athleticism to lead the league in sacks.

Taylor still has talent, and Miami needs it. Aside from Porter, last year’s pass rush was not very good. After Porter, the highest sack total was five by Matt Roth. The team signed Wake hoping to bolster its attack, but Wake’s only experience in the NFL is training camp with the New York Giants before getting released. Taylor can show Wake the ropes while performing on the field.

The other teams in the AFC East improved on offense. The Bills signed Terrell Owens and the Patriots signed Joey Galloway and Fred Taylor, not to mention the return of Tom Brady. Taylor adds depth to an improved Dolphin defense. Also, Taylor is extremely successful against the Patriots and Brady. From 2001-2007, Taylor has 10.5 sacks in 14 games against New England.

Taylor is also a good character guy. He was named Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2007. His leadership and character make him a good role model for the younger players on the team, and they make him a good team representative to the community.

Most importantly, Taylor wants to be a Dolphin. In a statement included in an piece, Taylor said, “My heart has always been in Miami and so I'm truly excited to call myself a Dolphin once again.”

The story goes on to include a quote from Taylor’s agent, saying that Taylor said to allow the Dolphins to sign him to whatever contract fit in the team’s budget. Taylor took a significant pay cut in order to be a Dolphin again. A player doesn’t give up millions unless he is 100% sure he wants to be there.

For the Dolphins, it’s a win-win situation. If he returns to form, Taylor immediately improves the team’s defense. If he struggles, he counts for very little against the cap and the Dolphins can elect not to bring him back next season. Even if he does struggle, the Dolphins still get a good leader, a guy that can help groom the younger players, garner fan appreciation, and is a positive agent in the community.

Miami will hope Taylor goes back to his old form, but the signing is already a great thing for the Dolphins, regardless of how he plays.

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