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Is That Your Final Answer?
I received the news yesterday while at work. The TV in our office was on ESPN (like it usually is,) and across the bottom of the screen I read "Miami Dolphins resign QB Jay Fiedler to 5 year deal."
"Well", I thought "Wannstedt has hitched his wagons (hence his job) to QB Jay Fiedler. I hope that Norv can work his magic on the offense because it looks like we are stuck with Fiedler for quite a while."
A while later, as I'm standing in the office across the hall, I hear the TV state that Fiedler's deal is worth $24.5 million. Faster than an Enron executive, I begin to panic.
"$4.9 million a year?" I think. "We gave Fiedler $4.9 million a year? Dear God this isn't happening!" And for a minute or two, my football world came crashing down around me.
But then, I began to reason. "Hey, look at the deals that players like Tim Bowens and Brock Marion got. They were all "back-loaded." Surely the Dolphins have done the same with Fiedler." And fortunately for my sanity, I was right.
Well today, I've done a little math. (Please bear with me as math has NEVER been my strong suit.) And according to my calculator, here is the salary cap break down of Fiedler's 5 year deal:
Year 1 (2002) - $1,325,000
Year 2 (2003) - $1,862,500
Year 3 (2004) - $5,479,166
Year 4 (2005) - $7,554,166
Year 5 (2006) - $8,279,166
Bascially, Fiedler got a two-year deal. If Norv works a miracle with Fiedler, he could earn a big pay-day. But if he doesn't and Fiedler gets cut after 2003, the Fins take a $2.4 million hit against the cap for Fiedler's $4 million signing bonus. Still, the deal isn't a salary cap breaker and should leave Miami some money to fix glaring problems like the OL and RB. So while Miami has hitched it's wagon to a player that had just as many interceptions as he did TD passes, they have put themselves in a position to acquire a few players in free agency.
Now anyone that reads my columns regularly knows I'm not a big Fiedler supporter though I wouldn't consider myself a "Fiedler basher." While I'm not crazy about Fiedler, I still rooted for him on game day. And while he doesn't have a great deal of talent, he does have heart and determination, as evidenced by his 5 come-from-behind victories this last season. So for me, I have mixed feelings over this.
There will be some that ask, "Why Fiedler?" But after looking at the free agent market, there just wasn't too much to select from. I still would have preferred to give Trent Dilfer a look-see, but obviously that won't happen. But other than him, the Dolphin's choices were slim. Chris Chandler? They don't call him "Crystal Chandelier" for nothing. Drew Bledsoe? Please! The Pats aren't about to trade him to a division rival. Jim Miller? Looks like the Bears plan to keep him around. Tony Banks? No thank you. Jeff Blake? While he is another intriguing player, I think he'd have cost Miami a lot more this year than what Fiedler did. Add to this that high-priced free agent QBs did NOT have success last year with the teams that overpayed for them, and you'll begin to see that while I'm not doing cartwheels in the street, I'm not jumping off of the nearest bridge either.
So what does all this mean? Was re-signing Jay the answer? That remains to be seen. Norv Turner's offensive schemes use the run to set up the pass, (so Jay's role as QB should not change all that much from last season.) and Fiedler must have a solid running game to take the pressure off of him. So the "Million Dollar" question on Dolphin fans' minds right now is, "Who will we have to run the ball in Miami?" In Dallas, Norv had Emmitt. In Washington, he had Stephan Davis. Last year in San Diego, he had Tomlinson. But who will it be for him in Miami? Sure wish I had a "Lifeline" to use to help me answer it....