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No Time to Panic
Updated 07-21-02

This last week has sent Miami fans on a roller-coaster ride of emotions, and most of them were unpleasant. It started off with Jay Fiedler going under the knife for hip surgery. It continued with the arrest of Derrick Rodgers for hitting a man having lunch with his wife, and culminated with the release of DE Daryl Gardner and the trade for Panthers DE Jay Williams. It's enough to send most Dolphin fans to the pharmacy for Prozac. But if you look at each case individually, I don't think it is as bad as it first seems.

Anytime your starting QB goes under the knife, fans tend to get worried. Even those who don't like Fiedler should have been worried at first. (He just signed a 5 year $24 million contract. A big waste of money if he isn't healthy enough to play.) But team doctors called the surgery routine. They simply removed some loose bodies from his hip, and he should be back in a few short weeks. He won't even miss any preseason games. In the meantime, Ray Lucas will get some quality reps as the starter. We've seen what Fiedler can do. But we really haven't seen much of Lucas. And the early reps now could pay off in the long run.

When Derrick Rodgers was first arrested, my initial reaction was one of disgust. I don't have much patience for those who kick and beat their wives/girlfriends, and/or children. Add to that the fact that I've always considered Rodgers steady, but unspectacular and someone we should look into upgrading over in the next year or two. But this situation is not as bad as first reported. Rodger's wife said that he never touched her and that she would testify to that. Now I don't want to minimize what Rodgers did to his wife's lunch companion. Hitting an individual with a chair is justified only on the Jerry Springer show or if you are aiming for WWE's Vince McMahon. But let's be honest. Will Rodgers receive anything more than a fine and some community service? Probably not. A few years back, Patrick Surtain was arrested on a DUI charge. He paid his fine, did his community service, and responded on the field with a stellar season.

Am I expecting Rodgers to have a stellar season? I hope so, but I'm not counting on it. I think he'll continue to be the steady but unspectacular player he always is. However, come September, this incident will be all but forgotten.

I posted several weeks ago about the rumors surrounding Daryl Gardner and his possible release. I said I thought it wouldn't happen due to the salary cap hit we'd take in the 2003 season. Well, it did happen. And it will cost Miami about $6 million against the cap next season. But for Miami, this could be an addition through subtraction. Gardner was slated to make $5.6 million in base salary next year. With his bonus and possible incentives, the total could have been over $7 million. So while the Dolphins will have $6 million in dead cap money, it isn't like they weren't budgeting for it anyway.

I was a huge Daryl Gardner fan. His devotion and dedication in the weight room really impressed me. He once listed his home address as the weight training room at the Dolphin facilities. But over the last year or two, I read things about him that troubled me, starting with his comments before the Rams game. Our defense was simply man-handled in that game, making his comments look completely asinine. Reports of other players stating that they were tired of Gardner's attitude began to surface as well. And for the last two seasons, he bragged about going to the Pro Bowl, only to end up on IR. This season, he was supposed to be moved to defensive end, to try and save the wear and tear on his back. But to be honest, I don't know how long he would have lasted. Earlier this spring he was complaining that his back was bothering him. I tend to think that about half-way through this season, he would have gone back on the IR list, leaving us worse off than we are now. As it is, we have time now to get Jay Williams acclimated to our defensive schemes, and he'll have time to challenge Rob Burnett for the starting job. And it freed up an additional $1 million in salary cap room after accounting for William's $1.65 cap hit this year.

If I have any complaints about all of this, it is this: If the coaching staff had made the decision to send Gardner packing, why didn't they do it sooner, thereby giving us a better shot at getting Josh Evans? Even with Evan's history of drug abuse, he is a better player than Jay Williams in my opinion. Signing Evans would have prevented the Jets from getting him, and would not have cost us a 4th round draft pick next season. As it is, we will already be short either a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd rounder for Ricky Williams, as well as a 6th rounder for Cade McNown.

But in the end, I think the coaching staff tried to make the best of a bad situation, and I don't see any reason why Dolphin fans should panic. I know I'm not.