Posted: 10:13 am Monday, February 21st, 2011
By Post Staff
With the current labor strife postponing all NFL activity except the draft, and with the Scouting Combine coming up this week in Indianapolis, now seems like a good time to begin our eight-part series breaking down the Dolphins’ roster heading into the 2011 season.
Starting today with Quarterbacks, we’ll break down the roster situation for each position entering 2011, plus what went right in 2010, what went wrong, what Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland may do to address the position this offseason and what we predict will happen.
So here we go…..
Chad Henne: Signed through 2011. Next year’s base salary: $550,000
Tom Brandstater: Signed through 2012. Next year’s base salary: $405,000
Chad Pennington: Unrestricted
Tyler Thigpen: Likely unrestricted (will depend on new CBA)
What Went Right?
Chad Henne became just the fourth quarterback in team history to pass for 3,000 yards in a season, joining Dan Marino, Jay Fiedler and Chad Pennington. Henne’s 3,301 passing yards were the 15th-most in the NFL last year and the 14th-highest total in Dolphins history. … Henne’s 61.4 completion percentage tied him for 16th among starting quarterbacks. … He had three 300-yard games, including 363 in a Monday Night loss to the Jets. … And for what it’s worth, Henne was the best QB in the league at converting third-and-medium (3-7 yards), achieving a first down on 63.6 percent of opportunities.
What Went Wrong?
Where do we begin? Henne was given the keys to the franchise in the offseason, but did nothing to prove that he is the long-term solution at quarterback. … His 19 interceptions tied him with Brett Favre for fourth-most in the NFL. … His 6.7 yards per attempt placed him 24th among starting quarterbacks. … His 15 touchdown passes placed him 23rd. … His 75.4 passer rating was 26th-best. … He had four touchdowns and seven interceptions over his final five games as the Dolphins went 1-4 and fell out of the playoff race. … He completed just 10-of-40 passes that traveled 20 yards or more, with one touchdown and three interceptions. … He was second in the league with 16 passes batted down. … His 55.6 passer rating in the 4th quarter was 34th-best. … He was benched before the Week 10 game against Tennessee and in the Week 17 game against New England. … And he lost the confidence of his best receiver, as Brandon Marshall was shown yelling at Henne, and then flat-out ignoring Henne on the sidelines, several times toward the end of the season. … On top of that, Chad Pennington lasted one play before re-injuring his right shoulder and being lost for the season, and Tyler Thigpen couldn’t produce any points in his one start, a 16-0 loss to the Bears. Thigpen completed 53.2 percent of his 62 attempts in 2010, for 435 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions and eight sacks. … The Dolphins also cut Pat White, the team’s second-round pick in 2009, at the end of training camp after just one NFL season.
2011 Draft Priority
How Will The Dolphins Address the Position in the Offseason?
Jeff Ireland has said he will look at all options to improve the position for next year, in both free agency and the draft, and there is little doubt that the Dolphins will open the quarterback position to a competition during training camp. The Dolphins will likely let Thigpen walk away as a free agent (he is too much of a risk-taker for their tastes) and will monitor Pennington’s progress in rehab before determining whether to bring him back again on a one-year contract. But even though the Dolphins must address the position in 2011, and are still in the market for a franchise quarterback in this year’s draft, finding an upgrade to Henne for 2011 won’t be easy, and Henne very well could be the starter again in 2011.
With the 15th pick in April’s draft, the Dolphins will likely miss out on the top quarterback prospects – Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert – but still may be able to draft Ryan Mallett, Jake Locker, Colin Kaepernick or a number of other quarterbacks in rounds 1-3 (though the Dolphins don’t currently have a second-round pick). If the Dolphins do draft a quarterback, though, it is unlikely that the coaching staff would be comfortable playing him right away and unseating Henne as the starting quarterback, especially with the coaches feeling pressure to win in 2011 after a disappointing 2010 season.
Among veteran quarterbacks, the best options would be to sign Vince Young after he is cut by Tennessee, trade for Denver’s Kyle Orton, Cincinnati’s Carson Palmer, Philadelphia’s Kevin Kolb or Green Bay’s Matt Flynn, or hope that a veteran like Donovan McNabb is cut. But Young and McNabb, with low completion percentages, do not seem like a good fit with the Dolphins’ risk-averse coaching staff (in addition to Young’s character issues that led to the Titans’ decision to part ways). And as we detailed last month, it will be very difficult for the Dolphins to acquire any of the quarterbacks in a trade. Orton, Palmer and Kolb will not come cheaply, and Ireland, who already traded a second-round pick to Denver for Marshall, likely won’t have enough ammo or the inclination to give up draft picks to acquire any of the three. We also can’t see Ireland making a heavy investment in Kolb or Flynn because, though talented, they are even less proven than Henne and play in West Coast systems, which is much different than the offense run in Miami. The Dolphins instead will likely monitor other situations around the league to see who hits the waiver wire – For example, Brady Quinn in Denver, Tavarris Jackson in Minnesota, Jake Delhomme in Cleveland, Jon Kitna in Dallas and Alex Smith in San Francisco. Also, the Dolphins have already worked out JaMarcus Russell once, and we wouldn’t be shocked to see the Dolphins kick the tires on the 2007 No. 1 pick.
We predict that the Dolphins will draft a quarterback in the middle rounds – Kaepernick? Christian Ponder? Ricky Stanzi? – and sign a veteran free agent once a new CBA is in place. But when all is said and done, we expect Henne to be given one more shot as the starting quarterback in 2011, though his leash will be short. We predict Thigpen to walk, Brandstater to get a shot to compete for a backup spot instead of just the practice squad, and Pennington to earn an invitation to camp, with no guarantees about a roster spot.