One of the many interesting story lines this offseason will be what happens with the many key Dolphins who ended the 2009 season on Injured Reserve. Considering how many key players - including two of the team's four captains - ended up on IR this season, it's actually impressive to think about how close this team came to a postseason appearance.
But now some decisions have to be made. Who comes back? Who doesn't? And whose role changes? Let's quickly touch on some of these issues.
Chad Pennington - It's no secret that I'm one of the biggest CP fans you'll find. What he did on the field in 2008 and what he has meant to this franchise both on and off the field since he joined the team in 2008 has made me a CP fan for life. But Pennington was off to a very slow start in the two and a half games he played in this season before going down with a season-ending shoulder injury. Since then, his apprentice - Chad Henne - has taken over and has given fans a reason to be excited about the future of the QB position in Miami. So where does that leave the soon to be 34 year old Pennington? Likely not back with Miami. I'd love to have him back as a backup. But I'm not sure if his competitiveness will allow him to accept a backup role. We'd all also love to see him become an eventual QB coach in Miami. But I don't think he's ready yet to give up on playing the game he loves.
Ronnie Brown - It's also no secret that I'm a huge fan of and believer in Ronnie. I think he has the physical talent to be an elite back and has shown just that when he's been given the opportunity. But injuries have been an issue. Freak injuries? Yes. It's not like a broken hand or a Lis Franc fracture means you're injury prone. But he does have a reconstructed knee. The knee, though, seemed like a non-issue in 2008 and 2009 before the foot injury. His contract status depends on the collective bargaining agreement. If there is no new CBA, then Brown is under contract with Miami for $5 million. But if a new CBA is reached before the new "league year" then Brown becomes an unrestricted free agent. It's believed that Brown wants to be back in Miami regardless of the CBA. And I know I'm one of the many that hopes he remains a Dolphin for a long time.
Patrick Cobbs - Cobbs is one of Tony Sparano's favorite guys. And it's easy to see why. He's a versatile back who can make an impact in so many ways. He can run the ball. He can catch it. He can block. And he's an excellent special teams player. I don't think it's just a coincidence that the Wildcat struggled more once Cobbs went down, either. Cobbs has just one year left on his contract. But I think if he proves he's healthy that he will see an extension some time next year from this front office.
Jason Ferguson - Another one of the team's captains, Ferg was noticeably missed on the field after going down late in November with a torn quadriceps muscle. Paul Soliai simply couldn't replace the seasoned vet who is one of the best nose tackles in the league despite turning 34 years old last November. But how much longer can he play? Ferguson is still a long way from recovering and has said that he isn't likely to return to the field if he can't make a full recovery. And even if he does, will he be able to stay healthy? One thing we know is that if he can make it back, he'll be back in Miami. His contract is up but he's said that he'll either play for the Dolphins or retire. Hopefully for the Dolphins, he makes a full recovery and returns for at least one more season.
Will Allen - The Dolphins signed Allen to a three year extension back in May. But Allen only started six games in 2009 before going down with a torn ACL. His injury allowed rookie Vontae Davis to team with fellow rookie Sean Smith as the team's starting corners. Both rookies played pretty well, leaving in question what Will's role would be in 2010. He's expected to be 100% by the time OTAs begin in the spring. But where will he fit in? Allen says he is "not worried about [his] role." I have a hard time believing he'd be a starter in 2010. But if he can make a full recovery, the soon to be 32 year old would make an exceptional option at nickelback.
So those are the big five. Which ones return? Which ones don't? Tell us what you think.