In case you haven't heard, the Dolphins' QB situation isn't settled, and there's a Dolphins QB battle going on!
Coach Joe Philbin has made it clear: the status of being a high draft pick, practice squad member, incumbent starter, or free agent acquisition will have no bearing on whom he chooses to make the starting QB - it's the guy who best puts the team in a position to win.
David Garrard is apparently in the lead after strong performances in practices, though it should be noted that Matt Moore was given more snaps than Garrard in Saturday's scrimmage, possibly because of his reputation as a "gamer" who plays better in game-situations than practices. I would guess Philbin tried giving Moore more time in a situation he might excel in, confirming the competition very much is still ongoing.
Although Garrard has emerged as the clear favorite, he is coming off a severe back injury that sidelined him for a full year and hasn't taken a Mario Williams-hit yet. Many will recall Matt Moore having some good pre-season performances last year despite virtually no reps during the lockout-shortened offseason.
Given all that, I wanted to call everyone's attention to some "Tweets" about the variables affecting the QB situation coming in wake of the ProFootball Talk article "Moore-Garrard Loser In Danger of Getting Cut" that wondered if the Dolphins might seek to cut one QB.
Ben Volin of The Palm Beach Post: "The dirty secret about the #Dolphins QB competition: Matt Moore is financially more expendable than David Garrard.
By cutting/trading Moore, Fins would save $2.75 million in salary and only be charged $750,000 against the cap.
By trading/Cutting Garrard, Fins would save $2.25 million, but would be charged $1 million against the cap for the signing bonus it gave him in March. Plus they paid him $100,000 workout bonus.
Moore could probably fetch a mid-round pick, however. Garrard likely has little trade value."
Added Matty I: "To piggyback on what @BenVolinPBP is discussing, the reason I've felt for a while that the Dolphins will keep only 2 QBs is not so much the financial savings but the roster spot that it would open up - potentially allowing the Dolphins to keep 6 WRs AND 4 HBs AND a fullback - which the Dolphins have been using more than expected early on in camp."
So while practice and pre-season performance will dictate who will be the number 1 QB, and we can't have a full debate about who should start until we see them play in preseason, one debate we can begin to have is the question of how do we handle the "extra" veteran QB - keep him, trade him, or cut him?
Why keep both on the roster all season?: As I covered in my previous FanPost "Offensive Line Assessment and Thoughts," the Dolphins under Tony Sparano had a tradition of losing their starting QB.
In 2009, veteran QB Chad Pennington (who was released from his previous team due to injury issues and a replacement being acquired - sound familiar?) went down in game 3 against San Diego after a hit from a young linebacker named Kevin Burnett and was replaced for the rest of the year by Chad Henne.
In 2010, after erratic performances, Henne was benched in favor of Chad Pennington, who went down after 2 plays against the Tennessee Titans, forcing Henne to replace him. In the third quarter, Henne was then lost for the remainder of the game as well as the following game against the Chicago Bears, leading to playing time for our third string QB, Tyler Thigpen.
In 2011, we lost Henne for the season in game 4 against San Diego after he tried to salvage a blown handoff by scrambling to the right side (a.k.a., the bad side). Matt Moore was then sacked 36 times over the remainder of the season, contributing to his 14 fumbles.
I tell you this not to give you an awful reminder of what it's been like to be a loyal Dolphin fan for the past few years, but rather to emphasize the importance of backup QBs in the NFL and to this team in particular. If we go with one veteran, particularly Garrard who has back injury concerns, it wouldn't be out of character for this team to lose him early in the season, leading to the possibility that Tannehill is forced to start early.
Almost all of the good news about Tannehill comes with him facing our second team defense. I love our defense, but we're notoriously weak in our secondary, so it doesn't surprise me that he's able to roast practice squad-caliber DBs. The Houston Texans' defense is a completely different beast. Moreover, while I'm hoping the offensive line is improved, I'm expecting early struggles for Jonathan Martin as he adapts to right tackle, and Artis Hicks has bounced around the league as an average backup guard/tackle, so it's unreasonable to expect much more than "average" production from him this late in his career. Eric Steinbach, like Garrard, took a year off due to a back injury and should be viewed as a depth signing until he works with the first team.
Keeping both veterans gives Tannehill more time to learn and protects him from having to cope with a right side of the offensive line that is still a work in progress and a largely unproven WR corps.
Why keep both on the roster but trade one during the season?:
The best trade value would likely come a few weeks into the season following another team suffering a QB injury.
Given Garrard's age and injury history, his trade value is likely to be low. Why would another team trade for an injury replacement who could be an injury risk himself?
So this is a viable situation only if Garrard wins the QB battle. As stated above, Ben Volin believes Matt Moore could net a mid-round pick. I think a fourth or fifth rounder is within the realm of possibility, assuming Moore puts on a good showing in the preseason and depending on how desperate the other team is.
Additionally, getting Matt Moore off of our roster provides us with more cap relief than trading Garrard. Now that leftover space under the cap is carried over to next year's cap, every dollar of saved counts as a means of enticing free agents next year.
Some fans and the national media believe that Tannehill is likely to be the starting QB by game 10 after we're knocked out of the wildcard race early. If that's correct, then the value of an extra draft pick outweighs the benefit of a backup veteran QB we'd only need for 10 games.
If you want to take an extremely forward-looking, pro-Tannehill view, one could argue that an early injury to Garrard that leads to a "trial by fire" for Tannehill and a few painful losses isn't bad at all. We'd be in a position to earn a high first round pick next year, allowing us to draft a top 10 WR, pass rusher, or DB, plus Tannehill gets 10-15 starts his first year for experience, although most likely experiencing losses.
Why cut one ASAP?:
Cutting the "spare" QB serves two purposes. It gives us the cap savings that Ben Volin explained, and it allows us to give a roster spot to someone we'd rather not risk getting poached on the practice squad, as Matty I argued. Under the trade scenario, we only get those benefits if/when we trade the "spare" QB.
Are you a Texas A&M fan who remembers Jeff Fuller being talked about as a first round prospect, reads good things about him in training camp, and worries a WR-desperate team like the Cowboys might poach him?
Are you a guy who looks at the former accountant Les Brown and his ridiculous measureables, dreams of him developing into our Antonio Gates/Vernon Davis athletic freak at the TE position, and worries his rise in profile after Hard Knocks might lead to another team signing him?
Are you an old-school football enthusiast who doesn't think fullbacks are obsolete and would rather have one on the roster to pave the way for our rushing attack?
Our very own Kevin of the Phinsider recently guessed what our current 53 man roster would look like and invited us to make our own. 53 spots sounds like a lot, but it's amazing how quickly 53 spots fill up. If you have faith that our second veteran QB will never see the field, or if you WANT Tannehill starting ASAP and view extra QBs as counter-productive, why give a spot to a placeholder? Give this team an extra playmaker on the roster, send one veteran QB packing, and tell Tannehill he's one Garrard/Moore injury away from playing time.
My verdict: I'm a risk averse guy who remembers the story of David Carr. A "trial by fire" sometimes leads to a man getting burned for life.
I personally don't see the $2 million in cap space as worth the risk of putting Tannehill into the line of fire too early, especially given my concerns about the WR corps and offensive line being a year away from being set.
I don't think having more than 3 TE's or 6 WR's or even 1 dedicated fullback are all that necessary, so the gain in roster spot doesn't count much. I say keep both veterans, and let Philbin's and Sherman's opinion of Tannehill's ability, not a random injury to a veteran, determine when Tannehill starts.
But that's just me - what do you guys think?