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Keep or Cut? Channing Crowder

This image alone might be a reason to keep the vivacious linebacker.
This image alone might be a reason to keep the vivacious linebacker.

With news essentially slowing to a snail's pace as we continue to wait for a resolution to the lockout, I figured I might as well piggyback on yesterday's discussion regarding Channing Crowder. Reading through the comments, it seems many fans are critical of Crowder's production on the field - which is a far cry from "hating" the man, which is what Channing sees criticism as.

I, for one, remain very critical of his play on the field. But off the field, I think he's a riot. The man cracks me up. I definitely don't "hate" him - a term thrown around far too much these days. But I have reached a point, as I said yesterday, where I do often wonder if Crowder is worth the $2.5 million salary he's due in 2011 - the final year of his contract, by the way.

So I figured it's time to solicit some opinions on Crowder as it directly relates to the Miami Dolphins.

Channing Crowder, Inside Linebacker

Why the Dolphins should keep him

Like him or not, there's no doubt that Channing's teammates like and respect him. Crowder is viewed as a leader inside that locker room who always has his teammates' backs. He's also earned head coach Tony Sparano's respect, which is more important than many might believe. If Sparano has a message he wants to "leak" out or if Sparano needs a gauge of how the locker room feels at a point in time about their head coach, Tony can go to Crowder.

On the field, Channing is what he is - a run-stuffing inside 'backer. Contrary to popular opinion, he's smart and can diagnose plays on the field in real time. And prior to 2010, there was a very noticeable drop-off in the defense's ability to stop the run when Crowder had to miss time due to injury.

As I said earlier, Crowder is in a contract year, which could provide the extra motivation he needs to excel. It's also worth noting that Crowder is training very hard to be prepared for the season once the lockout ends - working out four times a week at FAU with other athletes and spending two days a week working with Dolphins legend Zach Thomas, which is always a good thing.

Why the Dolphins should cut him

It's simple math. Depending on what the salary cap number is and where the Dolphins sit relative to that figure, it might just make sense to cut Crowder and save the $2.5 million he's owed this year. But the Dolphins would have to make that decision based on how confident they are in the player or players that would step in to replace Channing.

The two most likely replacements would be Tim Dobbins or A.J. Edds - or a rotation of the two based on the situation. Dobbins showed he can step in admirably for Crowder. As I mentioned yesterday, the defense performed quite well against the run with Dobbins replacing an injured Crowder against the Bills to open the season and against the Browns later in the year. Edds, meanwhile, was expected to be the third down replacement for Crowder last year before tearing his ACL in camp last year. But he's more of an unknown than anything at this point.

We're not exactly talking about replacing an ultra-productive player, though. Crowder has played in 24 games the past two years (missing eight games due to groin and/or knee injuries) and averages just 3.8 tackles per game over that span, making just four tackles for loss. And with Karlos Dansby no longer a newcomer to this team, I would expect him to become more of a leader inside that locker room. After all, Dansby already took over as the "quarterback of the defense" last year in just his first season in Miami.

All of this has me wondering if Channing's time in Miami might come to an end sooner rather than later.