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Important Decision Looming for Dolphins and Dion Jordan

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The Dolphins selected Dion Jordan with the third overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. After failing his third drug test in two years, Jordan was suspended for the entire 2015 season. With a 2016 cap hit of $6.202 million and his football career in jeopardy, the Dolphins have an important decision to make on the 25-year-old defensive end.

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In the weeks leading up to the draft, many scouts believed Dion Jordan was undeniably the best defensive player in the country.  The defensive end, who converted from tight end, amassed quite the collegiate career; recording 121 tackles and 14.5 sacks during his four-year tenure at Oregon.  Jordan impressed at the combine, finishing best among defensive ends in the 20-yard dash, 40-yard dash, and broad jump.  His impressive performance, paired with his rare 6’6", 248-pound physique, cemented Jordan as a top ten pick in the 2013 draft.

With the first two picks in the 2013 draft, Kansas City and Jacksonville both selected offensive tackles.  The Oakland Raiders were now on the clock and teams started calling to gauge the Raider’s interest in trading down.   As time continued to pass, General Manager Jeff Ireland made one final effort to establish a trade.  Oakland was without a second round pick and it just so happened the Dolphins had two.  In the end, the Raiders agreed to send their 3rd overall pick to the Dolphins, in exchange for Miami’s 12th and 42nd overall picks.

Miami was now on the clock and with a glaring need at left tackle, many believed the Dolphins would select Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson.  Roger Goodell approached the podium, the words he revealed next may live infamously in Miami Dolphins' history forever.

"With the 3rd pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, the Miami Dolphins select; Dion Jordan, defensive end, Oregon."

Realizing his job was on the line if the team did not produce in 2013, Jeff Ireland made one of the boldest moves of his career.  Ireland stuck to his draft board, moving up nine spots to select his number one rated player.  The Dolphins plan for Jordan was simple; Miami expected Jordan to bulk up, something that was necessary if he planned on playing defensive end in the NFL.  Jordan, who was most comfortable as a 3-4 outside linebacker, was expected to make the transition to 4-3 defensive end.  Neither of these tasks came easy for Jordan.

Before ever playing a down of professional football, Dion Jordan was already drawing comparisons to Dolphins’ great, Jason Taylor.  Both players had a similar build, both were great pass rushers, and both players were freakish athletes.  Dolphin fans began envisioning a tandem of Dion Jordan and Cameron Wake, a duo that would strike fear in opposing quarterbacks for years to come.  Unfortunately for the team and fans alike, this never came to fruition.

Dion Jordan’s rookie season was a disappointment.  Miami's third-overall pick battled a shoulder injury for much of the year.  His contribution came primarily as a role player, with extended work on special teams.  Jordan recorded 26 tackles, 2 sacks, and 2 passes defended during his first year with the Dolphins.  This remains Jordan’s most productive season as an NFL player.

Prior to the start of the 2014 season, Dion Jordan would fail a drug test, violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing substance abuse policy.  As a first time offender, Jordan would be suspended the first four games of the season. On September 19th, Jordan failed another drug test, adding an additional two games onto his previous four-game suspension.  After serving his six-game suspension, Jordan would play sparingly for the remainder of the season.  Jordan finished the 2014 season with 20 tackles, 1 sack and 1 pass defended.

On April 28th, 2015, Dion Jordan once again failed a drug test, this time for providing a diluted sample.  As this was his third failed drug test in two years, Jordan was suspended for the entire 2015 season.  No one knows if Jordan has a future in the NFL.  Jordan has failed three consecutive drug tests and appears disconnected with his teammates.  His love for the game of football, as well as his willingness to succeed, is slowly diminishing.  If there was ever a time the Miami Dolphins could use Dion Jordan, the time is now.

Miami has a lot of question marks at defensive end.  Cameron Wake is 34 years old and coming off an Achilles injury.  He is set to make $8.275 in 2016, and the Dolphins have a strong desire to extend Wake's contract.   Assuming he returns to form, the Dolphins can rely on Wake for another two or three years, before ultimately replacing the veteran defensive end.  The opposite of Wake is Olivier Vernon, the Dolphins other starting defensive end in 2015.  Vernon, the former University of Miami standout, is set to hit free agency on March 9th.  That is assuming the Dolphins do not use the franchise tag, which would cost the team roughly $15 million in 2016.  Derrick Shelby is also set to hit free agency.  His future with the team rests solely on what the Dolphins decide to do with Vernon.  Terrence Fede has flashed at times, but it is unlikely the team views him as a starting-caliber defensive end.  Newcomer Cleyon Laing enters the mix; however, his transition from the CFL to NFL won't be seamless and is viewed as more of a project at this moment in time.  None of these aforementioned players will have the same kind of impact as Wake or Vernon.  Miami has some tough decisions to make in the next few weeks and finding out what to do with Dion Jordan is among the toughest.

With a new coaching staff in place, it is anyone’s guess as to whether or not the Dolphins are willing to bring Dion Jordan back.  Jordan is set to make a base salary of $6.202 million, a factor that could weigh heavily on Miami’s final decision.   Mike Tannenbaum spoke briefly on how Miami plans on handling Dion Jordan, if and when he is ready to return.

"I think everyone needs to prove something.  We talk about creating a competitive environment with guys that want to be a Miami Dolphin and want to be here and love the game and compete.  Obviously, what happens whether he gets reinstated or not from that point we’ll make that decision once we see him and get him in the building."

In the end, Dion Jordan’s future with the Dolphins rests primarily on his shoulders.  The team would like to see Jordan show some dedication to the sport, before guaranteeing him a hefty $6.202 million.  Jordan was once considered to be one of the league's most promising prospects.  Although some will argue Dion Jordan has been misused, the failed drug tests are not a result of this.  Whether or not Jordan ever plays a down of football again, he must find a way to overcome his demons.   The Dolphins hope Dion Jordan can find his love for the game and become the difference maker they had hoped when they selected him third overall in 2013.