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  The Taylor Side-Step
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by Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist

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This spring, Jason Taylor will be Dancing with the Stars. He’s taking his exceptional footwork as a defensive end to the popular TV show in an attempt to translate it into waltzes and mambos.


But that’s not all of the fancy footwork that Taylor may have been planning.


Last Saturday, former Miami Herald and current Yahoo! Sports columnist Jason Cole reported that the Dolphins and Taylor had amicably agreed to part ways sometime before the April 26 NFL Draft. If true, it means farewell to the greatest defensive player in team history.


But is it true? Not according to Dolphin domo Bill Parcells.


“The only way Jason Taylor doesn't play for the Dolphins in 2008 is if he retires. The team is not going to trade him.'', refuted Parcells, to national and local media. "This latest report is just another example of journalistic irresponsibility.''


“Jason Taylor is going to play for the Dolphins unless he retires. And I tell you what: If we trade Jason Taylor, I'll call you myself to tell you it's happening. But I'm not going to have to do that because it isn't happening. That's how sure I am.''


Hmmmm. What say you, Jason Taylor?


''Bill Parcells speaks for the Miami Dolphins organization and Jason Taylor is a loyal member of the Miami Dolphins,'' wrote Gary Wichard, Taylor agent, in an e-mail response to The Miami Herald.


Translation: We talked about something but I’m not telling you what it is.


On one hand, the denial from Parcells was as strong and adamant as you can get. On the other is Cole, as credible a hard news reporter as there is in the business; the guy doesn’t write stuff without first having done his homework.


In the middle is Taylor, with his agent basically saying ‘No comment’.


Shall we dance?


One can easily see Wichard telling the Dolphins that his client wasn’t eager to be part of a rebuilding effort, that he would not oppose a trade to a contender, and that he would be happy to help the Dolphins broker a deal. We do know from past comments that Taylor is not interested in being part of a lengthy and uncertain rebuilding effort, not at this point in his career. Few would blame him for such sentiments.


The rub here is the tough-minded Parcells. He isn’t a pushover and won’t take kindly to strong-armed tactics. Such an approach would surely blow up in Taylor’s face in so many ways, whereas Parcells knows that his own reputation would eclipse the fallout from such an outcome.


So, understandably, this is a delicate matter for Taylor (affectionately known as “JT”). He has strong personal and business ties in South Florida, and is justifiably worried about his legacy and the damage that a messy divorce would bring; continuing as a Dolphin in 2008 or even retirement would be a far better outcome.


Parcells’ position is that good players are assets, and he isn’t going to be told what to do by a player or his agent. And Jason Taylor is a very good player, among the Top 15 overall in the NFL (according to Scouts, Inc.). If he’s going to let JT go, there has to be a premium offer on the table. Otherwise, JT has more value to the Dolphins as a Dolphin.


So, no matter how much Taylor might want to go, or how much the bleeding hearts want to see him “set free”, Parcells isn’t going to please them unless it makes sense for the Dolphins in terms of value. It’s as simple as that.


Now, some in the media have suggested that there is no value to the Dolphins, or to JT, in a continued marriage. They argue that he is too old for his skills to survive the duration of the turnaround, that the Dolphins need the compensation (i.e. draft picks) to drive the pace of the turnaround faster, that JT deserves to be set free so that he can get a ring, that there is no role for a 33 year old DE on a rebuilding team.


Such an argument is flawed on several fronts.


First, Taylor has a lot of miles left on his treads. Given where he is today health and ability wise, he will be able to play out his current contract (2009) with no real drop off in ability. He could probably get an additional two years if he wanted them.


Second, the Dolphins can easily afford Taylor’s contract ($7.5 million this season and $8 million in 2009, not including incentives). This means that the salary cap is not a factor in retaining Taylor for 2008. And $7.5 million is nothing to sneeze at, even for the wealthy Taylor.


Third, the window on JT’s ability to win a championship in Miami is not yet closed. If Michael Strahan (15th season) just earned a ring, it is fair to presume that Taylor (11th season) could as well.


Fourth, there has to be a veteran leader in the locker room, someone whose credentials and presence is unquestioned. This is especially true on a young team. There’s no one on the roster that could fill that role better than JT.


There’s more, but you can see that all of the above adds up to positive value for the Dolphins in a continued marriage versus JT’s desire to have a chance to win a ring in 2008. You can believe that Parcells has already done the math because he’s seen it all before.


You can also believe that he doesn’t give a damn what Taylor wants. His first responsibility is to the Miami Dolphins. That’s as it should be.


So here’s the parlay: If Parcells can get a fair offer for JT, he’ll trade him. If not, JT stays. If JT really doesn’t want to be a Dolphin in 2008, he can forfeit his $7.5 million and quit.


That’s quite a bet by Parcells, an astute horseman and manager of men.


What would it take to compel Parcells to make a trade? A lot. Think in the neighborhood of a first round pick, this season or next, or maybe a high second rounder plus a high third. Anything that even smells of a lowball offer will be justifiably rejected.


Judging by his comments, Parcells isn’t expecting a premium offer to come anytime soon.


Of course he could be “exaggerating” for some unknown purpose. If it was to land DE/OLB Calvin Pace, that possibility is gone with Pace’s acceptance of a ridiculous $42 million offer from the NY Jets ($22 million guaranteed). If anything, the loss of Pace strengthens the case for JT to remain a Dolphin in 2008.


In the meantime, the speculation will continue. Will JT decide to play out the string in Miami, and make one last run at a ring with the current regime? Will he end up in Green Bay, as has been rumored, or in some other non-divisional city? Or will he simply retire early, move to Hollywood full time, and try to become the next “Rock”?


This curious dance is far from over.

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