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News » Ex-Dolphin jumped at chance

Ex-Dolphin jumped at chance

Ex-Dolphin jumped at chance
FOXBOROUGH - The Patriots cast their line in hopes of catching a Dolphin, but there was never a bite.

Veteran Jason Taylor, who could have helped bolster their pass rush, signed a one-year, $1.1 million contract to return to Miami yesterday. This was the expected result, and as it turns out, Taylor's agent said there was never any negotiation. If the Dolphins wanted Taylor, then that's where he would wind up because of his preference to remain close to his family in South Florida.

Yes, the Patriots had called and expressed interest, reaching out to Taylor at one point almost as if he was a college recruit. But perhaps sensing that this was what would ultimately happen, there was never a formal contract offer, league sources said. The Patriots made another stab at wooing Taylor after not selecting a pass-rushing linebacker in the draft, likely to position themselves if the Dolphins walked away.

So the question now is, where do the Patriots go from here?

Based on r?sum? alone, there remains a significant question mark at outside linebacker, the spot occupied ably by Mike Vrabel for the majority of the past eight seasons. The 34-year-old Taylor might not have been the primary answer, but he could have been part of a combination with the current candidates on the roster, Pierre Woods (fourth year), Shawn Crable (second year), Vince Redd (second year), and Tully Banta-Cain (seventh year).

Such experience would have been valuable when considering that Woods, Crable, Redd, and Banta-Cain have combined for just 18 career starts, 10 of which came from Banta-Cain in San Francisco in 2007 before he was bumped out of the starting lineup. Banta-Cain had five starts in New England while Woods, who worked his way up to the No. 3 role in New England last year, has the other three.

So while all eyes will naturally be on quarterback Tom Brady's return from left knee surgery, the uncertainty at outside linebacker spot is also on the important-questions-to-be-answered list.

There are no surefire answers on the free agent market, and the Patriots obviously felt no such answers existed in the draft, with most of the top outside linebackers deemed not tall or fast enough to fit their 3-4 scheme.

Crable, at 6 feet 5 inches and having run a 4.61 in the 40-yard dash prior to last year's draft, would have been near the top of the charts from a tall/fast perspective among this year's prospects. Thus, he'll be one of the key players to watch after essentially having last year as a redshirt season, inactive for the first eight games before being placed on injured reserve because of a shin injury. If Crable was selected in the same third-round spot in this year's draft, 78th overall, public perception might be a bit different about the Patriots' plans for at outside linebacker.

So given that it's May and the Patriots don't play a game that counts until Sept. 14, it is possible they could see how Crable looks in training camp and preseason. Ditto for Redd, a 2008 rookie free agent who at 6-6, 260 pounds, has power but also runs well enough to play on special teams coverage units (he was promoted from the practice squad for five games last year).

Bill Belichick often says the biggest jump for players comes from their rookie seasons to Year 2, and Crable and Redd are biggies in that category this season. Furthermore, outside linebacker, particularly in a 3-4, usually takes time for college players to grasp. Pittsburgh's James Harrison is one shining example.

So while yesterday's news that Taylor was returning to Miami was far from a bombshell, there were still a few minor tremors felt in Foxborough.

Taylor would have helped, at the very least easing some of the uncertainty surrounding the position.

Mike Reiss can be reached at mreiss@globe.com

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: May 14, 2009

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