Analysis: Culpepper’s Days In Miami Are Numbered

By David Hyde
Updated: April 15, 2007

DAVIE, Fla. — Question for Daunte Culpepper: You’re renting, right?

Come on, folks, that’s not too cold to ask. It’s tough to sell in this real estate market. Or maybe you’re thinking like Culpepper, who said Friday that he just needs to, “get healthy,” before becoming “another piece of the puzzle on this team.”

You had to wonder which team: One in the Tour de France?

Because as surely as Culpepper only rode a stationary bike Friday in the new Dolphins regime’s first day of minicamp, it’s clear by now the plan is for Culpepper to move on. The hope at quarterback remains Trent Green. If not him, maybe Hugh Green. Or even Mr. Green in the dining room with the candlestick.

Let’s face it, General Manager Randy Mueller and coach Cam Cameron won’t be marrying their future to Culpepper. Would you?

18 months after major knee surgery and five months after minor knee surgery, Culpepper still can’t get on the field. The knee still isn’t right, he says. It’s still the “usual soreness,” he says. It still needs more time to heal, he says.

That’s a shame for Culpepper, but it’s fine and dandy for the Dolphins in this sense: It doesn’t seem that Mueller and Cameron care too much if Culpepper needs one month or one decade to return. They’re saying all the right words, but none are that he’s in their plans.

In the past few months, Cameron has had ample opportunity to say something generic and harmless about Culpepper’s possible future. Something like: “I’d like Daunte to be our quarterback if everything works out.” Or: “If he gets healthy, he has a place here.”

But as the anti-Nick Saban, Cameron refused to fudge even that much. He said Culpepper is doing, “Everything we’ve asked.” And the focus is to, “Get him healthy.” But he also called the quarterback position on Friday exactly what it is.

“A work in progress,” he said.

Does Culpepper have a future here?

“It’s a work in a progress,” he said again. “And you guys understand why we don’t stand up here and try to predict the future. It doesn’t make sense.”

Another clincher: If the Dolphins had any intent to keep Culpepper, they would have downsized his contract to take his condition into account. And they haven’t.

So two questions remain: When does Green come here from Kansas City? And at what price?

Green can block trades elsewhere by refusing to renegotiate his $7.2 million price tag for this year. As he must be doing. So it’s just down to the Chiefs and Dolphins haggling over a cost. Sixth-round pick? Seventh?

His arrival won’t cause the headline buzz like, uh, well, Culpepper did a year ago. Maybe there’s a lesson there. But there’s no home run for Mueller to hit in this quarterback market.

He doesn’t have the ammunition to trade up for the draft’s two quarterbacks. There’s no star on the free-agent market.

So Mueller is doing what’s necessary. He’s cutting ties with Culpepper. He’s getting a short-term veteran who until last year’s concussion was one of the league’s better quarterbacks.

He’ll probably draft a quarterback in the first few rounds. And there’s Cleo Lemon, who played better than anyone in his short stint last year.

The good news: Green could very well be the best Dolphins quarterback of the post-Dan Marino era, a latter-day Gus Frerotte, if you will.

The bad news: That’s not saying much, and he’s coming seven years, 25,000 passing yards and a nasty concussion after Dave Wannstedt could have grabbed him. He stuck with Jay Fiedler instead.

So now the plan is to bid Culpepper adieu and start over with Green, Lemon, a second- or third-round draft pick and lots of hope for some luck. The Super Bowl isn’t calling, but you have to crawl before you can walk. And anyone who’s watched this position over the last decade knows all about crawling.