Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Miami Dolphins acquire QB Tyler Thigpen from Chiefs

The Miami Dolphins didn't waste much time finding a new backup quarterback following Chad Pennington's season ending shoulder injury, acquiring third-year quarterback Tyler Thigpen from the Kansas City Chiefs.

Acquired for an as-of-yet undisclosed draft pick, Thigpen will serve as the primary backup to 2008 second-round pick Chad Henne, who moved into the starting lineup in Pennington's absence.

Background

A South Carolina native, Thigpen became the first quarterback in the history of the Coastal Carolina (Division I-FCS) football program in 2003.

He amassed a 34-11 record in four seasons for the Chanticleers, winning Big South Conference titles each of his final three seasons and being named the conference's player of the year as a senior in 2006.

In four collegiate seasons, Thigpen threw for 6,598 yards and 59 touchdowns with 28 interceptions. He also rushed for 1,626 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Thigpen was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in the seventh round of the 2007 NFL Draft, but was waived during final cuts when he failed to beat out Brooks Bollinger for the team's third-string job.

The Kansas City Chiefs claimed Thigpen off waivers the following day, making him the team's third-string quarterback behind Damon Huard and Brodie Croyle. Thigpen attempted six passes as a rookie before tearing his MCL in practice in December, ending his season.

Thigpen started 11 of the 14 games in which he played for the Chiefs in 2008, completed 54.8 percent of his passes for 2,608 yards and 18 touchdowns with 12 interceptions.

A topic of trade talks prior to the 2009 season, Thigpen was once again relegated to a bench role with the acquisition of Matt Cassel from the New England Patriots. The Jacksonville Jaguars reportedly offered Kansas City a 2010 fifth-round pick for Thigpen, though a potential deal fell through when the Chiefs refused to trade him for less than a fourth-round pick.

Thigpen served as the Chiefs third-string quarterback during the Chiefs' first three games of the 2009 season behind Cassel and second-stringer Brodie Croyle (though ahead of fourth-stringer Matt Gutierrez).

Thigpen arrives in Miami with two years remaining on his original four-year rookie contract signed with the Vikings in 2007, and has base salaries of $460,000 (2009) and $550,000 (2010). He would be an unrestricted free agent following the 2010 season under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, though he will be just a restricted free agent if there is no new CBA after this season.

Analysis

The fact Miami dealt with Kansas City is hardly a surprise, as it's not even the only trade between the two teams in the last two months. Bill Parcells and his son-in-law—former Patriots and current Chiefs GM Scott Pioli—worked out a deal sending Dolphins offensive linemen Andy Alleman and Ikechuku Ndukwe to the Chiefs for a draft pick in August.

This was a move that had to be made in some fashion, as the Dolphins were in desperate need of an experienced backup following the loss of Chad Pennington. Thigpen certainly provides that, as rookie Pat White is clearly not capable of leading an NFL offense if Chad Henne were to go down.

Though Thigpen does cost the Dolphins more (likely a mid-round draft pick) than a veteran free agent would have, he also provides some more benefits as well. Unlike someone like Brian Griese, Joey Harrington, Cleo Lemon, Andrew Walter, or Vinny Testaverde (yes, those are some of the best quarterbacks available), Thigpen is just 25 years old and is signed for multiple seasons.

Thigpen is a solid NFL prospect that was sought after by quite a few teams via trade this offseason as a potential project. He has a good arm and football intelligence to go along with surprising speed and athleticism. It is actually those latter traits that could make him an appealing wildcat participant himself in some capacity down the line.

That being the case, Thigpen won't be threatening Henne's job any time soon. Henne is still the quarterback of the future in the eyes of the Dolphins' front office, and that future is now due to Pennington's injury and expiring contract in the offseason. Henne is going to get every chance to show what he can do this season, and won't be removed from the starting lineup unless an injury forces him out.

What Thigpen does provide, however, is a talented, inexpensive and experienced backup to Henne should an injury occur. He's also someone that, unlike an aging veteran, also has a chance to compete for a starting job in the next year or two if Henne fails to impress.

All in all, the price tag was a bit higher, but not so high that it wasn't worth it for the Dolphins to make the move. An experienced backup of some kind was undoubtedly needed, and the team simply chose to give up a little more to get a little more than they would on open market.