In a somewhat surprising move, the Miami Dolphins have opted to re-sign quarterback Chad Pennington on the same day he became an unrestricted free agent.
The one-year deal will pay him $2.5 million in 2010, and also includes a $1.515 million bonus to be paid by Miami if the team decides to trade him this season.
The Dolphins' starting quarterback entering each of the past two seasons, Pennington posted the second best passer rating in the NFL in 2008, but struggled early on in 2009 before a shoulder injury ended his season after just three games.
While I did expect the Dolphins to re-sign Pennington in my 2010 offseason plan posted two days ago, I initially ended the 2009 season with the feeling that the team would let him walk, as Chad Henne, Tyler Thigpen, and Pat White seemed unlikely to be moved.
I also felt Pennington would have at least a few starting opportunities elsewhere, as he's an extremely intelligent and effective quarterback when healthy.
That being the case, I'm glad to see Pennington return to the Dolphins, regardless of what happens with the team's other backups. Pennington is simply a great football mind and has a lot to offer as both a veteran backup and mentor.
Pennington's return gives the Dolphins four quarterbacks on the active roster—one more than the Dolphins will carry into the regular season.
As much as I'd like to hope the team will trade or release 2009 second-round pick Pat White, it seems more likely the Dolphins will attempt to deal Tyler Thigpen instead.
Thigpen, who was acquired last September after Pennington's injury, has some upside and is believed by many around the league to have starting potential.
Meanwhile, Pennington will likely serve as the primary backup to third-year quarterback Chad Henne, who was drafted by the Dolphins in the second round in 2008 and took over for Pennington in Week 4 of the 2009 season.
If the Dolphins do keep White and plan on continuing to utilize him in the spread-option, Pennington will have to be listed as the No. 3 emergency quarterback on game days.
NFL rules state that a team's No. 1 and 2 quarterbacks cannot return to the game if the No. 3 quarterback enters before the fourth quarter, meaning White would have to be No. 2 to allow the Dolphins to utilize him in certain offensive packages and still have Henne available as the primary starter.
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