Sunday, March 18, 2012

Dolphins host QBs David Garrard, Alex Smith

As the Miami Dolphins' pursuit of a quarterback continues, the two newest names added to the list include a guy that played in the NFC Championship a few months ago and someone that spent the entire 2011 season out of the league entirely.

Former San Francisco 49ers' quarterback Alex Smith is reportedly visiting the Dolphins on Sunday, while long-time Jacksonville Jaguars' signal-caller David Garrard is slated to arrive in Miami on Monday.

The Dolphins were officially ruled out in the Peyton Manning race earlier this week (and reports indicate they were never really in it), while former Packers' backup Matt Flynn visited the team Saturday. Flynn, who has also met with the Seattle Seahawks, has been linked to the Dolphins since the hiring of former Packers' offensive coordinator Joe Philbin as head coach.

Taken by the 49ers with the first-overall pick in 2005 (one pick ahead of Ronnie Brown), Smith's career got off to a rocky start and he was merely average between 2009-10 before having his career resurrected by new head coach Jim Harbaugh.

Although Smith can hardly be given the most credit for the 49ers' run to the NFC Championship Game (which included an "upset" over the high-powered Saints), his season numbers (17 touchdowns, five interceptions, 3,144 yards and a 90.7 passer rating) are nothing to sneer at.

The 49ers had been interested in retaining smith on a three-year, $24 million contract, but Manning's availability has put those plans on hold and it might be burning bridges with Smith in the process. Smith has the same representation as Manning and it's obvious that Smith's agent is working for Manning right now rather than Smith.

Understandably, Smith is seeking new representation and might be willing to move on from the 49ers rather than be their "backup plan" if they fail to land Manning. In that event, Miami could be a nice landing spot and potentially an even better addition than the unproven Flynn would be.

As for Garrard, he was obviously a solid quarterback at times for the Jaguars in years past, but it remains to be seen if the 33-year-old who was injured all of last year possesses the talent to be a better stopgap than Matt Moore or anyone else the Dolphins could find.

It's actually interesting that Garrard and the Dolphins are meeting now, because he worked out for the team last October and got into a mini battle of words with the team in the media, saying he just didn't feel like signing with the 0-4 Dolphins and there were reports he was unhappy the team wouldn't guarantee his salary. In reality, he needed further surgery on a herniated disc and never signed with anyone.

Unlike Smith or Flynn, Garrard would not be a lock to start for the Dolphins and might be a potential veteran backup instead. He simply doesn't have the youth or upside to be the team's long-term starter and the Dolphins would certainly not put their search for a franchise quarterback on pause.

In the end, I don't know who the Dolphins' starter will be in 2011, but I'm growing increasingly certain the long-term, franchise guy won't be found this offseason. Moore and Garrard would be clear stopgaps, while Smith and Flynn might be solid starters but have questionable upside as well. I'm not sold on Flynn and I would expect any contract of his with the Dolphins to have an "out" within the first two years if he doesn't pan out.

If the Dolphins don't see Ryan Tannehill as a talent worth the No. 8 overall pick, it's quite possible the team will not add it's "quarterback of the future" and the team might have to wait until 2013 at the earliest to explore a new crop of candidates.

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