The Miami Dolphins have completed three days of training camp. And their 80-man roster still includes a guy who won’t play football at all this year.
Coach Tony Sparano told reporters on Sunday that the team still has not made a roster move regarding defensive end Phillip Merling. As a result, he counts as one of the 80, leaving the Fins with one less available player for practice.
The options are fairly simple, if as reported he’ll miss the entire season. They can put him on injured reserve and pass his full salary, or they can put him on the non-football injury list and decide whether all or any part of his salary will be paid.
Merling tore an Achilles’ tendon while recently working out on his own. The team reportedly has been negotiating with his agent, Jimmy Sexton, regarding a compromise that could pay Merling some but not all of his $600,000 base salary.
We suppose it’s also possible that the team is considering the possibility of placing Merling on injured reserve, paying his full salary, and extending his contract by one year to 2012 at a team-friendly base salary.
Really, there’s no reason to delay the roster move unless the team is considering placing Merling on injured reserve. If he’s going to land on the non-football injury list, the only question is whether and to what extent he’ll be paid, and as we understand it that’s not a decision that the team has to make upon placement of the player on the non-football injury list.
And somewhere in the recesses of my brain I’m recalling someone in a position of authority talking about the dangers of making assumptions.
Either way, we’re far more comfortable in assuming that the team has a good reason for not making a roster move with Merling and as a result having one less guy at camp until they do.
UPDATE: Howard Balzer of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat and the Sports Xchange points out a key fact in this regard. Because Merling is entering only his third season, he would have to pass through waivers before being placed on injured reserve or the non-football injury list. The Dolphins can make the move without exposing Merling to waivers after the rosters are cut down to 75 players. This is one of those nuances that we learn every August and forget every September.