Setting aside (for now) the looming conflict between the Dolphins and guard Richie Incognito over Incognito’s suspension, there’s an existing conflict between the Dolphins and tackle Jonathan Martin.
Martin has left the team, he will have been paid for the last two games. The team could try to put Martin on the non-football injury list and not pay him; that hasn’t happened yet.
But the question has become broader than whether Martin will be back in a few weeks or for the start of next season. After Wednesday’s comments from multiple players in the locker room and Thursday’s statement from attorney David Cornwell (which was, as we’ve surmised, aimed at getting the players to shut up about Jonathan Martin), a source with knowledge of the situation tells PFT that Martin’s current objective is to try to resolve the dispute.
Though Martin intends, based on Cornwell’s statement, to return to football, it’s unclear whether Martin wants to play for the Dolphins or, at this point, whether the Dolphins want him. Team administration and/or the coaching staff may say “yes”; the locker room may say (or at least grumble) “no”.
As a result, resolving the situation could entail an agreement that Martin will be waived. Complicating such an outcome would be the balance of Martin’s $1.919 million signing bonus. Based on a four-year contract with seventeen paychecks per year, Martin has not yet earned $1.15 million of that amount.
On the surface, the easy solution would be to treat the cash as money spent and move on. But the Dolphins would end up taking a cap hit if Martin is waived, and they’d be potentially setting a precedent for future players in Miami or elsewhere who decide they want out after they’ve received a signing bonus.
Considering the extent to which the Dolphins have aggressively (and, some would say, unreasonably) fought first-round picks on the question of whether their fully-guaranteed contracts will contain offset language, it’s safe to assume that the Dolphins will push hard to recover all or at least a lot of the bonus money.
If it comes as part of a broader settlement of any legal claims Martin can make, the Dolphins may be more inclined to walk away from money already spent. Regardless, a week’s worth of back-and-forth claims and reports and statements could soon yield to silence between Martin and the Dolphins as an effort is made to work out that side of this multifaceted mess.