Dolphins coach Tony Sparano this evening was finally asked directly -- it took a Miami Herald reporter to do it -- about his meeting with linebacker Joey Porter immediately following the end of the season.
And out of that line of questioning we know this: The Dolphins have not made a decision whether to bring Porter back for 2010.
Asked by The Herald's Joseph Goodman if the club has made a decision, Sparano answered: "That has not been decided yet and ... uh ... that's it."
Well, that's interesting.
You see, Porter is signed through the 2011 season. Since Sparano is saying no decision has been made about the coming season, he is admitting there is an internal discussion either going on or about to take place about a signed player's future.
That debate will be complete by the first week of March when the Dolphins must either pay Porter a $1 million roster bonus or cut him loose. The only wiggle room on this is if the Dolphins request and Porter agrees to take a pay cut from his current deal.
If he agrees to a pay cut, the Dolphins may decide to keep Porter because he is, on average, a walking 6-10 sacks a year. That has value. And the 7-9 Dolphins are in no position to simply jettison valuable players.
It is unknown whether Porter might accept a pay cut particularly in light of my report Tuesday about his post-season meeting with Sparano in which he expressed how displeased he was with several aspects of the 2009 season -- including his playing time, his suspension for one game against Tampa Bay, and where he was sometimes asked to play.
Goodman, in Mobile covering the Senior Bowl for The Herald, also asked Sparano about that meeting.
"Any conversation that I had with Joey Porter after the season stays between me and Joey Porter," the coach said. "All my business with my players stays in-house."
Um, too late coach.
A league source tells me Porter's agent, Jeff Sperbeck, and the Dolphins have not (as of this writing) met in Mobile as I reported they'd try to do. I have confirmed the sides spoke over the phone.
Further discussions will be necessary as the March deadline for paying Porter his roster bonus looms. Further significant discussions will be necessary if the Dolphins decide they wish to keep Porter, but only at a much lower salary.
Many of you (and some less experienced football reporters in the media) have jumped to the conclusion that Porter is gone. As I wrote the past two days and am repeating here, that is not necessarily true.
Porter has talked about being somewhere else in 2010 on a radio show in his hometown of Bakersfield, California. He has expressed his displeasure to his coach about 2009. And the Dolphins also have concerns about the player going forward.
But I have presented to you a possible and, indeed, likely scenario of what is about to play out. Ultimately, a player's ability to stay on a team is measured by his contribution weighed against his cost -- in salary, headaches caused, and other things.
Porter isn't likely to stick at the $3.6 million he's scheduled to cost in 2010 and the $4.5 million he's scheduled for in 2011. But at a lower, discounted price? Well, you heard Sparano ...
No decision has been made.