Jason Taylor has decided to join the New York Jets, according to his agent Gary Wichard. The NFL's active sack leader and the player with more sacks than anyone since 2000, will sign a contract with New York as early as Wednesday.
Taylor is tentatively scheduled to fly to New York to meet with Jets management Wednesday morning.
Taylor, who wanted to return to the Dolphins in 2010, decided to accept New York's offer after realizing there was no opportunity for him to play for the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins have refused to offer Taylor a contract since the end of the 2009 season, saying they would make a decision on that after the draft.
Taylor's decision, looming for days, was finalized late Tuesday morning as the NFL draft threatened his only opportunity for a contract at this time. While the Dolphins were holding Taylor off until after the draft, the Jets offered Taylor a chance to join the NFL's No. 1-ranked defense in 2009.
Taylor recognized his opportunity in New York could disappear if the Jets draft someone that plays the same position. That would leave Taylor, 35, with no contract offer from any team and no assurances from Miami.
Wichard called the Jets to commit Taylor to them on Tuesday morning. The contract is a two-year deal for $13 million but that is not a true number because it includes a large roster bonus in 2011 the Jets aren't likely to pay. The real deal is essentially a one-year deal that could be worth up to $4 million with numerous incentives.
Taylor's decision was sealed this week upon his return from a mini-vacation in Costa Rica. He'd hoped he would return to South Florida and meet with Coach Tony Sparano -- a meeting Sparano requested and then postponed last week. But that meeting was never rescheduled, another hint to Taylor the Dolphins didn't want him back.
Clues that the Dolphins are moving in a different direction away from Taylor were everywhere. The team scheduled a workout for free agent OLB Travis LaBoy late last week. The club also seems ready to draft an OLB in this draft, with that pick coming as early as Miami's No. 12 pick in the first round.
And even as they were searching for pass-rushers -- a position of need -- the Dolphins did not offer Taylor a contract and did not provide either private or public hints there would even be a contract opportunity after the draft. At times during the last two months, the Dolphins have not returned calls to the Taylor camp.
The Dolphins have refused to explain why they are taking this approach with a player who has deeper roots in South Florida than Bill Parcells or Jeff Ireland or Tony Sparano combined. Ireland's stance on the matter recently was, "I'm not going to air our business to the media."
But the fact is this isn't typical of the way the Dolphins have done business this offseason. The club eagerly signed Jason Ferguson and Chad Pennington this offseason. Those moves were made despite the fact Ferguson, 35, must serve an eight-game suspension to start the 2010 season and Pennington, like Taylor, is recovering from shoulder surgery.
Clearly, the Dolphins didn't need to wait until after the draft to retain Ferguson and Pennington.
Taylor is "disappointed and even hurt" the Dolphins didn't ask him to return for 2010, according to a family friend who asked not to be identified. Clearly, returning to play in front of Dolphins fans was his priority. Taylor wanted to finish his career in Miami because he has ties in the community, wants to retire to South Florida when his career is over, and wants his charitable foundation to continue doing work locally.
Basically, Taylor didn't want to do anything that would be misinterpreted as him leaving the Dolphins for a rival. "He's leaving the Dolphins because they've given him no choice," the family source said.
To that end, Taylor is expected to be introduced at a press conference by the Jets Wednesday. But after working out with his new teammates into the weekend, Taylor also expects to have a press conference in South Florida to address with the local media about his feelings on this move.
Taylor, the source said, sees this move as a separation but not a divorce from South Florida and Miami fans. "Logically, he had to go to Jets," the source said. "But emotionally, his heart is with Dolphins fans."
Taylor also views joining the Jets as an opportunity to reach the NFL playoffs. The Jets reached the AFC championship game in 2009 and have added several big-name players this offseason, including running back LaDainian Tomlinson, cornerback Antonio Cromartie and wide receiver Santonio Holmes.
Tomlinson was part of the full-court recruitment of Taylor by the Jets, as the running back called Taylor to convince him to join the team. That recruitment began in earnest when Jets coach Rex Ryan called agent Wichard three weeks ago to ask if Taylor would be interested in the idea of playing for Miami's division rival.
Wichard, holding no offer from the Dolphins, convinced Taylor to visit with the Jets on April 8-9.
Last week, the Jets called Wichard again. But this time it was owner Woody Johnson, general manager Mike Tannenbaum and Ryan on the line all at the same time.
"It was not to pressure Jason," Wichard said last week. "It was a respectful call. They wanted to share how much they thought of Jason. It wasn't like they were blitzing me. No pressure. We talked about how much Commissioner Roger Goodell likes Jason.
"The Jets have been great throughout this process."
The Jets and Dolphins could not be more dissimilar.
While the Dolphins last year referred to Taylor as an "acorn," a player plucked off the market at the last minute and unexpectedly, the Jets have treated Taylor like an icon -- taking him on helicopter rides to their new stadium, putting him up in a five-star hotel in midtown Manhattan during his recruiting visit.
Weighing the treatment of acorn and icon, Taylor obviously picked the latter.
This will mark the second time Taylor leaves the Dolphins.
Taylor played for the Dolphins from 1997-2007 then was traded to the Washington Redskins in 2008 for a second-round pick. He returned in 2009 and collected seven sacks and 42 tackles. Taylor started all 16 games in 2009 and was a team captain. Taylor turned down $8 million guaranteed from the Redskins to return to Miami for a one-year, $1.5 million deal.
It was such a successful reunion, the Dolphins offered Taylor a contract extension early last November, according to a club source.
The Dolphins have done this before with others players -- Parick Cobbs, Lousaka Polite, Greg Camarillo and Ricky Williams -- performing at a high level.
The difference for Taylor was that the contract offer was basically for the same money he played for last season. There was modest base salary increase offered from $1.1 to $1.5 million and there was one interesting stipulation: The Dolphins wanted to deal directly with Taylor and not let him include Wichard in any talks.
Taylor wanted to include his agent and that concluded the talks.
Interestingly, soon after Taylor rejected the curious extension offer, his playing time changed. Taylor still started. But the guy who led the team with 5 1/2 sacks with most of November and December still to play, suddenly wasn't part of Miami's pass-rush package all the time.
Taylor, playing with an injured shoulder on run downs but less so on passing downs, collected only 1 1/2 sacks the season's final two months. Meanwhile, Joey Porter, who had struggled early in the season, was allowed to stay on the field on pass downs and sometimes even waved off substitutions from the sideline on those downs.
With the Jets, Taylor is expected to play only on passing downs. Ryan has promised to be innovative and let Taylor attack the pass-pocket from every angle and side. That isn't exactly a new approach. In 2006, Nick Saban used Taylor in that fashion. Sometimes Taylor would rush from the right side, sometimes the left side, sometimes up the middle, sometimes Taylor would drop in coverage.
Taylor won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award that year.
When the Dolphins signed Taylor in 2009, their plan was to use him only on a limited basis -- again, mostly as a pass-rusher. But starter Matt Roth failed his training camp conditioning test and so Miami pressed Taylor into a starting job.
Taylor was happy to take the job and didn't give it back. Roth was eventually waived.
Now the Dolphins don't have either Roth or Taylor.
Now the Dolphins will face Jason Taylor twice in 2010.
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