In July of 2008, the Miami Dolphins traded longtime team leader and productive pass rusher Jason Taylor to the Washington Redskins. Taylor was two months shy of his 34th birthday and in the final year of his contract so the Dolphins got a second- and a seventh-round pick from Washington in the trade.
And now, eight years later, here we are in similar situation.
As in 2008, the Dolphins are breaking in a new first-time general manager, a new first-time head coach and a so-called football czar is running the football operations -- then it was Bill Parcells, now it is Mike Tannenbaum. And like then, everyone knew the Dolphins didn't have a Super Bowl roster. Sorry, but they didn't then and don't now.
That team, flawed as it was, was trying to rebuild on the fly just as the 2016 Dolphins are trying to do.
And, yes, these Dolphins have a 34-year-old player in the final year of his contract in Cameron Wake. And Wake is a longtime team leader and productive pass rusher.
So it makes sense for this team to follow that team's wise lead and shop Cameron Wake to see if someone will bite.
Not doing this is shortsighted. Not doing this is showing fear of the possibilities -- some of them, perhaps, pretty good. Not doing this would be pulling back on something the team has already done in the past.
That's right. The Dolphins in the past have fielded inquiries about Wake's availability. The team hasn't actively shopped him, per se. But neither has it shut down talks of an exchange from prospective suitors.
And that makes sense. Cameron Wake is a great player. He's a grand commodity. He has value.
Gauging that value now is wise.
Wake, older and coming off an Achilles injury that prematurely ended his 2015 season in the seventh game, is less valuable than a few years ago or even last year. But there is nothing wrong with seeing what that value is. It is wise to see what is possible. Because there's a desperate NFL general manager willing to jump at a chance at an accomplished pass rusher born every minute.
Please understand: I am not advocating trading Cameron Wake because he is a problem for the Dolphins. He has never been that. I am not advocating trading Cameron Wake because I believe he's no longer productive. Wake has promised to return from his injury "better" than he was before and so I'm going with that thinking, too, until proof suggests otherwise.
I am, however, saying that a late second or third-round pick in exchange for Wake now is more valuable over the longterm for the Dolphins than, yes, having Wake himself.
Business and logic. Simple as that.
The emotion of trading a long-time star is a hard thing to overcome, because of the feelings of loss involved. But understand that those same feelings would be there next year if Wake goes into free agency and leaves. And in that scenario the Dolphins would feel loss while getting nothing in return for the player.
So how likely is that? I would say it is quite possible because the Dolphins and the Wake camp have already demonstrated they have a different price point on the player. Remember that the Dolphins tried to restructure Wake's contract in February. And that didn't go well. And, yes, I've reported the team could take another run at restructuring Wake before the season.
But as we get closer to the season, as Wake gets closer to being 100 percent recovered from his injury, is he going to think himself worth less?
And after this season, if Wake lives up to his promise of being "better" is he going to sign a discounted contract with Miami? I say he would be just as likely to shop himself -- not necessarily to the highest bidder but to a team that is closer to winning a championship because that starts to matter for a guy who's never been in the playoffs.
Wake, if he is smart and he is, will at that point be making business decisions.
The Dolphins, if they are smart, should now be making business decisions.
Of course, this omits the possibility Wake isn't the same player in 2016 as he's been in the past. Even though he is currently walking with no limp whatever, training with his teammates and expects to be available when the regular-season begins, what if he's diminished? What if he's not the same guy anymore?
Well, that very possibility is a reason it makes sense to trade Wake now. Because his value is high enough now and because if he flops, the Dolphins will have nothing to show for keeping him.
Look, good organizations such as the Steelers and Patriots and others have shown time and again that it is far smarter moving on from a player a year early than a year too late. Sometimes the philosophy hurts those teams for a time -- but the pain does not last. The pain often is inherited by someone else.
Remember when Joey Porter was cut by the Steelers? Within days the Dolphins gave him $42 million guaranteed. And Porter was good for one year (2008) in Miami. But his other couple of years, he was something of a locker room cancer (2007 and 2009), he disrespected coaches, teammates and the organization. He was a headache.
The Steelers, meanwhile, won the AFC North in 2007. They won the Super Bowl in 2008. The Steelers survived without Joey Porter.
The Patriots years ago traded Richard Seymour to the Oakland Raiders. Seymour, coming off two consecutive Pro Bowl berths, was in the final year of his contract. And New England wasn't able to afford re-signing Seymour. So off he went for a 2011 first-round draft pick.
Did the trade hurt the Patriots in 2009, the year they traded him? Probably.
But the first round pick the team got in exchange two years later netted left tackle Nate Solder. Seymour retired after 2012. Solder remains the Patriots starting left tackle.
The Patriots faced a similar issue this offseason. Outstanding pass rusher Chandler Jones was scheduled to be in the final year of his contract in 2017. The Pats, knowing that other players such as cornerback Malcolm Butler, Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins must be re-signed, dealt Jones.
(Yes, there are questions about Jones's possible marijuana use so that may have played a role in the decision).
The Patriots got guard Jonathan Cooper and a second-round pick from Arizona in exchange for Jones. History suggests the trade will sting the Pats in the short-term. History also suggests they will benefit in the long-term.
Interestingly, I don't think losing Cameron Wake would sting the Dolphins as much as some of the other examples stung the teams I cited. The fact is the Dolphins have never been to the playoffs with Cameron Wake. They have never had a winning record with Cameron Wake on the team. So what are they risking without him?
Sitting on the couch in January is sitting on the couch in January either way you slice it.
The fact also is Wake has played left end, or against the opposing team's right tackle, all his career. Well, the Dolphins this offseason signed Mario Williams and he traditionally has played left end throughout his career. Yes, Williams often moved around and would do so again if Wake is on the team, but the vast majority of his production has come against right offensive tackles.
One final thing: Teams that cut ties with longtime productive players perhaps a year early often have one thing in common and that is the people making those decisions aren't worried about job security.
The Steelers have had one head coach since 2007. The Dolphins have had six, including interim guys Todd Bowles and Dan Campbell.
Bill Belichick similarly is not worried about his job security when he's making potentially controversial roster decisions.
The question is how comfortable are Mike Tannenbaum and Adam Gase with their job security to consider what might be a controversial roster decision such as this? I believe both men should be feeling quite comfortable because Gase is already owner Stephen Ross's favorite person in the world and Tannenbaum this offseason consolidated and increased his power within the organization.
So what's the issue with fielding offers for Cameron Wake?
[Blog note: Tomorrow morning we'll examine what such a trade might bring and how it could turn into multiple good players for Miami.]