The Jonathan Martin saga seems to have marched forward to its inevitable conclusion. According to the usually reliable Jason La Canfora, Martin wishes to return to the NFL, but not with the Miami Dolphins.
According to league sources, Martin was approached, via his agent Rick Smith by the Miami Dolphins during the NFL Combine. Martin’s agents were asked about the possibility of his returning to the team. According to the sources, present were VP of football operations Dawn Aponte, new GM Dennis Hickey and coach Joe Philbin, with Aponte taking point.
Aponte expressed a strong desire for Martin to return to the team as a starter, while GM Hinkey echoed this sentiment. Philbin was reportedly mostly silent, but expressed a belief that some of the responsibility for the situation lay with the agents, and a belief that this should have been handled in-house, bringing less scrutiny to the team.
Martin’s agents reportedly expressed a belief that returning to the same environment, even without the key offenders, would not be beneficial for them, and indicated that their belief that a clean break would be best for all involved.
When questioned, the Dolphins organisation repeated their line that “no final decision has been made” about any of the players involved, and Smith denied that the report was correct, but La Canforna is generally reliable, and his sources usually accurate.
Regardless of the status of the talks, it is ultimately the Dolphins who control Martin’s fate. The third year man is still under contract until the end of 2015, and the team are under no obligation to honour his request to leave the team. The team will most likely aim to trade Martin away, and not simply cut him—though this option may be easier for all involved.
The Dolphins could force Martin to play out his rookie contract, knowing the team would struggle to replace an established and proven left tackle for the $825k he is due in 2014. However, given the negative perceptions already caused by the situation, the last thing the Dolphins need is a visibly upset player forced to play for a team he hates, or worse, holding out, when the they are trying to set up a new culture for the team.
Meanwhile, Andrew Luck, quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts has come out in favour of the team bringing Martin into their fold.
Martin protected Luck’s blind side at Stanford, and was a huge part of the Cardinal success. The Colts now have many Stanford players and staff who would all likely vouch for Martin, including their offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, and tight end Coby Fleener who were all at Stanford at the same time as Martin.
This type of commendation will help no end when orchestrating a deal, as many teams would question the stability, maturity and emotional resilience of a player like Martin. They would likely hesitate before pulling the trigger on any deal.
The Colts are in desperate need of offensive line help, and have the resources to make a serious play for Martin, even if they feel the Dolphins won’t release the troubled star. Given his recent emotional struggles, Martin would likely only be worth a mid to late round draft pick, great value for a player of his skill and experience.
Other potential suitors could include the Arizona Cardinals, who are in need of help at left tackle, and have a history of nurturing players with off field struggles—most recently Tyrann Mathieu. The Cardinals are reported to be very interested in Brandon Albert, but have only limited financial resources, and should this deal fall through, Martin could be a very affordable alternative.
Wherever he plays in 2014, Martin will be watched very closely, and it will take several years before teams are confident he is emotionally resilient enough to warrant the superstar pay check he will undoubtedly be chasing.