Dolphins sign Jay Cutler, NFL power rankings and injuries mount in camp


The Miami Dolphins signed Jay Cutler to replace Ryan Tannehill, but is he the right choice? There are many factors to weigh, including the locker room tone.

The Miami Dolphins were holding their breath on Thursday afternoon, with Ryan Tannehill having crumbled to the ground during the morning’s practice. Tannehill, who had a partial tear of the ACL in his left knee last year, had the same knee buckle on a non-contact play.

An MRI revealed that there was no structural damage to the knee, but the knee was weakened. It would be foolish to have Tannehill playing in such a state, making surgery and an IR stint the most-likely scenario. With that being the case, Jay Cutler has come out of retirement to join Miami, taking a one-year deal worth $13 million.

There is ample buzz around the signing, but it’s hard to see Cutler making a real difference in the Dolphins’ fortunes.

Cutler, 34, hasn’t played a full 16-game slate since 2009, his first year with the Chicago Bears. Last year, he only suited up for five games, suffering through the season with thumb and shoulder injuries. In Chicago, Cutler often played behind horrid offensive lines, subjecting him to weekly beatings. It appears those batterings have taken their toll.

With the Dolphins, there are similar concerns. Laremy Tunsil projects as a good left tackle, but the guard combination of Jermon Bushrod and Anthony Steen is concerning. Former first-round pick Ju’Wuan James is also an issue, as James has been slow in developing. Center Mike Pouncey is the one constant when healthy, although he’s struggled to stay on the field throughout his career.

Additionally, the idea that Cutler and head coach Adam Gase are rekindling a great relationship is overblown. The two worked together in 2015 when Gase was the offensive coordinator in Chicago, and Cutler was average. He threw for 3,659 yards and 21 touchdowns against 11 interceptions, while completing 64.4 percent of his throws. In 2014, Cutler threw for more yardage and 28 touchdowns.

The argument that Cutler is an upgrade over Tannehill is also false. Tannehill is not a franchise quarterback, but the 29-year-old has enjoyed some success. He has a pair of 4,000-yard seasons to his credit, despite playing with little help throughout much of his tenure in Miami. Cutler, who is entering his 12th season, has one such season. Tannehill has also completed 62.7 percent of his throws, compared to Cutler’s career mark of 61.9.

Finally, what’s the benefit of signing Cutler? Miami has a capable backup quarterback in Matt Moore, who played well in spot duty last year. He’s also familiar with Gase’s system and has chemistry with his teammates. Perhaps most importantly, by signing Cutler and spurning Moore, the message being sent is loud and clear: you guys aren’t good enough, so we’re bringing in outside help.

When the outside help is someone who has a surly reputation, and was retired as of 48 hours ago, that’s a tough sell to a veteran locker room.

With Cutler, the Dolphins aren’t Super Bowl contenders. At best, they will be a wild card team and get plastered in the opening round of the playoffs by a superior team. With Moore, the ceiling is the same, but if Moore is terrible, the year at least results in a good draft pick. If Cutler stays healthy, the floor is admittedly higher, which simply means the draft pick is worse. And if Cutler does get hurt, the Dolphins end up with an expensive, ineffective player and a quarterback in Moore who knows his coach has no confidence in him.

Miami decided to make a move in signing Cutler, but sometimes the best move is to make none at all.

Power rankings

Top 10 offenses heading into 2017

1. New England Patriots
2. Pittsburgh Steelers
3. Atlanta Falcons
4. Dallas Cowboys
5. Green Bay Packers
6. Oakland Raiders
7. New Orleans Saints
8. Los Angeles Chargers
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
10. Arizona Cardinals


"“We want to make sure we handle the process right with Andrew, and continuing to do the things the doctors and trainers have told him to do, and we’re going to follow that process,” Ballard told me. “And as for everyone saying Andrew is down, well, every season is special in my mind, You don’t ever want to take these for granted. They’re too hard to come by. So we’ll do everything we can to put a team on the field that will compete their butts off and play winning football."

– Colts general manager Chris Ballard, talking about Andrew Luck’s future following surgery

As Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported, there is a thought Luck could begin the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list, mandating he missed the first six games of the regular season. If that’s the case, the Colts’ season is dead on arrival.

However, Indianapolis might be wise to take the cautious approach, even if 2017 is scuttled. Ballard is in his first season as GM, meaning he has the luxury of taking his time. If Luck won’t be fully healed until mid-October, allow him the ability of being full-strength while the defense improves around Malik Hooker, Johnathan Hankins and Jabaal Sheard.

The Colts aren’t winning the Super Bowl with or without Luck this season. Landing a high draft choice and getting Luck healthy wouldn’t be a bad year, all things considered.


Last episode, I tell you which teams could give the Patriots trouble in 2017, and which trait is most important to stopping them. Plus, I’m joined by NFL analyst Russell Baxter, who tells us which two teams are poised to break out. Sayre Bedinger also stops by to give us his slant on the Broncos’ QB competition. We finish with the Jaguars’ woes, and the primary reason the team has been awful for a decade.

This week, Peter Bukowski talks about the Cutler signing and what to expect in the NFC East this season. I also go in-depth on why the Jets are doing the right thing by tanking, and so much more.

Random stat

Whenever we talk about great coaches who fell short of a Super Bowl appearance, we often think of Marty Schottenheimer and Dennis Green. However, we consistently forget one man.

Since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, Schottenheimer holds the record for most postseason appearance without a trip to the Super Bowl with 13. Chuck Knox comes in second on that unfortunate list with 11. Knox won seven divisional championships with the Los Angeles Rams, Buffalo Bills and Seattle Seahawks, including five straight to begin his career in L.A.

Info learned this week

1. Injuries begin to mount across training camps

It’s August in the NFL, which means hope, dreams and injuries. This summer has been no different, with a couple of high-profile names already on the shelf. The Los Angeles Chargers, who dealt with a bevy of critical injuries last year, have already lost first-round pick Mike Williams for at least the remainder of camp with a herniated disc. Williams could also miss the entire season, something that Los Angeles’ second-round pick, guard Forrest Lamp, will certainly do. Lamp tore his ACL on Wednesday, a crushing blow to a Chargers team very light on offensive line talent.

The Houston Texans also lost a key contributor in receiver Will Fuller, who broke his collarbone and will miss 2-3 months. Fuller was expected to start opposite DeAndre Hopkins, and is now almost certain to start the season on the PUP list.

Additionally, Corey Davis is week-to-week for the Tennessee Titans after the rookie receiver pulled his hamstring. Whle the injury doesn’t appear to be long-term it still takes away valuable reps both in training camp and preseason games.

The Washington Redskins should be feeling a bit better about tight end Jordan Reed, who is proclaiming he’ll be ready for the regular-season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles. Reed, who is on the PUP list with a toe injury, says his return is imminent.

2. Raiders remain without Donald Penn

The Oakland Raiders have dispensed plenty of large contracts over the past few years, but they aren’t looking to hand out another. Left tackle Donald Penn is in the final season of his two-year, $11 million deal, and despite being 34 years old, he wants to be paid elite money. To this point, it has not happened, although the Raiders believe something will be worked out.

Penn was great in 2016, allowing only one sack. Unfortunately, that sack led to Derek Carr breaking his leg on Christmas Eve against the Indianapolis Colts. Eventually, the Raiders will sweeten the pot, likely with some extra guaranteed money and a year tacked onto the current deal. If this holdout extends into the season, Marshall Newhouse would be the blindside protector for Carr. That sentence alone should be enough for Oakland to pony up.

3. Broncos’ QB competition beginning to show separation

Throughout the offseason, Trevor Siemian has been trying to ward off Paxton Lynch in the battle for the Broncos’ starting quarterback job. It appears he is beginning to make real progress toward that goal, per James Palmer of NFL Network. Palmer, who has been stationed in Denver over the past few days, sees Siemian outplaying his counterpart.

If Siemian does win the job, it would be a blow against Lynch’s abilities. Lynch was hand-picked by general manager John Elway, with Denver trading up in the first round to select him in 2016. If Lynch can’t beat out Siemian, who is both a former seventh-round pick and below-average starter, that likely says more about Lynch than it does Siemian.

4. DeAndre Hopkins stumps for Tom Savage

The Texans moved up 13 slots to draft Deshaun Watson in April, and by all accounts, the rookie has been sublime in camp. Still, DeAndre Hopkins has reservations. Talking to the media on Friday, the fifth-year Pro Bowler endorsed Tom Savage for the starting job.

Savage is entering his fourth year with the Texans, having been a fourth-round pick in 2014 out of Pittsburgh. For his career, Savage has thrown for 588 yards and zero touchdowns. Still, he knows the offense much better than Watson, even if he doesn’t have the upside.

Really, this is the only quarterback battle that could lead to a rookie being the starter come September. Mitchell Trubisky has been average in Bears camp, and will play behind Mike Glennon come Week 1. Patrick Mahomes has looked very promising for the Chiefs, but is battling for the second-string job, not challenging Alex Smith.

If Savage can hold off Watson, it will be an impressive feat for the veteran considering the praise being heaped on the youngster.

5. Ravens should worry about Flacco

The Ravens announced at the start of camp that quarterback Joe Flacco had a back injury. It was noted by head coach John Harbaugh that the issue was minor, and that Flacco would likely be back in a week. That was two weeks ago. Now, Baltimore is saying that there is no timetable for the Super Bowl MVP’s return.

Ultimately, Flacco could be back soon and this would be a non-story. Yet the fact he’s still sidelined and without a return date is worrisome, especially after initial reports suggested this was all precautionary. Baltimore already has enough injuries with Crockett Gilmore, Dennis Pitta, Tavon Young and Kenneth Dixon gone for the year, along with Zach Orr and John Urschel also gone via retirement (and then Orr’s return as a free agent).

If Flacco misses any regular-season time, the AFC North could see a shake-up from last year’s order. The Ravens finished second behind the Steelers, but the Cincinnati Bengals are looking to ascend, while the Cleveland Browns have a young, exciting core.

History lesson

From 1988-90, the San Francisco 49ers won two Super Bowls. Part of the reason was their road dominance, which included an NFL-record 18 straight wins away from home. The streak was finally snapped in Week 1 of the 1991 season on a Monday night against the New York Giants.

Conversely, the Detroit Lions hold the dubious distinction of the longest road losing streak, ranging 26 games between 2007-10.

Parting shot

Over the weekend, we saw seven men enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The class was comprised of Kurt Warner, Morten Andersen, Terrell Davis, Jerry Jones, Jason Taylor, LaDainian Tomlinson and Kenny Easley. It’s a terrific and well-deserving group, and next year could see an ever more star-studded affair.

Randy Moss and Ray Lewis are both going to be first-ballot entrees. If they aren’t, there should be an investigation. Lewis is arguably the best middle linebacker of all-time, while Moss could make an argument as the best receiver we’ve ever seen, not named Jerry Rice.

Beyond that, it gets tricky. I would vote for safeties Brian Dawkins and John Lynch, along with guard Alan Faneca. Safeties have a hard time reaching the Hall, but that barrier needs to come crashing down. Easley was finally recognized this year, and both Lynch and Dawkins deserve their gold jackets. Faneca was a six-time First-Team All-Pro and was named to the 2000s NFL All-Decade Team. Nobody was better at his position for a solid dozen seasons.

In the senior category, there are two players who have been criminally overlooked for years. Guard Jerry Kramer of the Green Bay Packers and safety Johnny Robinson of the Kansas City Chiefs. Both played most of their careers in the ’60s, and both should have been Hall of Famers 30 years ago. Kramer is the only member of the NFL’s 1969 all-time team not to reach Canton, and won five championships. He was also the lead guard on the Packers’ famed sweep play, paving the way for Paul Hornung and Jim Taylor.

Robinson won a Super Bowl and was named to the AFL All-Decade Team. He was also a First-Team AFL/All-Pro from 1965-70. His 57 interceptions rank 13th all-time, tied with Mel Blount.