Originally created 02/10/00

Marino, Dolphins void contract



DAVIE, Fla. -- Dan Marino now has some time, and the Miami Dolphins have more money.

Marino, the NFL career leader in passing yardage, voided the final two years of his contract with the Dolphins on Thursday. It remained unclear whether the 38-year-old quarterback will retire or return for another season.

Marino could rejoin the Dolphins or go to another team as a free agent.

"I'm not going to speculate about what Dan's going to do," Dolphins president Eddie Jones said Thursday. "Dan is a great athlete, and he's done everything possible he can do in football.

"I'm sure he's going through the thought process of, `Do I still want to do this?' He had the injury last year, and his knees are not getting any better. I'm sure that's what he's thinking about."

Marino threw 12 touchdown passes and 17 interceptions last season, missing five games and most of a sixth because of a neck injury. He finished with a career-low 67.4 passer rating.

Coach Dave Wannstedt has indicated that he would prefer to go with a younger quarterback like Jim Druckenmiller or Damon Huard, who was 4-1 as a starter last season.

Though there is no timetable for Marino's decision, he likely will make an announcement before March 20, the day the Dolphins begin their off-season workout program.

"We've got a new coordinator, a new head coach, and we're going to have a new offensive system," Jones said. "And I don't know how Dan fits into that."

With Marino no longer under contract, the Dolphins gained $5.8 million to spend during the free agent signing period, which begins today. They also released veteran tight end Troy Drayton on Thursday.

Drayton, 29, said he will not re-sign with the Dolphins for less money.

"I've paid my dues as far as a football player," said Drayton, who caught 32 passes for 299 yards last season. "I'm financially secure, but money is definitely an issue. I'm a veteran, and I consider myself one of the best tight ends in the league.

"I'm just going to put some bait on the end of the hook, watch the line and see if there are any takers."

Marino might have some takers, too.

At times last season, Marino showed glimpses of the player who owns nearly every NFL passing record.

He led Miami to two fourth-quarter comebacks during the regular season. But the Dolphins were embarrassed 62-7 at Jacksonville in the second round of the playoffs. Miami trailed 38-0 before Marino completed a pass. He finished 11-of-25 for 95 yards with three turnovers.

"I don't think anybody wants to end a career on the kind of game that we played in Jacksonville," Drayton said. "He deserves to go out on a white horse and with lots of fanfare. He's done a lot to revolutionize the quarterback position and the NFL as a whole.

"I can't see Dan in another uniform."

It could happen, if Marino wants to contend for a starting job.

Marino needed to void his contract by Thursday or the Dolphins would have had to waive him or pay him $5.75 million for the 2000 season plus a $1 million bonus for being on the roster April 1. Marino would have made $6.75 million in 2001.

"Dan knew right where we were headed," Jones said. "He knew that voiding the contract helped us. I never said to Dan, `You've got to void your contract.' We talked about alternatives, but I never once pushed him in any direction."

SANDERS MIGHT RETURN:

An arbitrator's ruling on whether Barry Sanders should repay the Lions $5.5 million of a signing bonus is "irrelevant" to whether the retired running back opts to return to the NFL, his agent said.

Sanders abruptly retired last July 28, but "it wouldn't surprise me if he decides fairly quickly" -- perhaps within weeks -- about whether he returns for the 2000 season, Sanders agent David Ware said.

Sanders and the Lions await arbitrator Sam Kagel's ruling on the team's claim that Sanders must repay $5.5 million of the $11 million signing bonus he got in 1997. He played two years on a six-year contract.

YOUNG RESTRUCTURES DEAL:

Steve Young restructured his contract with the 49ers as part of a series of moves to bring the team into compliance with the salary cap.

The 49ers gained $3 million in cap relief by reworking the contract of Young, the two-time league MVP who missed the final 13 games of last season after a hard hit left him with his fourth concussion in three years.

The 49ers have slashed about $22 million from their bloated payroll over the last three weeks to come in about $3 1/2 million under the $62.2 million cap for the 2000 season before Thursday's deadline.