Since the Ted Wells Report was released, the Richie Incognito–Jonathan Martin controversy has returned to the forefront of sports talk radio and hundreds of sports blogs and columns. In addition to those two, Dolphins guard John Jerry and their Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey seem to be equally implicated as part of the bullying that allegedly went on. It seems that everybody has to weigh in on what this means to the modern NFL locker room, and has somehow been paired with the other big NFL story, the acceptance of Michael Sam into the NFL.
These stories are plenty important, but what they are replacing is the normal NFL offseason chatter about who is going where and what team is looking at which player. Until some semblance of a contract materializes for Incognito or Jerry, or a trade happens for Martin, these players are only important as it pertains to the Wells Report. However, all four have been seriously hurt in terms of their football stock.
Dolphins’ owner Stephen Ross has been open in that he believes it is unlikely that either Incognito or Martin will return to the team in 2014, though the club does own Martin’s rights. The second-round pick out of Stanford still may have some value, writes Darrin Gantt of Pro Football Talk, since he is still a cheap option at right tackle. James Walker of ESPN.com writes of Martin: “He’s young, cheap and can play left and right tackle. Those players do not grow on trees.” Walker also notes that because other teams know that the Dolphins will release him Martin they cannot trade him, that does significantly lower his trade value.
Former coach Jim Harbaugh was an avid defender of Martin, which may prompt speculation that San Francisco could be a destination. However, the 49ers are set at tackle, with Joe Staley and Anthony Davis on each side. The Colts also have that connection, with Pep Hamilton and a number of former Stanford players there. Of course, they also have a lot of money already invested in tackle play, with Anthony Castonzo and Gosder Cherilus.
Incognito and Jerry are both free agents, making them easy decisions for the Dolphins — both will most likely be let go. Incognito was probably set for a pretty large contract extension with the Dolphins, due to his high level of play and status as a “leader” in the team’s locker room. Now, his value is minimal. He didn’t make many friends with the Rams before he joined the Dolphins, so he does not have a lot of coaching staffs to fall back on. The Raiders’ offensive coordinator Greg Olsen could put a good word in for him, as the Raiders are in need of offensive line help.
Vinnie Iyer of SportingNews.com does note that in the landscape of the modern NFL, Incognito has a better chance of being accepted into another locker room than Martin. “Incognito doesn’t come out of the investigation looking like Mr. Nice Guy, but he hasn’t tried to. There’s a reason his mean streak is one of his biggest assets as a player,” Iyer writes. “For teams needy of interior line help, such as the Buffalo Bills, Indianapolis Colts or San Diego Chargers, he’s Mr. Nice Price.”
Jerry was also a candidate to be retained by the Dolphins before being implicated in the Wells Report, but his return is now unlikely, writes Charlie McCarthy of Fox Sports Florida. Jerry doesn’t have the history of performance that Incognito did. What he does have in his favor is a far less noticeable role in the bullying of Martin, but still he will find it difficult to sign a deal similar to one he could have had with the Dolphins had he not been implicated. Both Incognito and Jerry’s free agency could be further hurt if the league decides to suspend them for a few games during the 2014 season.
Finally, there is Pouncey, who despite his age, might be the most accomplished of the four, and definitely has the brightest future. Much like Jerry, he is able to downplay his role in the bullying, but unlike Jerry he is under contract for 2014. Also unlike Jerry, he has performed on the field as one of top lineman at his position over his short career thus far, reaching the Pro Bowl this past year. Still, a week ago James Walker of ESPN.com listed Pouncey as one of the players on the Dolphins who has outperformed his contract and is deserving of a raise. After his name became involved in the Wells Report, and with a looming suspension possible, that raise seems highly unlikely.