Courtesy of the Associated Press
MIAMI (AP) — Jason Taylor’s newest step has him back where he started. The dancing linebacker signed a $1.5 million, one-year contract Wednesday with the Miami Dolphins.
Taylor played his first 11 seasons with Miami before being traded a year ago to the Washington Redskins — a fallout from his stint on the TV show “Dancing With the Stars.” He was released by Washington in March after one injury-plagued season.
The New England Patriots courted the 34-year-old Taylor in recent weeks, but he wanted to return to South Florida, where he still lives. He will make $1.1 million in base salary and $400,000 in easy to reach incentives.
“My heart has always been in Miami, and so I’m truly excited to call myself a Dolphin once again,” Taylor said in a statement. “I was presented with a number of different opportunities, but in the end the combination of this being the best situation for my family, my love for this community and my tremendous loyalty to a great organization made this an easy decision.”
Taylor made the Pro Bowl six times with Miami and was NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2006.
The Redskins released Taylor after he turned down a chance to play another season with them for $8.5 million. Taylor didn’t like being away from his wife and three children last season and wanted to rejoin the Dolphins regardless of how much money they offered, said his agent, Gary Wichard.
“Jason told me, `Tell the Dolphins whatever fits their budget, I’m ready to play,”‘ Wichard said. “There were no negotiations. It was always going to be Miami.”
Wichard said he also turned down a couple of movie offers because Taylor didn’t want to be away from his family. Taylor has been plotting a Hollywood career since joining the Dolphins as a rookie in 1997, and he envisions himself in the kind of action roles that made Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson a movie star.
“Dancing With the Stars” intensified Taylor’s celebrity last year but soured his relationship with new Dolphins boss Bill Parcells, who fumed that Taylor was in Hollywood rather than spending the offseason working out with teammates. In response, Taylor accused Parcells of giving him the silent treatment.
The soap opera ended last July with Parcells trading Taylor for a pair of draft picks, but the two have since patched up their rift. Taylor raves about coach Tony Sparano, who in his first season led the Dolphins to the AFC East title and ended the team’s six-season playoff drought.
While the Dolphins enjoyed a turnaround in 2008, Taylor struggled to stay healthy after missing only four games in 11 years with Miami.
He sprained his knee during the Redskins’ preseason and hurt his calf in a win over Arizona on Sept. 21. Taylor required an operation to have blood drained from his calf and a second procedure a month later.
The calf injury hampered Taylor much of the season, and he struggled to fit into a defensive scheme that gave him less freedom than he had with the Dolphins. He had only 31/2 sacks for the Redskins, his fewest since 1999.
The Dolphins mounted little pass rush last season aside from outside linebacker Joey Porter, who led the AFC with 171/2 sacks. Taylor’s 1201/2 career sacks are the most among active players, and he could line up opposite Porter this year.
Parcells didn’t take a pass rusher in the April draft, a signal he was open to a reunion with Taylor. The Dolphins declined to comment Wednesday beyond confirming the deal.
A third-round draft pick in 1997, Taylor started as a rookie and became one of the most popular players in Dolphins history. He started a foundation that has been active in raising money for South Florida children, and in 2007 he was chosen NFL Man of the Year.
Taylor holds Dolphins career records for consecutive games started (130), sacks (117), opponents’ fumble recoveries (26), fumble returns for touchdowns (5), defensive touchdowns (8) and interceptions by a defensive lineman (7).
Taylor enjoyed his best year in 2006, when he had 131/2 sacks, forced 10 fumbles, recovered two, intercepted two passes and returned both for scores. But he endured five coaching changes in Miami, hasn’t made the postseason since 2001 and says he would trade every award and sack for a chance to play in the Super Bowl.
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