The Miami Dolphins would undoubtedly love to wash their hands and move on from the national embarrassment that has been coined “bullygate.” The negative PR circus that has ensued ever since Jonathan Martin abruptly left the team, claiming to be bullied by Richie Incognito and other teammates, isn’t going away anytime soon though.
The Ted Wells report, which was released last Friday, provided incriminating evidence that not only Incognito crossed the line, but that fellow offensive linemen Mike Pouncey and John Jerry and offensive line coach Jim Turner did the same. Head coach Joe Philbin comes away from the report looking relatively clean (unless you consider his obliviousness an indictment), but NFL commissioner Roger Goodell may still come down hard on the Dolphins in order to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again.
Making an example of Miami will likely include a suspension handed down to Incognito. As an impending free agent who likely wasn’t going to be brought back by the Dolphins anyway, Incognito facing a multi-game ban doesn’t hurt the club. However, the suspensions might not be limited to just Incognito.
Pouncey and Jerry were also mentioned in the report. Pouncey, in particular, was essentially accused of lying to investigators on at least one occasion by Wells. I imagine that won’t sit well with Goodell, who has obviously been appalled by this entire debacle since day one. Like Incognito, Jerry is a free agent who isn’t considered to be a high priority to the team’s new GM, Dennis Hickey. Any suspension handed down to Jerry likely won’t affect the Dolphins either.
Pouncey, on the other hand, was the only reliable player on what was the worst offensive line in team history this past season. He was expected to be the only returning starter along the unit when 2014 kicked off. Now, there seems to be a better chance that he’ll be suspended and that Miami will enter 2014 with five new starters up front.
Given this latest dark revelation into Pouncey’s lifestyle, which accompanies a subpoena he was handed by the FBI last October for alleged involvement with Aaron Hernandez, who is on trial for murder, and rumors of drug use, the Dolphins might become reluctant to extend his contract which expires at the end of next season. With that, the massive rebuilding project of the Dolphins’ offensive line could become even more extensive.
Unfortunately, the Dolphins’ resources to construct an entirely new line might take a hit as well. Goodell has come down harshly on teams in the past for causing the league embarrassment. The New England Patriots were docked a first-round pick in 2008 for videotaping opposing teams’ signals. The New Orleans Saints were stripped of their second-round picks in 2012 and 2013 after it was proven defensive players were compensated for inflicting injuries on opponents. The Dolphins could become the latest team to lose a draft selection(s).
It’s not certain that Miami will lose a pick as Philbin’s reported innocence exonerates the organization to a degree, but being that Turner contributed to the hazing of young offensive linemen and, like Pouncey, wasn’t honest with investigators according to Wells, the Dolphins could still be penalized as a team.
Needless to say, as much as Miami would love to put the entire controversy in the rear view mirror and will likely attempt to by cutting ties with Incognito, Jerry and Turner this offseason, the hits are expected to keep on coming. It’s been a messy situation from the beginning, and it could very well get messier for the Dolphins before they can move on.
Seeing as the Dolphins’ offensive line didn’t perform any worse in 2013 after Martin went AWOL and Incognito was suspended, the only real consequence from the saga has been embarrassment so far. Losing one of the best players on the entire team in Pouncey for any stretch or forfeiting a valuable draft choice would far exceed mere embarrassment, though. All the Dolphins can do now is wait and see if either nightmare scenario comes to fruition.
Cody Strahm is a Miami Dolphins contributor for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @CodyJStrahm.