Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS -

MI­AMI — Quar­ter­back Jay Cut­ler is join­ing the Mi­ami Dol­phins after reg­u­lar starter Ryan Tan­nehill suf­fered an­te­rior cru­ci­ate lig­a­ment dam­age to his left knee dur­ing prac­tice last week.

Cut­ler on Sun­day agreed to a one-year deal worth $10 mil­lion plus in­cen­tives, per a league source. As $5 mil­lion of that is base salary and an­other $5 mil­lion is a ros­ter bonus, it strongly sug­gests the Dol­phins ex­pect him to be the starter ahead of Matt Moore.

Moore, who helped the team to the play­offs at the end of 2016, is paid like an NFL backup. He’s mak­ing $1.75 mil­lion this sea­son and is cost­ing the team $2.15 mil­lion against the cap.

The price for Cut­ler is mod­est for an NFL start­ing QB, so the Dol­phins front of­fice in a sense made the best of a dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion.

The Dol­phins made a strong push for Cut­ler — Adam Gase, who coached Cut­ler in Chicago, con­vinced him to come out of re­tire­ment and post­pone a fledgling broad­cast­ing ca­reer — be­cause the team knows it is go­ing to be with­out Tan­nehill for quite some time and al­most cer­tainly un­til next year.

That’s be­cause Tan­nehill has a par­tially torn ACL in his left knee — again — and al­though it is not yet de­cided whether that in­jury will be re­paired via surgery or ad­dressed with treat­ment, he will be out a long time.

Tan­nehill, 29, suf­fered a sim­i­lar in­jury to the same knee last De­cem­ber and at that time the de­ci­sion be­tween the quar­ter­back and his doc­tor, and the Dol­phins and their doc­tor was to treat the lig­a­ment rather than re­place it.

The treat­ment, which in­cluded stem cell treat­ments, was the un­ortho­dox path and led to se­ri­ous ques­tions about the ap­proach be­cause most ath­letes who tear their ACL have surgery.

That was not, how­ever, an is­sue un­til Thurs­day when Tan­nehill sus­tained a new par­tial tear to the same lig­a­ment.

Be­fore Thurs­day’s in­jury the Dol­phins and Tan­nehill were con­fi­dent the knee would not be any more prone to an­other ACL in­jury than if surgery had been done after the first in­jury.

A source said an exam of Tan­nehill’s knee be­fore to the open­ing of train­ing camp showed the treated left knee was stronger and in bet­ter shape than the right knee that had not suf­fered any in­jury.

But all that was lost dur­ing prac­tice Thurs­day when Tan­nehill scram­bled right out of the pocket, ran up the side­line, planted awk­wardly on the left knee be­fore go­ing out of bounds, and fell to the ground with the most re­cent tear.

A brace that was meant to help sta­bi­lize Tan­nehill’s knee did not pre­vent this in­jury.

Tan­nehill spent the past sev­eral days con­sult­ing mul­ti­ple med­i­cal ex­perts with the hope of per­haps un­der­go­ing re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion to the knee rather than sub­mit to surgery. No fi­nal de­ci­sion has been made, per a source.

The more likely de­ci­sion is surgery be­cause, ac­cord­ing to a source close to Cut­ler, he didn’t want to come to the Dol­phins un­less it was clear he would not be some­how step­ping into a sit­u­a­tion where Tan­nehill might re­turn this sea­son. And Cut­ler got those as­sur­ances, the source said.

The rea­son Cut­ler was Mi­ami’s choice over all other avail­able quar­ter­backs is be­cause of his and Gase’s fa­mil­iar­ity. The two worked to­gether with the Chicago Bears in 2015. Gase was Cut­ler’s of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor and helped the player en­joy one of his more solid sea­sons.

Cut­ler threw 21 TD passes and 11 in­ter­cep­tions in 2015 and posted a ca­reer-best 92.3 quar­ter­back rat­ing. Per­haps more im­por­tant, Gase helped re­ha­bil­i­tate Cut­ler — rais­ing him from a sulk­ing, un­happy turnover-rid­den player to one who seemed to en­joy­ing play­ing again and had the re­spect of most of his team­mates.

AP file photo

For­mer Chicago Bears quar­ter­back Jay Cut­ler is by­pass­ing the broad­cast­ing booth for the 2017 sea­son, choos­ing in­stead to sign a one-year deal with the Mi­ami Dol­phins to re­place in­jured Ryan Tan­nehill.

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