- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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A big decision is looming early next month for the Miami Dolphins -- and it has nothing to do with the NFL draft.
The Dolphins must decide whether to pick up Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey's fifth-year option by May 3. The option will extend Pouncey’s rookie contract into the 2015 season, as oppose to allowing Pouncey to become a free agent next March.
Teams around the league this week have picked up fifth-year options from players drafted in 2011, which was the first year of the rookie wage scale in the NFL’s latest collective bargaining agreement. Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, offensive tackle Tyron Smith of the Dallas Cowboys and Baltimore Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith all have had their contracts extended by one year in the past two days.
So what is the holdup with the Dolphins? Their decision with Pouncey isn't as easy as it appears on the surface. There are several issues behind the scenes that must be cleared up over the next two weeks.
On the field, Pouncey is a Pro Bowl center and one of the top three players on the Dolphins' roster. He was a terrific first-round pick for Miami in 2011 and, in terms of talent, a potential building block on Miami’s much-maligned offensive line. Similar to Houston's decision with Watt, it would be a no-brainer to extend Pouncey’s contract another year, especially at the affordable price of less than $3 million for 2015.
But Pouncey's involvement in the Dolphins' high-profile bullying scandal has created issues. Also, Pouncey needs to be medically evaluated and cleared by the NFL before he plays football again. And Pouncey could be facing a suspension by the league to start the season. The Dolphins are doing their due diligence to allow the process to play out before making a decision.
With all that said, the Dolphins most likely will pick up Pouncey’s fifty-year option in the next two weeks. The Dolphins have been adamant in their support for Pouncey this offseason.
With Richie Incognito out of the picture, Miami believes Pouncey will make better choices and not be influenced in the wrong way. The Dolphins also expect Pouncey to learn from his mistakes and take a better leadership role in 2014 and beyond. This will be a big season for Pouncey to prove he is dependable off the field.