The Miami Dolphins probably would have taken a bag of footballs in order to trade Jonathan Martin to another team this offseason. The embattled right tackle was at the heart of Miami's bullying scandal involving former teammate Richie Incognito and others that created a media firestorm and a national embarrassment for the organization.
That is why the Dolphins must feel fortunate to get some value -- any value -- in return for Martin.
Miami traded Martin on Tuesday evening to the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for a conditional draft pick. The list of suitors had to be very small. Kudos to the Dolphins for finding one of the few teams with a heavy Stanford connection willing to take Martin in following a major controversy.
Here is the harsh truth: There was no way Martin could return to the Dolphins locker room. Right or wrong, many Dolphins players didn't agree with how things were handled by Martin. He left the team Oct. 29 amid harassment and bullying claims. That led to an NFL investigation and eventually the 144-page Ted Wells report, which pulled the curtain back on Miami's locker room culture.
There was too much baggage for Martin to simply rejoin his old teammates in the Dolphins' the locker room. If the Dolphins were not able to trade him by the start of organized team activities, Martin most likely would have been released. The trade saves face and any potential cap hit the Dolphins would have taken on the two years remaining on Martin's contract.
For Martin, it is a chance to start fresh with a clean slate. He gets to play with a new group of players in San Francisco, and things can't possibly turn out worse than they did in Miami. Martin also returns to the bay area to play for Jim Harbaugh, who was his college coach at Stanford. That connection alone should give Martin some equity and traction in the 49ers' locker room.
"We feel that this move is in the best interests of all parties involved," Miami Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey said in a statement. "We wish Jonathan well."
With Martin traded and Incognito a free agent who will not return, the Dolphins can finally lift that dark cloud that's been hanging over the organization since late October. This was an ugly chapter in the Dolphins' history, but it's time for both parties to move on.