The former Michigan State star parlayed last season's franchise-record average of 48.8 yards per punt into a four-year, $13.3-million contract that makes him the fifth-highest-paid player at his position. A seventh-round draft pick in 2007, Fields has already posted three of the top four individual punting seasons in franchise history.
For perspective, Fields is slated to make more than running backs BenJarvus Green-Ellis ($3 million), Peyton Hillis ($2.6 million), and Mike Tolbert ($2.5 million).
“He earned it,” Ian Greengross, his agent, told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “He was glad they felt he was worth it, and that we were able to get a contract done.”
But Fields is just the first domino to fall in what could be a very busy next 18 months in Miami.
The team has more than a dozen players with contracts set to expire at the end of the season, including quarterbacks David Garrard and Matt Moore, receivers Chad Johnson and Brian Hartline, tackle Jake Long, running back Reggie Bush and tight end Anthony Fasano.
At least punting shouldn’t be an issue.
Garrard no passing fancy: Quarterback David Garrard hasn’t thrown a pass in an NFL game in nearly 18 months, but he appears to have the inside track to the starting job.
The former East Carolina star was 9 of 17 for 57 yards with a touchdown in the team’s scrimmage this weekend and continued to take the majority of snaps with the first-team offense. Miami maintains it won’t name a starter until after the third preseason game, but the team clearly appears to have a leading candidate after two weeks.
“I’m glad that you guys have that buzz,” Garrard told reporters. “I just come to practice. Not one coach has come to me and said, ‘Buzz is you are winning the job right now.’ I’m not really going to pay attention to that. I let all my family, all my friends and all those guys get into that, and I just keep coming to work because the moment I start feeling bigger and better than myself and that I’m the starter and that everybody else can take a seat is the day I start slipping.”
Hartline not getting healthy: Receiver Brian Hartline’s injury could soon start costing him more than just practice reps.
The four-year veteran has been sidelined the first eight practices with a calf injury after missing OTAs with the same aliment and missing June minicamp due to an appendectomy. And first-year coach Joe Philbin is on record as saying he doesn’t owe the returning veterans anything but a chance to compete for a roster spot.
Making matters worse, free-agent receiver additions Chad Johnson (five catches, 42 yards) and Legedu Naanee (five catches, 38 yards, TD) had big performances in the weekend scrimmage. It looks like it’s now or never for Hartline to start catching on.