On Tuesday afternoon, the Dolphins announced that the team had suspended linebacker Lawrence Timmons indefinitely after he went AWOL last weekend. The veteran linebacker was reportedly not in his hotel room during Saturday night bed check, which caused the team to then file a missing persons report, and then he did not show up to the team’s game against the Chargers. Timmons was eventually found at the airport, waiting to board a flight to Pennsylvania to see his daughter, according to reports.
A suspension seemed like an inevitable—albeit potentially harsh—conclusion after Dolphins head coach Adam Gase sternly said he has “two rules … be on time and play hard” when asked about the Timmons situation after Sunday’s game. However, according to the rules of the CBA, even though the Timmons’ suspension is labeled as “indefinite,” the max amount of games he can be forced to miss is only four.
In response to Timmons’s suspension, Miami traded for Saints LB Stephone Anthony, sending an undisclosed 2018 draft pick to New Orleans. The 2015 first-round draft pick out of Clemson racked up 128 combined tackles, one sack and one interception during his two seasons with the Saints, though most of those stats came in ’15. Anthony has yet to play a down this season—New Orleans drafted LB Alex Anzalone in the third round of this year’s draft, who bumped Anthony down the depth chart.
Anthony isn’t alone in 2015 first-rounders being traded this year.
Miami signed Timmons, who had played the last 10 seasons with the Steelers, this offseason in hopes of shoring up their linebacking core after finishing as the 30th-ranked rushing defense in the NFL last year, giving up 4.8 yards per carry. Timmons wasn’t the player he was during his peak seasons—from 2010 to ’14—but he could play all three linebacker positions, giving coordinator Matt Burke needed versatility. Most importantly, Timmons was a respected veteran on a talented Dolphins defense that has underachieved in recent years, and he brought a Super Bowl pedigree to that locker room.
Timmons was replaced on Sunday with Mike Hull, an undrafted free agent in 2015 who spent most of his rookie season on the practice squad and made just one start last season. Hull played all 58 snaps for Miami on Sunday, and while Pro Football Focus graded his performance as a 35.2—the seventh worst grade for a linebacker in the league so far this season—the Dolphins defense held the Chargers to only 44 rushing yards and Hull led the team with seven tackles. However with rookie second round pick Raekwon McMillan out for the season with an ACL tear, the Dolphins clearly didn’t feel comfortable fully handing the reigns to Hull.
The 25-year-old Anthony brings promise and potential to the Dolphins defense, but he comes with a fair amount of uncertainty, as well. After a rookie season in which he started all 16 games and contributed 112 tackles and two forced fumbles, Anthony disappeared in 2016, starting only three games and posting only 15 tackles. He found himself firmly in Sean Payton’s doghouse last year for reasons unknown, finished the season on injured reserve and he has been a healthy scratch in New Orleans’s first two games this season.
Anthony has all the physical tools you look for in the position and has played all three linebacker positions—although he is most comfortable inside. He will be coming to Miami looking to resuscitate his career. It’s a low-risk, potentially high-reward trade for the Dolphins—assuming the undisclosed draft pick is a mid-to-late round selection.
The other side of this situation, which I’d be remiss not to mention, is the concern for whatever Timmons is currently going through on a personal level. I don’t want to propagate any baseless speculation, but when a respected 11-year NFL veteran—one who hasn’t missed a game in the past seven seasons—goes missing without warning, then there is likely an underlying issue at play.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported yesterday that Timmons was dealing with a “personal matter” and was planning to see team doctors. Whether it’s a mental health issue, a family emergency or something else, we should hold off on castigating Timmons, reserve judgment and wait until all details are available. In this current culture of football we should all be acutely worried about Timmons simply from a human perspective.