Brandon Gibson: Miami release a blessing

SEATTLE -- Former Washington State receiver Brandon Gibson was hours removed from being released by the Miami Dolphins when caught up with him outside the Sheraton’s banquet room last Friday following “A Night with Cougar Football.” The school’s No. 2 career leader in receiving yards didn’t mince words when reflecting on his two seasons in the Sunshine State.

"I guess you could say there was a lack of productivity, just because of my opportunities,” Gibson said. “For me, it's a blessing in disguise. I'll be just fining move on."

At first, Gibson and the Dolphins seemed like the perfect match.

He was on pace for the best season of his NFL career in 2013 when he tore the patellar tendon in his left knee against the New England Patriots in Miami’s seventh game. The injury caused Gibson to miss the rest of the year and required a lengthy rehab.

When he returned in 2014, he wasn’t as productive and lost his starting job as Miami’s slot receiver after five games to rookie wideout Jarvis Landry. Gibson, though, eventually worked his way back into the rotation to finish the season with 29 catches for 295 yards and a score.

He was due to make about $3.2 million in 2015 before the Dolphins released him last week as a way to clear salary cap space. Apparently looking to retool their receiving core around emerging quarterback Ryan Tannehill, Miami also released productive veteran wideout Brian Hartline.

Gibson said he wasn’t surprised when he heard he was being released.

"I kind of knew it was coming,” Gibson said. “I wasn't necessarily worried about it because I know that I have a couple years left that I'll play. I'll be on somebody's team and I'll be productive. It's about taking a new step forward and looking to the future," he said.

In two seasons with the Dolphins, he posted 59 catches for 621 yards and four touchdowns in 21 games after signing a three-year, $9.78 million contract prior to the 2013 season.

Gibson, who went to Rogers High in Puyallup, isn’t sure what free agency holds. He’ll be 28 when the 2015 regular season begins, and there are a bevy of high-profile wide receivers that could be looking for new teams in the next few weeks. Among the potential free agents: Randall Cobb, Torrey Smith, Michael Crabtree, Wes Welker, Reggie Wayne, Eddie Royal and Jeremy Maclin. The NFL free agency period starts March 10. Gibson should benefit from having gone through the process already after playing almost four seasons with the St. Louis Rams.

"My initial goal was to play 10 years,” said Gibson, who enters his seventh season in 2015. “Hopefully, god-willing, I'm able to do that and I'm going to do whatever I need to do to take care of that, (and) take care of my body."

Gibson had plenty of highs and lows during his WSU career from 2005-08. He won three of four Apple Cups, and in 2007 provided one of the signature plays in the game’s history with a 35-yard touchdown catch from Alex Brink with 31 seconds left to give the Cougars a 42-35 win at Husky Stadium.

That season, he was a first-team All-Pac-10 selection, catching 67 passes for a conference-leading 1,180 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. Then in 2008, under first-year coach Paul Wulff, the Cougars dropped to 2-11 (1-8 Pac-10) as quarterbacks Gary Rogers and Marshall Lobbestael both went down with season-ending injuries. It got so bad that Kevin Lopina was the primary quarterback after suffering a fractured vertebra early in the season against Portland State – the same game Rogers sustained a cervical spine fracture that ended his career.

With the turmoil at quarterback, Gibson’s numbers dropped, yet he still led WSU with 57 catches for 673 yards and two touchdowns and earned conference honorable mention honors. The following spring, the Philadelphia Eagles took him in the sixth round of the NFL draft, then traded him to St. Louis after he played just one game.

"Coming in from my freshman year to my senior year, I saw (WSU) change completely from top to bottom,” Gibson said. “We went from a team that threw the ball downfield to a team that could barely get the ball downfield. Barely five yards, really. It was just a process.”

No matter. Once a Coug, always a Coug, it seems. Since leaving WSU, Gibson said he has missed just one “Night with Cougar Football” event in Seattle.

“This is exciting because I get to see all the Cougs that are around and how much people really care about the university and the team,” he said. “I just love to be around that camaraderie."

Among the fellow WSU celebrities on hand for the dinner were Marcus Trufant, Erik Coleman, Jed Collins, Hamza Abdullah, Devard Darling and others.

As for the current Cougars team, Gibson said he couldn’t be more pleased with the talent improvement since his senior season.

"Right now, I'm pretty happy seeing we have so much growth,” he said. “We have a coach who is a good face of the program, and I think he understands what the school and the university is about. He's going to do whatever he needs to do to win. That's what I think WSU needs.”

Gibson will do whatever he needs to land his next NFL job, too.

"I just want to go somewhere that wants me,” he said.

NOTABLE: Exactly 400 people attended the Night with Cougar Football event in Seattle. Between the live and silent auctions and raise-the-paddle, a record $100,000 was raised at the event for the WSU scholarship fund.

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