Culpepper Could Get Starting Competition

With the hiring of head coach Cam Cameron in Miami, quarterback Daunte Culpepper is expected to get heavy competition for the starting position, and some are even mentioning his release as a possibility.

The Miami Dolphins officially have a "Cam Do" attitude after hiring San Diego offensive coordinator Cam Cameron as their new head coach.

Cameron was signed to a four-year contract Jan. 19 after an extensive search that saw 12 other candidates interviewed, with Jim Mora and Chan Gailey being the other finalists. What appeared to separate Cameron from the pack was his success the past five seasons working in San Diego, where the Chargers have developed one of the NFL's most potent offenses.

"You have to start at the core of your offense and build, get guys to play together," Cameron said at his introductory news conference. "But you've got to score. That's the oldest principle in this game."

Cameron doesn't have the same kind of offensive talent to work with in San Diego. The Chargers have the NFL's Most Valuable Player (running back LaDainian Tomlinson), a Pro Bowl tight end (Antonio Gates) and a standout quarterback in the making (Philip Rivers).

Cameron, though, should have help rebuilding Miami's roster in the form of general manager Randy Mueller, provided he doesn't leave if offered the same position in Tennessee.

All four previous head coaches in the Wayne Huizenga ownership era - Don Shula, Jimmy Johnson, Dave Wannstedt and Nick Saban - were given final say on personnel moves. But Huizenga decided to change that model when Saban departed for the head coaching position at the University of Alabama earlier this month after a 6-10 season.

Huizenga has split personnel power between Cameron and Mueller, with team president Bryan Wiedmeier given authority to make a final decision if the two parties can't come to agreement.

"I'm not going to marry Randy, but we're going to work together and develop that trust and cooperation," said Cameron, who hadn't met Mueller until two days before being hired. "We'll find a way to work through some of the difficult decisions that we all know are coming."

One of those biggest decisions will come at the quarterback position. Daunte Culpepper's stock has fallen so much after a disastrous 2006 campaign that it wouldn't be a shock if he were released in the off-season. Such a move would save the Dolphins' $1.3 million in salary cap space for 2007 but also result in $5.6 million in "dead money."

It wouldn't be surprising if the Dolphins gave Cleo Lemon a chance to win the starting position while also drafting a quarterback to develop for the future, which is something the franchise hasn't done since 2001. Lemon, who showed promise when making his first NFL start in Miami's 22-17 loss to Indianapolis in the 2006 season finale, played under Cameron in San Diego for 1 1/2 seasons before being traded to the Dolphins in 2005 for quarterback A.J. Feeley and a sixth-round draft choice.

Asked whether Lemon could be his starter, Cameron pointed to the fact he was San Diego's only player not to miss any workouts during his time with the Chargers.

"That tells you about Cleo Lemon because I think that's the first and most important thing a quarterback has to be - the hardest worker in your organization," Cameron said. "There is not a lot of negotiation that is going to go into that. So he's done, in my opinion, the most critical thing a guy has to do. Now, can he be (the starter)? Well, we'll find out."


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