Former Jaguars Quarterback Garrard Signs With Dolphins

He’s not sure yet who else will be part of the competition, though.

The Dolphins reached agreement with the former quarterback after failed courtships with Peyton Manning and Matt Flynn. They also hosted San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith for a visit Sunday and may still consider signing him.

“They didn’t say for sure they were bringing another guy in, but they said it’s a possibility, whether in the draft or whatever,” Garrard said in a phone interview.

For now, Garrard and incumbent Matt Moore are the contenders for the job.

“It’s going to be a great competition, and I’m all about that,” Garrard said. “I’m going to do my best to make sure it’s me on opening day.”

The Dolphins also told safety Yeremiah Bell he’ll be released to create cap space, a person familiar with the discussions said. The person confirmed the discussions to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the Dolphins hadn’t announced a move.

By cutting Bell, the Dolphins save more than $4 million in cap space, which could be used in negotiations with Smith.

The 34-year-old Garrard, a starter for Jacksonville from 2005-10, didn’t play last season. He was released five days before the opener by the Jaguars, and Miami courted him last year after quarterback Chad Henne’s season was ended by a shoulder injury.

But Garrard didn’t sign, and instead underwent back surgery in October. He considered retirement, he said, but is now 100 percent and eager to extend his career another year.

“It was taken away from me, and it gave me a great perspective on life and this game,” he said. “I want to make sure when I leave this game, I do it when I’m ready to go, and there’s never any remorse or thought of, could I have done more?”

Garrard apparently impressed the Dolphins with his workout Monday, and he said he was impressed by new coach Joe Philbin and his staff.

“I just love the vibe,” Garrard said. “I love everybody’s mission and goal, and the purpose they have and the direction they’re heading.”

Garrard’s best season was in 2007, when he threw 18 touchdown passes and only three interceptions. He topped 3,500 yards passing in 2008 and 2009, and he’s 39-37 as a starter in nine seasons, all with Jacksonville.

Colts’ Loss Clears Path for Pursuing Andrew Luck

The Colts’ 19-13 loss to the ensured that they will have the first overall pick in the N.F.L. draft and that Stanford’s Andrew Luck, perhaps the most coveted quarterback since Manning himself, will almost surely be theirs. The Jaguars, who along with the rest of the A.F.C. South have been tormented by Manning’s presence, now face at least another decade with a potentially dominant quarterback in the division.

The Colts finished the season 2-14, their worst record since they were 3-13 in 1998, when Manning was a struggling rookie. The Colts, who were implored by some fans to preserve their draft position by tanking games, were in danger of missing out on the first pick and Luck because they won two straight games last month. Had the Colts beaten the Jaguars, they would have lost the top pick to the St. Louis Rams, who lost to the San Francisco 49ers and, with only two wins, would have had the worst record in the N.F.L.

Instead, the Colts, who won the top pick on a tiebreaker, now embark on what will be an off-season of difficult decisions and delicate conversations. They must first determine if Jim Caldwell will remain as the coach. But then they must figure out how to manage Luck and Manning. There seems to be little doubt that the Colts will take Luck — he is simply too good to pass up, even if Manning, who will turn 36 in March, can play a few more years.

The trickier decision is what to do about Manning, whose return is not yet assured. The Colts owe Manning a $28 million roster bonus in early March, which will put in effect the final four years of the five-year contract he signed last summer. The Colts may not fully know by then if Manning is able to return to his pre-injury level of play.

If the Colts do not pay the bonus, Manning will be a free agent, an outcome that seems unlikely after the owner Jim Irsay told the NFL Network that Manning would return to Indianapolis if he was healthy. If the Colts pay Manning, they will almost certainly keep him and make Luck his backup even though most personnel evaluators say Luck will be good enough to start as a rookie — potentially setting up an awkward dynamic.

If the Colts keep both quarterbacks, it will probably limit their ability to spend significantly to improve other positions, needs that were underscored by the team’s collapse in Manning’s absence.

Falcons Crush Jaguars, 41-14, Improving Playoff Hopes

Matt Ryan threw three touchdown passes in less than three quarters of work, John Abraham had 3 ½ sacks and the Falcons clinched a fourth straight winning season with a 41-14 rout of the visiting on Thursday.

“Hopefully, we can play like we did tonight for the next couple weeks,” Ryan said.

This one was over by halftime. Atlanta (9-5) led by 27-0 when the teams trotted to the locker room. Blaine Gabbert and the shellshocked Jaguars (4-10) were saddled with a net passing total of minus-1 yard, and the Falcons were well on the way to strengthening their hold on an N.F.C. wild-card spot.

Gabbert had one of his worst games in a miserable rookie season, coughing up the ball twice on hits by Abraham. Both fumbles led to Atlanta scores, with defensive tackle Corey Peters scooping up the second one and trotting to the end zone early in the third quarter for a touchdown that ended any thought of the Jaguars getting back in the game.

“It wasn’t just me,” Abraham said. “The whole team was able to get to the quarterback.”

Ryan was 19 of 26 for 224 yards and 3 touchdowns, with a season-high quarterback rating of 137.3. Roddy White caught two of the scoring passes, Julio Jones the other.

Gabbert was 12 of 22 for 141 yards, also throwing an interception to cap a truly awful night of running for his life and making bad decisions. He got most of his yards on a meaningless final drive, hitting Chastin West on a 16-yard touchdown with 59 seconds to go. Jacksonville’s other touchdown came on a blocked punt after trailing, 41-0.

The injury-riddled Jaguars, playing out the season with an interim coach and a new owner, were coming off their best game of the season, having scored 41 straight points in a 41-14 victory over Tampa Bay. But, playing their third game in 11 days, they could not build any momentum toward closing out the season on a high note.

Michael Turner burst off left guard for 15 yards on the first play of the game, and the Falcons were off and running. Ryan capped the opening drive by stepping up to avoid the pressure, flipping a short pass to Jones, then watching the rookie turn on an impressive burst of speed for a 29-yard touchdown.

PLAN FOR TEBOW The New England Patriots say they are preparing for the ’ the way they do for any quarterback — by learning what he does well and what he does poorly and taking advantage of that knowledge.

There’s a big problem, though. Tebow is not like any other quarterback. “He’s a very unique person,” said Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who played with Tebow at Florida. “He’s a leader.”

Tebow has led the Broncos to a 7-1 record in his eight starts since they opened at 1-4. Their 8-5 mark going into Sunday’s home game against the Patriots leads the A.F.C. West.

New England has allowed the most yards in the N.F.L. despite a 10-3 record. The Patriots will have to be disciplined to deal with the scrambling Tebow.

“Anytime you have a quarterback that’s mobile, it definitely is a challenge for a defense,” said Patriots defensive back Nate Jones, a teammate of Tebow’s last season.

BROTHERLY ADVICE Before San Francisco 49ers Coach Jim Harbaugh started his preparation for Steelers week, he had an important phone call to make to learn the ins and outs of how to beat Pittsburgh: to Baltimore’s coach and his big brother, John.

The Ravens have won both of their meetings this season against the Steelers in what has evolved into one of the N.F.L.’s fiercest rivalries. And Monday night’s matchup between San Francisco and Pittsburgh has plenty of meaning to Baltimore, which is tied with the Steelers atop the A.F.C. North standings and trying to win the division.

John Harbaugh asked a team official to make sure he was allowed to help his brother with any insight. “I know for a fact a lot of coaches have spent a lot of time talking about us before they play us,” John Harbaugh said. “So I’m sure we’ll try to help him in some way if we can.”