Lemon signs $1.3 million qualifying offer with Dolphins
Three-year veteran quarterback Cleo Lemon, who has taken most of the first-unit snaps for the Miami Dolphins this spring as Daunte Culpepper rehabilitates a surgically repaired knee and team officials continue their efforts to acquire Trent Green from Kansas City in a trade, has signed his one-year restricted free agent qualifying offer.
The one-year deal, tendered to Lemon before the start of the free-agency period, is worth $1.3 million. In his previous three seasons, Lemon had played for the NFL minimum base salary.
Lemon, 27, was one of the few restricted free agents in the NFL who had not signed his qualifying offer. The league deadline for restricted free agents to sign offer sheets from other teams was April 15, and the Dolphins have held his exclusive negotiating rights since then. Without a subsequent contract extension, Lemon would be eligible for unrestricted free agency next spring.
In four games, including one start, Lemon has completed 38 of 68 passes for 412 yards, with two touchdown passes, one interception, and an efficiency rating of 77.6. He made his lone start in the 2006 season finale at Indianapolis and played well in a 27-22 loss, completing 18 of 36 for 210 yards, with one touchdown pass and one interception.
The former Arkansas State standout has a strong arm and, having played the 2004 season in San Diego, is familiar with the offense of new Dolphins coach Cam Cameron, who was the coordinator for the Chargers at the time.
Because the recovering Culpepper has remained unavailable this spring as he attempts to come back from a second knee surgery, and the Dolphins continue to be thwarted in their pursuit of Green, the relatively inexperienced Lemon has received considerable work. It is unlikely that Lemon will be the Miami starter, but he certainly has a chance to win the No. 2 job on the depth chart.
Lemon entered the league with the Baltimore Ravens as an undrafted college free agent in 2002. After being released three times by the Ravens and Chargers, and spending a stint on the San Diego practice squad, he earned a regular-season roster spot in 2005.
He was traded to Miami on Oct. 18, 2005 for quarterback A.J. Feeley and a sixth-round draft choice.
Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com.