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Pennington deal puts McCown, Beck on edge

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
DAVIE, Fla. -- After a week of unconvincingly contending they were happy with the three quarterbacks they have in camp, the Miami Dolphins agreed to terms with Chad Pennington on a two-year deal worth $11.5 million.

Not only were the Dolphins in the market for another quarterback, but they also were willing to spend a nice chunk of change to get one.

The New York Jets released Pennington on Thursday to clear salary-cap space for Brett Favre's arrival.

Any gloom caused by Favre's presence in the AFC East quickly gave way to excitement at Dolphins headquarters. Just last week they'd brought in Quincy Carter for a tryout -- and he hasn't played in the NFL since 2004 because of drug issues.

Dolphins football operations boss Bill Parcells stormed after Pennington. Parcells was the Jets' director of football operations in 2000 and drafted Pennington with the 18th selection.

Pennington's salary figure elicited gasps among insiders, and the signing detonated Miami's quarterback depth chart.

At that wage, Pennington will come in as the starter. Veteran journeyman Josh McCown, projected as the starter for much of the offseason, signed a two-year deal for $6.25 million, almost half of what Pennington is getting.

Either McCown or sophomore John Beck, a disppointment for much of camp, will be shown the door. Rookie Chad Henne is safe because he was drafted in the second round by the current administration and has been impressive so far.

Adding to the intrigue was the Dolphins' game plan for Saturday night's preseason opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano has refused to reveal Saturday's quarterback plans, but ESPN.com has learned from multiple sources that before the Pennington deal was made, the coaching staff informed the quarterbacks Beck would play the first and third quarters, and Henne would play the second and fourth quarters, leaving McCown completely off the field.

All three wondered what the team's motivation was.

Is it supposed to be a showcase for a potential Beck trade? Is it to distribute the snaps to the two quarterbacks who will be sticking around?

Let's just say two-thirds of the pre-Pennington depth chart is nervous.