While Bill Parcells says he is committed to the Miami Dolphins as their executive vice president of football operations through the 2009 season, he now has an unrestricted option to walk away from the team with his fully guaranteed salary, league sources said.
Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga removed the previously reported 30-day escape clause prior to closing on the sale of the team Jan. 20 to New York real estate billionaire Stephen Ross, the sources said. The clause, which required Parcells to notify the team of his intention to leave within 30 days if ownership was transferred from Huizenga's control, was eliminated from the contract about three weeks prior to the closing of the team's sale.
Parcells has the option to depart without any restrictions, and the team is required to pay him the financial balance of his original $12 million, four-year contract he signed in January 2008. Huizenga communicated the contractual changes to Ross, who did not protest, a league source said.
The unrestricted clause means Parcells has the option to take other employment in or out of football without any standard "off-set," in which the amount he earns elsewhere is subtracted from the balance of the money owed by the Dolphins, sources said.
If he ever joined another NFL organization, the Dolphins would not receive compensation under the arrangement, sources said.
Dolphins spokesman Harvey Greene said Friday that Parcells would have no comment.
Parcells was asked last Friday during a guest appearance on ESPN's "NFL Live" if he was committed to the team through the '09 season. Parcells said he was. The Dolphins won the AFC East last season with an 11-5 record.
Talking to "NFL Live" host Trey Wingo, Parcells said, "I'm going to be with Miami until I feel that the team is in position and [general manager Jeff Ireland and coach Tony Sparano] have enough experience that they can handle it.
"We have a lot to do in Miami. We need a lot more [players]," he added.
Ross met with Parcells, Ireland and Sparano on Jan. 23, three days after he bought controlling interest from Huizenga. He assured them he would not interfere with the football operations.
During a one-year process that began in February 2008, Ross paid Huizenga $1 billion for the franchise, Dolphin Stadium and the surrounding land. Huizenga has kept a 5 percent stake in the team.
Chris Mortensen is a senior NFL analyst for ESPN.