Hours after the Miami Dolphins announced his release, linebacker Joey Porter returned to their roster in the first of many complex salary-cap rules that the league is expected to encounter this offseason.
NFL rules prohibited the Dolphins from releasing Porter at this time when his salary-cap acceleration exceeded the space that the team had, according to an NFL source. Now, after thinking he had his freedom, Porter does not. He is still a Dolphin -- and is likely to remain so until at least next month, when the league's new year starts March 5.
The NFL is expected to go to an uncapped year starting March 5 -- assuming the league and the NFL Players Association cannot extend their collective bargaining agreement before then. But until then, teams must work within the constraints of the salary cap, so Porter's rights reverted back to Miami.
Porter's release would have accelerated Porter's cap hit to $4.8 million, leaving the Dolphins $600,000 above the imposed cap, according to a source.
Less than three hours after the transaction was revoked, the Dolphins said the move was "determined to be an invalid termination. Therefore at this time, Porter reverts back to the Miami Dolphins roster."
The Dolphins declined to elaborate, as did the NFL.
"It's a club matter," league spokesman Greg Aiello said. Porter's agent didn't respond to phone messages. The hitch may have involved NFL salary-cap rules, and Porter is still expected to be released or traded in the next few weeks.
It's likely the Dolphins could release him once the new league year kicks off March 5. It's also possible Miami could try to trade Porter, though teams are typically hesitant about dealing for players they expect to be released.
Under the five-year, $32 million deal he signed with the Dolphins in 2007, Porter is due a $1 million roster bonus on the fifth day of the league year on March 10, according to a source.
A four-time Pro Bowl linebacker named in January to the NFL's All-Decade team, Porter campaigned last week to be waived. In broadcast interviews he said he was frustrated about his reduced role in 2009 and doubted his relationship with coach Tony Sparano could be repaired.
As his role diminished, Porter said, he talked with Sparano only on Sundays and stopped speaking with general manager Jeff Ireland and football czar Bill Parcells. Porter said he was the Dolphins' best outside linebacker and unhappy about being replaced by pass-rush specialist Cameron Wake in some situations. He said he wanted to go to a team where he could play every down.
Porter said he saw less playing time after Sparano held him out of a midseason game at Tampa Bay because he "went out to get something to eat" two nights before the game. The defense deteriorated at the end of the season, and Miami failed to make the playoffs, finishing 7-9.
An 11-year pro, Porter led the AFC in 2008 with 17½ sacks. His sack total in 2009 fell to nine, still the Dolphins' high, and he was named to the NFL's All-Decade team for the 2000s in January.
Information from ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter and The Associated Press was used in this report.