The Dolphins were always a top candidate to regress this year, and not only because Ryan Tannehill was lost before the season even began.

This year, while Jay Cutler’s getting paid $10 million to basically show up and do the bare minimum like an 18-year-old with a bad case of senioritis, the schedule is much harder. None of the Dolphins’ opponents for the rest of the season have a losing record right now. That includes the Bills (twice), Patriots (twice), Falcons, Raiders, Broncos, and Chiefs. A turnaround like last season is much more improbable.

But why isn’t he? Last year’s team rode a weak schedule and close wins to an 10-6 record. They went just 1-4 against teams that finished the season with a winning record.

Representing the players were NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith and president Eric Winston; former player Anquan Boldin; and current players Butler; Reid; Russell Okung (Los Angeles Chargers); Kenny Stills, Julius Thomas and Michael Thomas (Miami); Mark Herzlich (New York Giants); Kelvin Beachum and Demario Davis (New York Jets); Jenkins and Chris Long (Philadelphia); and Josh Norman (Washington).

Sources familiar with the players’ thinking told ESPN’s Dan Graziano that they went into the meeting skeptical. The level of trust between owners and players has been low in recent years, as the sides have waged court battles over the personal conduct policy and the players have spurned the owners’ efforts to open negotiations on an extension to the collective bargaining agreement. Goodell and Smith have rarely met face-to-face over the past three years, people familiar with the relationship say, and relations had reached a point where people on both sides wondered whether there’d ever be common ground for future negotiations.

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