If you haven’t read the Palm Beach Post today you may have missed it. 40 years ago today three prominent members of the Miami Dolphins finished out their final season with the Dolphins and headed to the World Football League. A combined three million dollars was paid out by the Toronto Northmen for the services of Paul Warfield, Jim Kiick, and Larry Csonka.
It was a prelude of sorts to the modern day free agency. Upstart leagues have come and gone but with them come high pay days for NFL stars or future stars. The departure of Miami’s three top offensive players would lead to larger salaries for players with expiring contracts and eventually through league and union negotiations, free agency.
I once asked both Csonka and Kiick if they had any regrets and both emphatically denied they did. It was about money. A large amount of money the likes NFL players had never seen.
The Toronto Northmen would play both seasons that the set up to fail league was in. However they wouldn’t play in Toronto. A Canadian court ruled against an American Football style team not playing for the CFL to be illegal and the team relocated to Memphis never having played a down in Toronto. The teams name was changed to the Southmen and the trio of former Phins became national news.
Many of the NFL stars that jumped to the WFL would return to the NFL after the league folded. For Csonka his return was with the New York Giants where he was to be the recipient of the failed hand off attempt recovered by Eagles defender Herm Edwards for what is hailed as the “Miracle in the Meadowlands”. The fumble cost New York the game. Csonka would return to Miami for one year after that season and then retire.
Jim Kiick would return to the NFL as well after his ill-fated attempt with the WFL. He would play one and one half season with the Denver Broncos, released during the 1977 season. He would play one game for the Washington Redskins before calling it a career. He didn’t return to the Dolphins.
Paul Warfield returned to the NFL as well and finished his career where it started. In Cleveland. Warfield played two seasons before running off into the sunset.
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