Thursday, August 28, 2008

SS Keith Davis released (no more details to come?)

With no further details coming out and all the Dolphins beat writers apparently convinced this is just a football move, I suppose it's time to cover the Keith Davis release here. As I'm sure you know by now, the Dolphins released Davis yesterday despite already being three men under the roster limit. Davis had been signed as an unrestricted free agent from the Cowboys this offseason.

Background

An undrafted free agent in 2002 out of San Jose State, Davis spent the first six years of his career with the Dallas Cowboys. (Technically, he was out of football in 2003, but whatever.) He started a career-high 15 games in 2005, but has primarily been a backup and special teams player where he has excelled. In 58 games (22 starts), Davis has recorded 132 tackles, three forced fumbles and five passes defensed.

Signed to a two-year, $3.5 million contract by the Dolphins this offseason, Davis had been listed as the No. 2 strong safety behind Yeremiah Bell and ahead of Courtney Bryan on the depth chart all training camp and preseason.

Analysis

The timing and circumstances surrounding this move are curious to say the least. Things to consider:
  • Davis had plenty of experience with Bill Parcells, which was clearly the reason he was brought in.
  • He was given a two-year, $3.5 million contract this offseason. Not starter money, but not exactly minimum salaries either.
  • Davis is a proven special teams player, which is a unit that has struggled for the Dolphins in recent years.
  • While not a starting-caliber player on defense, Davis has plenty of experience at both safety positions and is a suitable backup.
  • With Davis' departure, the only backup behind Yeremiah Bell at strong safety is second-year undrafted player Courtney Bryan, who has not stood out at all in the preseason.
  • Prior to Davis' release, the Dolphins had 72 players. This is three under the current 75-man roster limit, so there was no need to cut anyone at the time.
Davis was never a lock to make the team, but given his history with Parcells and Miami's safety depth I would have considered him a very good shot. Davis had not stood out on defense in the preseason, but his special teams play was good as always. Furthermore, Courtney Bryan hadn't showcased himself much either and in my view doesn't have much of an NFL career. I cannot see Davis' release meaning Bryan will make the team even if he is currently second and final strong safety on the roster at the moment.

What the move might mean is the Dolphins will keep Yeremiah Bell as the lone strong safety along with three free safeties in Chris Crocker, Jason Allen and Renaldo Hill. However, I don't consider any of those three good candidates to fill in for Bell at strong safety as they all lack the bulk to play the run as often as they would need to do. That is why I would expect the Dolphins to add another strong safety after final cuts and potentially keep five safeties total.