A year after a career season as a key member of the Dolphins' secondary, cornerback Michael Lehan finds himself a free agent. Already out for the season with an ankle injury, the Dolphins released Lehan from injured reserve yesterday.
Originally drafted by the Cleveland Browns out of Minnesota in 2005, Lehan spent three seasons with the team before being waived in he 2006 offseason. During his time in Cleveland, he appeared in 32 games (four starts) and amassed 52 tackles and two pass deflections.
The Dolphins originally signed Lehan as a free agent in May 2006 under Nick Saban. He appeared in 15 games, including two starts, recording 18 tackles and two pass deflections.
Lehan experienced a breakout season under Cam Cameron in 2007, starting a career-high 14 games and recording 57 tackles, one interception and seven pass deflections.
Lehan's contract expired following the 2007 season, making him an unrestricted free agent. Despite a new front office in Miami, Lehan was rewarded with a three-year, $4.95-million contract in February.
An ankle injury landed Lehan on the PUP list to begin training camp in 2008. He went on to appear in three of the team's preseason games, recording a pass deflection and an interception.
Bothered by an ankle injury, the Dolphins placed Lehan on injured reserve on Oct. 24 and re-signed cornerback Joey Thomas. Lehan finished the 2008 season with six tackles and a pass deflection in five games (two starts).
Obviously this transaction doesn't have any immediate impact because Lehan was already out for the season.
However, what this move does signify to me is that less than a year after giving Lehan a well-earned extension, the team has decided to move in another direction. If the Dolphins saw Lehan as having a future in Miami, there would be no reason not to keep him on injured reserve through the end of the season because his 2008 salary is guaranteed.
It's disappointing to see Lehan's tenure in Miami end on such a down note, especially after his 2007 performance. While not really starter material, Lehan did an admirable job last season and was a bright spot in the secondary.
This was confirmed by the fact that Bill Parcells and the Dolphins' new front office gave Lehan an extension in the offseason. Along with safety Yeremiah Bell, Lehan was one of only two unrestricted free agents (out of 10 total) re-signed by the Dolphins in the 2008 offseason. Unfortunately, Lehan's nagging injuries prevented him from being able to impress the new staff and it appears the organization has run out of patience.
For those of you wondering if he'll be back in Miami, my feeling on this is that it's not very likely at any point and it's certainly not going to happen any time soon. I don't know the specific rules (I'm looking into it) but I do know that a team must wait a certain amount of time before they can re-sign a player they've released from injured reserve. Obviously, this is to prevent teams from stashing players on IR until they are healthy.
No, it seems the Dolphins are moving on from Lehan entirely. As much as I like Lehan as a potential nickel or dime corner, this isn't a huge loss. Will Allen is having a fantastic season and Andre' Goodman is in the middle of a career year.
The Dolphins do need some talented youth (that pretty much excludes Jason Allen) at the position, but Lehan, 29, doesn't fit that mold either. The Dolphins are sure to add more depth (and potentially a future starter in the draft) this offseason, but Lehan is unlikely to be in the mix.