Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Dolphins Sign Veteran LB Derek Smith, Waive WR Chris Hannon

With linebacker Channing Crowder still nursing a knee injury and having missed the team's Week 16 contest against the Chiefs, the Dolphins have added a little veteran depth to the position by signing linebacker Derek Smith.

A 12-year veteran, Smith has played for the Washington Redskins, San Francisco 49ers and San Diego Chargers and has amassed over 1,000 career tackles. He played college football at Arizona State.

The Dolphins waived wide receiver Chris Hannon to make room for Smith on the roster. Claimed off waivers from the 49ers on Dec. 3, Hannon was inactive for each of his two games with the team.

Derek Smith

An honorable mention All-Pac-10 selection at Arizona State in 1996, Smith was drafted by the Washington Redskins in the third round (80th overall) of the 1997 NFL Draft.

Smith appeared in all 64 games during his four years with the Redskins, starting all but three. During that span he recorded 520 tackles, 4.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries and an interception. He became a free agent following the 2000 season.

Smith signed with the San Francisco 49ers as an unrestricted free agent in 2001. During the 2003 season, Smith recorded a career-high and team-record 189 tackles along with a career high 3.5 sacks.

Smith played in 104 games for the 49ers between 2001-2007, starting all but two of them. During that span, he led the team in tackles five seasons. He also recorded nine sacks, three forced fumbles, eight fumble recoveries, three interceptions and 26 pass deflections over that time

The 49ers released Smith on Feb. 19, 2008. He was signed to a two-year contract by the San Diego Chargers just nine days later on Feb. 29.

Smith began the season starting at inside linebacker in the Chargers' 3-4 scheme due to the four-game suspension of Stephen Cooper. Smith went on to appear in five games (four starts) and record 13 tackles for the Chargers during the 2008 season. He was released on Nov. 12 when the team claimed running back Michael Bennett off waivers from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Smith signed a one-year, $830,000 contract with the Dolphins on Dec. 22. He will wear No. 59, which was worn by linebacker Junior Glymph during the preseason.

Chris Hannon

Undrafted out of Tennessee in 2006, Hannon was signed by the Kansas City Chiefs as an undrafted free agent. He spent part of his rookie season on Kansas City's active roster but did not appear in a game.

After being waived by the Chiefs prior to the 2007 season, Hannon spent all of the regular season on the Carolina Panthers' practice squad. The team waived him during final cuts in 2008.

Hannon began the 2008 season the the San Francisco 49ers' practice squad until being promoted to the active roster on Nov. 29. He was waived on Dec. 2 and subsequently claimed off waivers by the Miami Dolphins.

Assigned No. 14, Hannon did not dress in games against the 49ers and Buffalo Bills before being waived on Dec. 22.

Analysis

Smith received a one-year contact worth $830,000 from the Dolphins, which is the minimum salary for a player with ten or more accrued seasons in 2008 as outlined in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Smith will receive a prorated portion of the salary, essentially meaning he'll make about $48,800 for being with the team against the Jets. Not a bad take for one day!

The addition of Smith provides the Dolphins with a some veteran depth at the inside linebacker spot in the event that Crowder's knee injury prevents him from playing in the season finale against the Jets.

Smith's signing has its advantages and disadvantages. The good news is he's an experienced and proven veteran who has been at least a solid linebacker throughout most of his career. He also has the size for and experience in the 3-4 scheme, having played in it under Mike Nolan in San Francisco for three seasons and in San Diego earlier this year.

On the other side of the coin, Smith's best years are certainly behind him and he's definitely not starter material at this point. He's not a contributor on special teams and is really nothing more than a temporary fill-in. It seems unlikely he's with the team beyond this season.

I imagine the signing of Smith means the team wanted to have an experienced vet backing up Akin Ayodele and Reggie Torbor in the even that Crowder cannot go Sunday. Linebacker William Kershaw, who was added from the practice squad last week and forced a fumble on special teams against Kansas City, had no 3-4 experience prior to joining the Dolphins and has almost no experience on defense in the regular season at all.

As for the Dolphins' run defense without Crowder, I'm not very concerned. Crowder is a solid player and certainly the team's best option at his position, but Reggie Torbor is capable of manning the position and the Dolphins' defensive line has improved greatly against the run as the season has progressed.

Some fans have made a connection between Miami's defensive struggles against Kansas City and the absence of Crowder, but I think that's being overblown. From what I could tell, and as I articulated in my recap videos, I think the biggest factor in the Dolphins' defensive decline was the cold weather. It clearly prevented defensive players on both sides from being able to pursue, hit and wrap-up like normal.

As for Hannon, his release now lends credibility to the thought that he was brought in solely to find out about San Francisco's offense. His addition to the receiving corps after Greg Camarillo was lost for the season, as opposed to promoting Anthony Armstrong from the practice squad, was a curious one because we were playing Hannon's former team the following week.

Hannon will not be added to the practice squad as he's already been claimed off waivers by the Detroit Lions. There's no reason to think he'll return to Miami down the line.