Monday, August 24, 2009

Dolphins cut Ernest Wilford, trade two linemen, part ways with five others

The cutdown to 75 isn't until Sept. 1, but the Miami Dolphins wasted no time doing a little house cleaning after their second preseason game, trimming the roster to just 70 by cutting ties with eight players.

Wide receiver/tight end Ernest Wilford, running back Anthony Kimble, nose tackle Joe Cohen and linebackers Orion Martin and Tearrius George were all let go, while rookie wide receiver Chris Williams was also waived/injured. Meanwhile, offensive linemen Andy Alleman and Ikechuku Ndukwe were traded to the Kansas City Chiefs for an undisclosed 2010 draft pick.

Ernest Wilford

Signed to a big contract last offseason, Wilford proved to be the biggest bust of the Bill Parcells' first year in Miami. He struggled to get on the field during his first season with the Dolphins, appearing in seven games (starting none) and catching just three passes for 25 yards.

The Dolphins attempted to move Wilford to tight end in the 2009 offseason, hoping to take advantage of his good hands and his speed which, while poor for a wide receiver, might even be good for a tight end. However, it seems Wilford's transition just wasn't impressive enough, and the team decided to take the cap hit and part ways with the disappointing signing.

It's a shame to see Wilford cut, because it puts a definitive end to a disappointing tenure in Miami. He was a hard worker and never complained about his role, but he just wasn't good enough and signing him to that contract was a mistake on management's part. I thought he had the potential to present some matchup problems at tight end, but obviously his blocking was inadequate.

The Dolphins really aren't losing anything here (except a little cap space) because Wilford wasn't going to contribute anyway. There were too many receivers in front of him, and he was unlikely to surpass Anthony Fasano or David Martin at tight end.

Andy Alleman

A third-round pick by the Saints in 2007, Alleman now joins in third team in as many seasons. He was claimed off waivers by the Dolphins after final cuts last season and went on to appear in 15 games, including four starts after Justin Smiley was lost for the season.

Alleman is a versatile player who can play all three interior line positions, but obviously the team didn't think he had enough potential to develop as a starter and valued a future draft pick more. His departure bodes well for guys like Joe Berger, Shawn Murphy and Brandon Frye, with Berge becoming the lone backup to Jake Grove at center.

Ikechuku Ndukwe

The writing was on the wall when the team kept playing Ndukwe at tackle during training camp, where he is simply overmatched at this level. Ndukwe is a versatile guy and a solid interior lineman, but lately I felt he had reached his ceiling as a pro and doubted his ability to make the team.

The Dolphins are losing a versatile lineman with starting experience, but not one with much upside. Donald Thomas has already established himself at right guard, while youngsters Shawn Murphy and Brandon Frye have more potential than the 27-year-old Ndukwe. He also wasn't needed at tackle, where guard Brandon Frye (a tackle at Virginia Tech) and rookie seventh-rounder Andrew Gardner can hold down the fort behind Jake Long and Vernon Carey.

Chris Williams

Dolphins fans were a little too high on Williams, with some assuming he had the return job all but locked up after he saw extensive looks in the first two preseason games. Williams showed some good moves and blazing speed at times, but he was too inconsistent and didn't catch balls cleanly enough to warrant keeping as the primary return man.

According to Edgar Thompson of the Palm Beach Post, Williams has suffered two broken bones in his hand and has been waived/injured. If he clears waivers, he'll revert to the Dolphins' injured reserve list. He will likely be released with an injury settlement sometime down the line, possible in the next few days.

I don't feel like the Dolphins are losing too much here and I never expected Williams to make the roster as some did. If I had to guess, I'd say Patrick Cobbs will return kickoffs in the regular season, while Davone Bess or Brian Hartline will handle punts. The team seems to prefer Ted Ginn, Jr. to focus solely on offense, though he is certainly the most dynamic returner on the roster.

Anthony Kimble

Undrafted out of Stanford in 2009, Kimble was one of the longest shots to make the roster so it's no surprise to see him cut here. He saw little playing time in the preseason, with his most notable moment coming when he let a pass from Pat White bounce of his chest and get intercepted against Jacksonville. He seems unlikely to have much of a pro career.

The Dolphins are set at running back, with Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams and Patrick Cobbs leading the way. 2008 sixth-rounder Lex Hilliard has had a strong preseason, but it's unknown at this point if he'll be able to secure a spot on the active roster as the fourth running back. I don't expect Miami to keep four running backs and six wide receivers, so Hilliard could be battling Brandon London for one special teams spot.

Joe Cohen

A fourth-round pick out of Florida in 2007, Cohen missed his entire rookie season with the 49ers with a torn ACL. He spent part of last season on Miami's practice squad.

Cohen was a long shot to make the team, as Jason Ferguson and Paul Soliai likely have the two nose tackle spots locked up. Cohen's release does bode well for undrafted rookie Louis Ellis, who should be headed for the practice squad after final cuts.

Orion Martin

Martin was attempting to make the transition from defensive end to inside linebacker for the Dolphins, but was unable to leave a lasting impression. He didn't have a real shot of surpassing William Kershaw or J. D. Folsom for a spot on the roster.

With Channing Crowder, Akin Ayodele and Reggie Torbor locks at inside linebacker, it remains to be seen if the two remaining players will be able to earn a spot on the active roster. At this point, I think Folsom is destined for the practice squad, while Kershaw will either earn a spot as a special teamer or be let go entirely.

Tearrius George

A former CFL defensive end, George was picked up by the Dolphins in the 2009 offseason. He was previously a member of the Dallas Cowboys in the 2008 offseason and training camp.

George was always going to have a tough time making the team, as he was competing at a very crowded outside linebacker spot. His departure makes the competition a little thinner, though guys like Erik Walden and Quentin Moses still have their hands full trying to make the team.

Conclusion

There aren't really any surprises here, as none of the players Miami parted with were indispensable and most had almost no shot of making the team. The Dolphins did well to deal a couple of their interior linemen (likely for a late-round pick in 2010) rather than just cutting them outright.

As it stands, the Dolphins have just 70 players and are 10 under the current 80-man roster limit. They now have some wiggle room if they want to add a player in the next week or so, though they might just stand pat.

The first cutdown (to 75) is on Sept. 1, and Dolphins will not need to make any moves at that time. Final cuts will take place on Sept. 5, and the Dolphins will need to clear 17 spots to get down to the 53-man regular season limit assuming they don't add anyone else before then.

These moves make the final roster picture a bit clearer in some places, so stay tuned for my predictions of which players will be the next to get the axe and which will be playing for the Dolphins in 2009!