Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Dolphins sign FB Joe Kowalewski

With only one fullback on the roster following the departure of rookie Matt Quillen, the Miami Dolphins have signed former New York Jets tight end Joe Kowalewski to a contract.

Background

A Syracuse, N.Y. native, Kowalewski played for his hometown Syracuse Orangemen in college. Originally a defensive end and linebacker, Kowalewski was moved to tight end for the 2002 season and finished his collegiate career with 33 catches for 441 yards and three touchdowns.

After going undrafted in the 2006 NFL Draft, Kowalewski received tryout offers from the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets. He opted for the Jets, and was eventually signed by the team on May 15.

After spending his entire rookie season on the Jets' practice squad, Kowalewski made the team's active roster in 2007. He went on to appear in 13 games, starting two and catching five passes for 18 yards and a score.

Kowalewski was waived by the Jets on April 28, 2008, and spent the entire season out of football. He remained unsigned until being picked up by the Miami Dolphins on August 11, 2009. He likely signed a one- or two-year deal for the league minimum.

Though primarily a tight end in his professional career to date, Kowalewski will play fullback for the Dolphins. He has been assigned No. 40, which he wore during his time with the Jets.

Analysis

It's no surprise to see the Dolphins add a fullback here, as at least one more was needed to prevent starter Lousaka Polite from being overloaded in camp. Running back Lex Hilliard has the ability to fill in at the position, but the team seems to prefer him at tailback.

Kowalewski has tight end size at 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds. He's a solid blocker but doesn't offer much in the passing game outside of your occasional short or goal-line reception.

What's interesting about this signing is that, unlike Chris Brown or Matt Quillen, Kowalewski is not eligible for the practice squad. He lost that eligibility playing in 13 games for the Jets in 2007. It can be a difficult obstacle in a player's career, when they just aren't good enough to get on an active roster, but talented enough to be worthy of a practice squad spot.

But if Kowalewski can't be placed on the practice squad, why is he here? After all, even though Chris Brown and Matt Quillen had no chance of beating out Polite and probably weren't going to make the roster, at least they could be groomed on the practice squad and serve as a backup from there.

As I see it, there are two reasons for the Kowalewski signing. First, he was brought in to back up Polite during camp and allow Hilliard to play his normal position.

Secondly, I believe Kowalewski is "auditioning" for consideration in the event of a Polite injury. Essentially, he'll get an extended look from the Dolphins staff in hopes he can impress them to the point where they'll look his way again should Polite go down in the regular season.