Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Three ex-Dolphins not unemployed for long

It's not exactly relevant to the Miami Dolphins, but I'm sort of an NFL nerd and like to follow all the happenings around the league. That being the case, I thought I'd offer a little news and analysis on the recent moves of three former Dolphins.

As I'm sure you already know by now, the Dolphins released or waived six players yesterday. Three of those players have already found new homes, with tight end Ernest Wilford re-joining the Jaguars, linebacker Orion Martin being claimed by Detroit and defensive tackle Joe Cohen landing in Oakland.

These players didn't work out in Miami, but could they fare better in their new (or in Wilford's case, old) homes?

Ernest Wilford

Wilford was huge bust for Miami, lasting just one season into four-year, $13 million contract that included a $6 million signing bonus. He caught three passes for 25 yards in 2008 and was moved to tight end during the offseason before being cut loose yesterday.

According to reports, the Jaguars had wanted to move Wilford to tight end a few years back and intend to utilize him there now. It's probably the right move, as his inability to get separation as a wideout is well-documented. Not to mention, he's been working all offseason the new position and has gained some 20 pounds to facilitate the move, so he's certainly not in any condition to give it another go out wide.

In my view, Wilford wasn't cut by the Dolphins because he had no potential at tight end. Rather, he didn't show enough progression to warrant keeping as a third-string tight end under his extremely large contract. Now that he likely has a very manageable deal in Jacksonville, he should have every opportunity to make the team.

Wilford certainly won't be supplanting 2006 first-round pick in Marcedes Lewis, but the Jaguars don't have to much talent at tight end beyond him. Sixth-round pick Zach Miller (not the one from the Raiders) is a former college quarterback who is currently nursing a knee injury, while journeymen Richard Angulo and Greg Estandia haven't shown much as pros and aren't locks for the No. 3 job.

Wilford certainly has the best hands of any of Jacksonville's tight ends after Lewis. He also has the biggest potential to be a red-zone threat and matches up well with opposing linebackers because of his history at wide receiver blended with his size and speed. Despite his struggles in Miami, he's a hard worker and should continue to refine his blocking technique.

Am I saying Wilford will be a successful NFL tight end, or even that he'll make the Jaguars' roster? No, I'm not. But, just as when he was in Miami, I am intrigued by his potential as a tight end and do think there's a chance he could be productive there. Now that he doesn't have a big contract and big expectations, all he has to do is play ball.

Orion Martin

A former defensive end at Virginia Tech, Martin went undrafted in 2009 and was attempting to make the Dolphins' roster at inside linebacker. He really didn't have a shot to make the team behind William Kershaw and J. D. Folsom, and the writing was on the wall for Martin when he didn't even play in Miami's second preseason game against Carolina on Saturday.

Although he shifted to linebacker for Miami's 3-4 scheme, I have to imagine he'll go back to defensive end in Detroit's 4-3. At 6-2, 260 pounds, he's not really a prototypical 4-3 linebacker. The only thing that makes me wonder is the fact that his signing comes on the heels of an injury to Lions linebacker Darnell Bing.

Assuming he played defensive end, Martin doesn't stand a realistic shot at making the team out of the gate. He's not a great pro prospect to begin with, he's coming into camp late and there are just too many bodies in front of him. Martin does have a shot at earning a practice squad gig, but it's far from a sure thing.

Joe Cohen

A fourth-round pick by the San Francisco 49ers in 2007, Cohen was carried over to the Dolphins' offseason roster in 2009 after a practice squad stint last season. He was fighting for a backup nose tackle job with undrafted rookie Louis Ellis, but when you're fourth on the depth chart at a position that usually has two spots on the active roster, you're not going to last long.

In Oaland, Cohen finds himself in the difficult position many players find themselves in when signed at this time of year. He's joining a new team late in camp and thus is very behind in learning the scheme and impressing the coaching staff.

I don't expect Cohen to make the Raiders' active roster from Week 1, as I imagine the defensive tackles will be Tommy Kelly, Terdell Sands, Gerard Warren and William Joseph will secure those spots (though possibly only the first three).

The good news for Cohen is, out of the three other uncertainties—Joseph, Ryan Boschetti and Desmond Bryant—only Cohen and Bryant have practice squad eligibility. Bryant is an undrafted rookie free agent out of Harvard who is coming of an unimpressive college career in the Ivy League and is transitioning from defensive end.

That being the case, I'd have to give Cohen the edge there. He has the talent to be a reserve defensive tackle in this league and should be worthy of a practice squad spot in Oakland.