Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Dolphins send TE Davon Drew to I.R., promote OT Nate Garner

Those hoping to see newly-claimed rookie tight end Davon Drew make an impact in 2009 will be disappointed, as the Dolphins have opted to waive Drew with the designation of injured.

If he clears waivers (and he should, since Miami was the only team that put in a claim for him originally), Drew will revert to the Dolphins' season-ending injured reserve list.

So what's going on here? Did Drew show up with an unknown injury, and was that injury significant enough to prevent him from playing all of the 2009 season? The likely answers are no and no.

The Dolphins simply had one too many tight ends on the active roster, and weren't going to go into the regular season that way. So, what they likely did was make up a minor injury for Drew (after all, football players always have an ache somewhere) and waived/injured him.

Now, they can stash him on injured reserve for 2009, clearing up a roster spot for a season he was unlikely to play much anyway, while allowing him compete for a job in 2010. Sneaky, yes, but effective so long as he clears waivers as expected.

Replacing Drew on the active roster is offensive tackle Nate Garner, who comes back from a very brief stint in the practice squad. The team reportedly wanted to keep Garner during final cuts, but waived him when they feared tight end John Nalbone wouldn't clear waivers. Now, with only three tight ends on the roster and an open spot, there's room for Garner as the ninth offensive lineman.

A seventh-round pick by the New York Jets in 2008, Garner was claimed off waivers during final cuts last year and spent all 16 games with the Dolphins (plus one postseason contest) on the inactive list.

Garner will continue to serve as the primary backup to starting right tackle Vernon Carey, though it's unknown if he'll dress on game days. I expect only Garner or backup left tackle Andrew Gardner will be on the 45-man roster, but I'm not sure which. Garner is slightly more experienced, but he was also more expendable when the team briefly needed to clear up a spot earlier this week, which could mean Gardner is held in higher regard.

Whether he plays or not, the good news for Garner is that he receives a significant raise with the promotion, as practice squad players make around $80,000 a year, while the minimum salary on the active roster is just over $300,000.