Sunday, September 6, 2009

No Surprises Among Dolphins' 13 Cuts

NFL teams were forced to trim down to just 53 players yesterday, and although the Miami Dolphins had much less work to do than any other team, they still had to clear 13 players from the active roster.

There were very few surprises among the Dolphins' cuts, and although I only predicted 10 of the 13 moves correctly, I can't say I was shocked or upset by any of the moves.

In total, the Dolphins placed one player (linebacker Matt Roth) on the Reserve/Non-Football Injury list and waived/released a dozen more. You can see the full list of players let go by Miami here.

Here is some brief analysis on each of the moves:

Matt Roth

There was simply no other move to make regarding Roth, as he hadn't been practicing and hadn't indicated he was nearing a return to the field with his phantom groin injury. Roth is Miami's best run-stopping linebacker and you can believe his absence will hurt the defense, but he left the Dolphins with no alternatives.

Roth will be a restricted free agent in the offseason if there is no new Collective Bargaining Agreement, and I expect the Dolphins to play hardball with him if he keeps this up.

Brandon London

I had London making it over Lex Hilliard, though I considered London (and now consider Hilliard) a strong candidate to be cut for any player claimed off waivers.

London seemed like a quality prospect with his size and special teams prowess, but he just hadn't shown enough progression on offense to make it worth keeping him as a sixth receiver.

Unfortunately, London is no longer eligible for the practice squad due to the amount of games he played in 2008. The Dolphins would probably be interested in bringing him back if there were injuries to the receiving corps, but I expect him to be picked up by another team.

Courtney Bryan

Bryan is a good special teams player (and we all know that unit is a sore spot for the team right now), but he never had a real shot of cracking the top four safety spots. He is not eligible for the practice squad and will have a hard time finding consistent work in the NFL because of it, though he's always a candidate to be signed by someone mid-season for special teams purposes.

Joey Thomas

Thomas probably has the talent of a fourth or fifth NFL cornerback, but he got caught up in a numbers game in Miami. He's a better cornerback than Jason Allen, but the team values special teams ability over defense at that spot and that's one area (well, the only area) where Allen excels.

If you're wondering why the team cut Thomas Friday and kept Will Billingsley on Saturay due to Vontae Davis' injury, it's because Billingsley has a practice squad eligibility and Thomas does not. Thomas is far and away the better corner, so if the Dolphins were concerned Davis' injury might be serious, Thomas would still be around.

Thomas could bounce around the league for a few more years and he's always a candidate to be re-signed by Miami due to injuries in the secondary, but I don't expect him to add much more to his pro football résumé. He may end up in the CFL or UFL at some point.

William Kershaw

Kershaw was another guy I had making the team, this time over a sixth outside linebacker in Quentin Moses. I felt Kershaw was a strong special teams player and had actually shown enough on defense (especially against New Orleans) to earn a spot.

In the end it was not enough, however, as the team opted for an extra pass rusher in Moses. I can't blame the team here and I'm certainly fine with the move, as Moses does still have some upside and he had a good preseason as well.

With J. D. Folsom likely a lock for the practice squad, Kershaw's departure from the Dolphins is probably permanent.

Rodrique Wright

The Dolphins' defensive ends were set a long time ago, and Wright wasn't in the plans. He hasn't shown much in three years as a pro and Miami finally had too much talent at his position to justify giving him a spot.

Wright isn't eligible for the practice squad, but he should be able to make it as a backup somewhere else.

Brandon Frye

Frye was a guy I thought would make the team based on his versatility at guard and tackle, but apparently the team liked Nate Garner better. The Dolphins were actually forced to cut Garner too later in the day for fear one of their tight ends wouldn't make it through waivers.

Frye is eligible for the practice squad with just seven games played last year (it takes nine to make someone ineligible) but I would guess he won't be back. Mark Lewis and Nate Garner are more likely candidates.

Will Billingsley

Billingsley was probably the longest shot to make the team of anyone on the roster. (Despite a relative of his harassing me on youtube all summer that I was an idiot and didn't know what I was talking about for predicting this...)

He's a burner but he's just too raw; he isn't ready to play in an NFL game and may never be. He could be re-signed to the practice squad and probably will in the short-term due to Davis' injury, but I don't expect him to have a lengthy stay.

Mark Lewis

Lewis didn't see action in the preseason until very late in games and though he did a fine job, he's not NFL ready yet. He's a strong candidate for the practice squad but probably not close to activation due to injury at this point.

J. D. Folsom

If Kershaw, who outplayed Folsom in the preseason, didn't make the roster, the Dolphins' seventh-round rookie wasn't either.

Folsom showed flashes in the preseason but didn't do enough to separate himself from outside linebackers like Moses and Erik Walden. He should be able to clear waivers and is a near-lock for the practice squad.

Nate Garner

The Dolphins were going to keep Garner until they became concerned rookie tight end John Nalbone wouldn't clear waivers and make it to the practice squad, so now Garner's likely the one taking a significant pay cut to be on the developmental team. He could garner (hey, a pun!) some interest on waivers, but I anticipate he'll pass through and return to the Dolphins.

James Robinson

Robinson is a raw burner and hasn't shown anything on special teams, so he wasn't going to make the Dolphins' roster. The team probably likes Brandon London better, but Robinson is the only one of the two eligible for the practice squad so that's probably where he'll end up.

Ryan Baker

Baker had no real shot of cracking the active roster with so many quality defensive ends on the team. Similar to the Robinson-London situation, however, Baker should make it onto the practice squad because, unlike Rod Wright, he still has practice squad eligibility.

Conclusion

The Dolphins are now down to 53 players, but don't expect it to be the same 53 when the team plays the Atlanta Falcons on Sept. 13. Players will be awarded to teams off waivers today, and Miami will likely snag a few of their own. (Fingers crosses for a ninth offensive lineman and a return specialist.)

Should the Dolphins claim two or three players, they'll have to clear roster spots for them. Likely candidates to be cut in this case are running back Lex Hilliard, tight end John Nalbone and linebackers Quentin Moses and Erik Walden.