Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Jason Ferguson, Matt Roth headline flurry of Miami Dolphins roster moves

The Miami Dolphins have had a busy week, making a myriad of transactions involving a total of a total of seven players.

In the interest of avoiding a handful paragraphs in the introduction to list each transaction, I will instead just list them in bullets below. Then I will address each transaction with it's own section in the body of the article? Sound good? Fantastic.
  • Placed on injured reserve: NT Jason Ferguson
  • Waived: OLB Matt Roth; FS Nate Ness
  • Signed to active roster: DE Ikaika Alama-Francis (free agent); CB Evan Oglesby (free agent); OG Andrew Hartline (from practice squad)
  • Signed to practice squad: G/C Mark Lewis; FS Nate Ness
The Dolphins now have a full 53-man active roster as well as an eight-man practice squad. Ferguson becomes the team's second defensive starter, fourth starter overall and seventh player this season to land on injured reserve.

Jason Ferguson

A long-time Bill Parcells veteran with the Dallas Cowboys and New York Jets, Ferguson arrived in Miami prior to the 2008 season for a swap of sixth-round picks with the Cowboys.

Ferguson has anchored the Dolphins' defensive line in the 3-4 alignment brought by Parcells, leading one of the league's best run defenses over the past season in a half.

Prior to his season-ending quad injury, Ferguson had appeared in all 25 games for the Dolphins. Playing the no-glory position of 3-4 nose tackle, he recorded 45 tackles and a pass deflection but was a massive space-eater in the interior defensive line.

Despite his consistently high level of play, Ferguson will be 35 later this month and has suffered season-ending injuries in two of the past three seasons. He is in the last year of his contract and will likely retire if he isn't re-signed as a backup by the Dolphins in the offseason.

Meanwhile, 2007 fourth-round pick Paul Soliai will move into the starting nose tackle position in Ferguson's absence.

A regular in the staff's doghouse the past few years due to immaturity issues, Soliai has emerged as a quality nose tackle with 11 tackles and a forced fumble this season.

Despite missing the past two games with an ankle injury, Soliai recently resumed practicing and should be ready to assume the starting job against Buffalo this weekend.

Beyond Soliai, reserve defensive end Tony McDaniel will become the top backup at nose tackle. Fellow end Randy Starks is also a candidate to play some nose, but it may be unlikely given how well he's playing this season on the outside.

Matt Roth

The enigmatic Matt Roth Era has finally come to an end in Miami.

After getting in the staff's doghouse with a phantom illness/groin injury in training camp, spending the first six weeks of the season on the PUP list, and being activated to play in the team's last four games, the Dolphins have finally their 2005 second-round pick.

The Dolphins' best run-stopping linebacker in 2008, Roth clearly wasn't in the team's long-term plans. His contract is up in the offseason (though he will only be a restricted free agent if there is no new Collective Bargaining Agreement) and the Dolphins are loaded with talent at outside linebacker.

Roth's released means more continued playing time for Charlie Anderson and Cameron Wake, both of whom have shined at times this season. It also should allow either Erik Walden or Quentin Moses to once again be active on game days.

With Roth's release, running back Ronnie Brown (second overall) and linebacker Channing Crowder (third round) are the only players remaining from Nick Saban's 2005 draft class. Brown is currently on injured reserve, making Crowder the Dolphins' only currently active draft pick from 2005.

UPDATE: Word came today from agent Drew Rosenhaus that Roth has been claimed by the Cleveland Browns, where he will continue to play outside linebacker as they run a 3-4 scheme similar to Miami's.

A solid player when healthy, Roth could immediately threaten current starters Kamerion Wimbley Jason Trusnik for playing time on a struggling Browns team.

Andrew Hartline

An undrafted rookie out of Central Michigan, Andrew Hartline (no relation to Dolphins wide receiver Brian Hartline) started 52 games consecutive games for the Chippewas and earned All-MAC selections each of the last three seasons.

Despite his very productive collegiate career, Hartline was not selected in the 2009 NFL Draft and signed with the Green Bay Packers as an undrafted free agent. He failed to make the Packers' active roster out of training camp, however, and was waived during final cuts on Sept. 5.

Hartline was signed to the Dolphins' practice squad ten days later on Sept. 15, replacing fellow undrafted rookie Mark Lewis.

Although he was an offensive tackle in college, Hartline (6-5, 300) projects as more of an interior lineman at the NFL level due to lack of top-notch athleticism. He will likely work at offensive guard and could see practice reps at center with Jake Grove and Joe Berger both nursing injuries.

Sporting No. 60, Hartline would likely see himself activated as a reserve lineman this Sunday against the Buffalo Bills if Grove does not play.

Ikaika Alama-Francis

On the same day the team waived a former second-round pick, the Dolphins' added someone else's, signing former Detroit Lions defensive end Ikaika Alama-Francis.

A two-time All-WAC selection at Hawaii, Alama-Francis was chosen 58th overall by the Lions in the 2007 NFL Draft.

Francis battled injuries throughout his rookie season, including a torn pectoral muscle suffered during his senior season at Hawaii. He finished the year with 12 tackles in six games.

A top reserve defensive lineman the following year, Alama-Francis started two of the 13 games in which he played for the 0-16 Lions during the 2008 season. He finished the year with 23 tackles, a sack, and a pass deflection.

Alama-Francis played in all four preseason games for the Lions in 2009 but failed to make the team as the fourth defensive end when Copeland Bryan was claimed off waivers from the Bills on Sept. 6.

A free agent since his release, Alama-Francis has had a bit of difficulty finding a new job due to the fact that he is no longer eligible for the practice squad after appearing in too many regular season games for the Lions in 2008.

With Tony McDaniel likely to see more time at defensive end in Jason Ferguson's absence, Alama-Francis (6-5, 290) will attempt to work himself into the rotation at defensive end. He has a good blend of strength and athleticism and offers some upside as a prospect.

In fact, Alama-Francis is probably a better prospect than current fifth defensive end Lionel Dotson, so he should see some game action before the end of the season. Also count on him being in training camp in 2010 where he could push to become part of the regular rotation.

Alama-Francis will wear No. 79 with the Dolphins, most recently worn by practice squad defensive end Ryan Baker (now wearing No. 90).

Evan Oglesby

A former undrafted free agent out of North Alabama, Oglesby signed with the Buffalo Bills in 2005 and spent time on the team's practice squad before his release in October.

Oglesby signed with the Baltimore Ravens the following December, playing in three games and recording one tackle as a rookie.

After appearing in all 16 games and recording 14 tackles and two pass deflections with the Ravens in 2006, Oglesby was waived by the team during final cuts on September 2, 2007.

The Dallas Cowboys claimed Oglesby off waivers the following day, and he went on to appear in eight games for the team in 2007, recording four tackles. He was waived following the 2008 preseason on Sept. 2.

Oglesby's second stint with the Ravens came in 2008 when he appeared in nine regular season games and recorded 14 tackles. He was once again waived by the team on September 5, 2009.

Like Alama-Francis, Oglesby is another one of those players who has been hurt by the rules of practice squad eligibility. He most certainly would have been on a developmental squad between his release and signing with the Dolphins if he were eligible, but he has already played too many games in the NFL.

An experienced four-year veteran, Oglesby brings with him familiarity with the Dolphins' scheme as well as the coaching staff from his time in Dallas—particularly defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni and secondary coach Todd Bowles.

Though he'll probably never be anything more than what he is now, Oglesby (5-11, 182) is a capable dime cornerback in the NFL. He should be able to work his way into rotation in the secondary, quite possibly at the expense of strong special-teamer but first-round cornerback bust Jason Allen.

Oglesby will don No. 41 in Miami, which was most recently worn by cornerback Joey Thomas (currently a free agent) last season.

Mark Lewis

Originally with the Dolphin as an undrafted rookie out of Oregon during the 2009 preseason, Lewis failed to make the team and subsequently spent time on the practice squad of the Seattle Seahawks.

Lewis (6-4, 300) is a very borderline pro prospect and unlikely to ever see NFL action. Per reports, he was working cutting down and hauling Christmas trees in California before he received a call from the Dolphins.

Lewis will resume wearing No. 61 with the Dolphins and will make $5,200 per week on the team's practice squad. He will work at both guard and center in hopes of earning a training camp invite in 2010.

Nate Ness

Ness' tenure on the active roster was short-lived as the team waived the undrafted rookie defensive back just one week after promoting him from the practice squad.

Despite earning the call-up when Ronnie Brown was placed on injured reserve, Ness did not play or dress against the Carolina Panthers in Week 11.

The Dolphins have re-signed Ness to the practice squad, where he will continue to work at free safety and possibly cornerback. He could see another promotion at some point this season and is a solid candidate to be re-signed in the offseason.