Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Dolphins sign CFL fullback Rolly Lumbala

For the second year in a row, the Miami Dolphins have kicked off the offseason by signing a player from the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League.

Nearly one year after signing linebacker Cameron Wake, the Dolphins have signed Lions fullback Rolly Lumbala to a two-year contract.

Contract details were not disclosed, though Lumbala received no signing bonus and almost certainly has base salaries for the league minimum.

This is not Lumbala's first encounter with the Dolphins, as he originally tried out for the team as an undrafted rookie out of Idaho in a May 2008 minicamp.

Background

Born in Gabon and raised in Calgary, Alberta, Lumbala attended the University of Idaho, where he was a four-year letterman for the Vandals' football team.

Lumbala experienced his best collegiate season as a freshman in 2004, rushing for 614 yard and six touchdowns. He added 472 yards and a touchdown on the ground the following season, while setting career highs with 22 receptions for 217 yards and two touchdowns in 2005.

Lumbala began to take on more of a blocking role later in his career, carrying the ball on 22 times over his final two seasons, including only once as a senior in 2007.

Undrafted in the 2008 NFL Draft, Lumbala tried out for the Miami Dolphins as a three-day May minicamp, but was unsigned. He was, however, drafted by the BC Lions in the second round (ninth overall) of 2008 CFL Draft.

Lumbala appeared in 18 games for the Lions as a rookie, carrying the ball 12 times for 28 yards and two touchdowns while recording nine special teams tackles.

This past season, Lumbala served as the Lions' starting fullback and lead blocker, helping rookie running back Martell Mallett rank fourth in the league with 1,240 yards on the ground.

Lumbala was also productive in his own right, catching five passes for 45 yards while recording 22 tackles on special teams.

With the CFL's option-year signing period going from Jan. 4 to Feb. 15, Lumbala worked out for the Dolphins prior to Christmas after his agent set up the audition.

Lumbala worked out for the Pittsburgh Steelers and fielded a nearly-identical offer from the team, though he chose the Dolphins because he deemed them a better fit.

Lumbala's signing gives the Dolphins 59 players on the active roster (excluding impending free agents) and makes him the only fullback after starter Lousaka Polite.

Coincidentally, Lumbala wore Polite's No. 36 when he tried out for the Dolphins in May 2008.

Analysis

Lumbala has some ability as a lead blocker, but Miami certainly doesn't need help in that department.

Lousaka Polite was the best blocking fullback in the NFL this season and was wisely signed to a two-year extension in the last offseason.

The Dolphins also prefer to only keep one fullback, so if Lumbala is to make the roster, he'll have to make his mark elsewhere.

Lumbala was a standout special teams player for the Lions, finishing second on the team in special teams tackles with 22 in 2009.

The Dolphins' special teams coverage units have been shaky at best under coordinator John Bonamego, and the team's leading tackler in that department from 2009—cornerback Nathan Jones—is an unrestricted free agent this offseason.

Lumbala will have a battle on his hands to make the roster, and doesn't have the advantage of being needed or really able to contribute on offense or defense like some of the team's other top special teams players, such as Jason Allen, Lex Hilliard, Tyrone Culver and Cameron Wake.

He has to be considered a long shot to make the roster at this time, but he'll certainly be an intriguing prospect to keep an eye on this offseason.