Thursday, January 7, 2010

Dolphins sign WR Ryan Grice-Mullen, OLB Brian Johnston

The Dolphins continued to add to their offseason roster Wednesday, signing wide receiver Ryan Grice-Mullen and defensive end/linebacker Brian Johnston to future contracts.

An undrafted receiver out of Hawaii in 2008, Grice-Mullen had brief offseason stints with the Houston Texans and Chicago Bears, and has played the past two years with the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League.

A college teammate of current Dolphins receiver Davone Bess, Grice-Mullen is the second BC Lions player to be signed by the Dolphins this offseason, joining fullback Rolly Lumbala.

A seventh-round pick by the Kansas City Chiefs out of Gardner-Webb in 2007, Johnston played one season with the Chiefs and was briefly with the Detroit Lions this past offseason before spending the regular season out of football.

Ryan Grice-Mullen

A Rialto, Calif. native, Grice-Mullen (5-11, 180) was a three-year starter for the Hawaii Warriors from 2005 to 2007.

He entered the starting lineup as a redshirt freshman in 2005, leading the Warriors in receiving with 1,228 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Injuries forced Grice-Mullen to miss four games in 2006, although he still appeared in 10 contests (nine starts) and finished fourth on the team with 770 yards and 11 touchdowns.

During his junior season, Grice-Mullen led the Warriors in receiving by catching 106 passes for 1,372 yards and 13 touchdowns (all career highs) in 13 games.

Grice-Mullen decided to forego his senior season at Hawaii and enter the 2008 NFL Draft, but went undrafted and signed with the Houston Texans as a free agent, only to be released in June.

The Chicago Bears signed Grice-Mullen on July 24, 2008, but waived him prior to the regular season on Aug. 24.

Grice-Mullen headed north after his release from the Bears, joining the CFL's BC Lions. He caught nine passes for 175 yards and a touchdown during his rookie season.

Grice-Mullen caught 20 passes for 210 yards and a touchdown in 2009, while also serving as the Lions' primary return specialist due to the departure of Stefan Logan (Steelers). He set a CFL playoff record with a 106-yard punt returned for a touchdown.

Brian Johnston

Johnston (6-4, 269) was a four-year starter at Gardner-Webb and finished his collegiate career as one of the most prolific defenders in school history.

At the conclusion of his career, Johnston had totaled 268 tackles (55.5 for losses), 21.0 sacks, ten forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, six passes defensed, and one blocked kick, while also adding three touchdown receptions.

Johnston was a three-time first-team All-Big South selection during his final three seasons at Gardner-Webb, as well as the conference's Defensive Player of the Year and an All-American his final two years.

Johnston received pre-draft interest from numerous teams in 2008, including the Miami Dolphins. He was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in the seventh round (210th overall) and signed with the team on July 16.

After appearing in nine games and recording three tackles for the Chiefs as a rookie, Johnston was waived by the team on May 26, 2009. He was claimed off waivers by the Detroit Lions, but failed his physical and spent the rest of the year out of football.

Analysis

When the Dolphins signed Davone Bess as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Hawaii in 2008, they could have just as easily signed Ryan Grice-Mullen.

Both players came from Hawaii. They are nearly identical in size. Both were highly productive in the Warriors' air-it-out offense. Both offer reliable hands, have more quickness than straight-line speed and are better suited for a slot role in the NFL. Heck, both even have dreadlocks!

Obviously, Bess has already established himself in the NFL and has displayed excellent hands, while Grice-Mullen failed to catch on with two NFL clubs and really hasn't done a whole lot on offense during his two years in Canada.

Despite Miami's lack of elite talent at wide receiver, Grice-Mullen will likely have a tough time earning a roster spot. He doesn't offer anything in the explosion or play-making department, and that's one kind of receiver the Dolphins already have in bulk.

One has to assume that Davone Bess, Greg Camarillo and Brian Hartline are locks. Despite his struggles and the fans' wishes, Ted Ginn, Jr. will likely return as well (although an acquisition of Joshua Cribbs could be the thing to change that). That's four receivers, and the Dolphins prefer to keep only five.

2009 third-rounder Patrick Turner is a candidate to be cut, but the Dolphins surely want to add a big-time No. 1 receiver or a young high draft pick with the potential to be just that.

That means five receivers, and there simply isn't room for any more slot receivers with low ceilings. I give him a better chance than Julius Pruitt and Taurus Johnson, but only because I give both of them really no chance.

That essentially means Grice-Mullen will be competing for a practice squad spot, if he'd prefer that to playing across the border.

As for Johnston, he currently stands a much better chance at making the roster, but is still no lock by any means.

Johnston may have attended a small school in Gardner-Webb, but his collegiate production is undeniable and it would not be a shock to see him have a productive NFL career.

However, it is a bit concerning that Johnston didn't play at all this past season, but it's possible he was injured as he did fail his physical with the Lions in June. Johnston also wasn't practice-squad eligible based on the number of games he played in 2008.

A defensive end in the Chiefs' 4-3 scheme, Johnston will stand out and play outside linebacker in the Dolphins' 3-4. The role still primarily consists of rushing the passer though it does come with more coverage responsibilities than you'd have as a lineman.

As it stands now, Johnston has a solid shot at making the team as a reserve outside linebacker. He is one of only five at the position under contract, joining Charlie Anderson, Joey Porter, Cameron Wake and Erik Walden. It's worth noting that Porter could end up being released in the offseason.

Jason Taylor is an unrestricted free agent and Quentin Moses is a restricted free agent. Taylor's return is up in the air although Moses will probably be tendered and re-signed.

Although he has the talent to compete, Johnston is no lock to make the team. He'll have to compete with players such as Walden and Moses for a roster spot—players who have pass-rushing skills of their own and have established themselves on special teams in Miami.