Thursday, March 18, 2010

Dolphins sign guard Richie Incognito

Despite already having one of the most productive offensive lines in football, the Miami Dolphins have made a move to shore up the problematic right guard spot, signing free agent Richie Incognito to a one-year contract.

Background

A New Jersey native, Incognito played high school football in Glendale, Ariz. and was named an All-American offensive lineman.

After redshirting as a true freshman at Nebraska in 2001, Incognito appeared in all 14 games for the Cornhuskers in 2002, earning recognition on several Freshman All-American teams as well as Freshman All-Big 12 honors.

After earning a first-team All-Big 12 selection as a left tackle in 2003, Incognito was moved to center during the spring of 2004, but was kicked off the team prior to the season due to off-the-field incidents.

Incognito then transferred to the University of Oregon, but was unable to play in 2004 due to NCAA transfer rules.

Incognito impressed at the 2005 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, posting a 4.84 40-yard dash, 29 reps on the bench press, and a Wonderlic score of 32. However, he suffered a serious knee injury during drills, which eventually forced him to miss his rookie season after being selected by the Rams in the third round of the 2005 NFL Draft.

After starting the 2006 regular season opener at left guard, Incognito became the Rams' starting center in Week 2 of the 2006 season after a season-ending injury to starter Andy McCollum and went on open all 16 games for the Rams that year.

During the 2006 preseason, Incognito was fined $5,000 for two illegal chop blocks against the Kansas City Chiefs. He was fined by the league again in Week 10 of the regular season for unnecessary roughness.

Ankle and knee injuries limited Incognito to just four games in 2007, and he eventually landed on injured reserve due to a partial dislocation of his right knee.

After starting 15 games for the Rams in 2008, Incognito re-signed with the team as a restricted free agent during the 2009 offseason.

Incognito once again drew fines in the 2009 season opener, being docked $12,500 for two unnecessary roughness penalties against the Seattle Seahawks.

Despite starting the Rams' first seven games, Incognito missed time due to injury, and was benched upon his return in Week 14 after earning two personal foul penalties due to head butts and arguing with head coach Steve Spagnuolo. Incognito was fined $50,000 for the incident, and the team him the following week.

The Dolphins placed a waived claim for Incognito upon his release from the Rams, but he was awarded to the Buffalo Bills due to waiver priority.

Due to a myriad injuries along the Buffalo offensive line, Incognito started the team's final three games at right guard.

A restricted free agent in the 2010 offseason, Incognito was not tendered a contract by the Bills, allowing him to freely sign with any team.

After visiting the Dolphins and Cincinnati Bengals, as well as conducting a phone interview with the Indianapolis Colts, Incognito signed a one-year contract with the Dolphins on Mar. 17.

Incognito will wear No. 68 in Miami, and will have a base salary of $725,000 in 2010. His contract also contains a $25,000 signing bonus, $50,000 workout bonus, and a $125,000 Week 1 roster bonus.

Analysis

Although the Dolphins' offensive line has been an overall strong and productive unit, the right guard spot has been a bit of a question mark in recent years.

After a game of music chairs in 2008 following Donald Thomas' Week 1 injury, Thomas was unable to hang onto the job in 2009 and Nate Garner was only average in his place.

Incognito provides much more talent and upside than either Thomas or Garner, making him a good low-risk signing for the Dolphins. His deal is small in both length and value, making him someone that would be easy to cut prior to the season if things didn't work out.

Obviously, Incognito has had some maturity issues in the past, and there is no telling if the guy will ever truly get things together mentally. He also has a somewhat troubling injury history, bringing his durability into question.

That said, Incognito is absolutely a starting-caliber guard and center in the NFL and has the powerful, mauling type of play the Dolphins love, making him what could be the final piece in Miami's expensive but highly-efficient offensive line.

Assuming he can stay healthy and out of the team's doghouse, I fully expect Incognito to win the Dolphins' starting right guard job in 2010, pushing Thomas to a bench role. Such an event would also allow Garner to serve as a versatile backup, as he is capable of playing every position on the line.


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