Despite already being under today's new 75-man roster limit (down from the offseason limit of 80) the Miami Dolphins made two more in-house roster moves to clear too more spots from the active roster.
Offensive tackle Nate Garner has been placed on season-ending injured reserve with a foot injury, while defensive end Phillip Merling (Achilles' tendon) moves from the Active/Non-Football Injury to the Reserve version of the list.
Both moves remove the players from the active roster, leaving the Dolphins with just 72 active players. Linebacker A. J. Edds (already on injured reserve with a torn ACL but still counting on the 80-man) also clears from the active roster with today's cut down date arriving.
By being under the limit, the Dolphins have the flexibility to sign free agents or claim a player or two off waivers from other teams' cuts.
The Dolphins have one preseason game left—at Dallas on Thursday—before they must cut down to their final 53 players on Saturday, Sept. 4.
There is no surprise with the Merling transaction, as this was only a matter of time. The move clears Merling from the active roster and allows the team to pursue some or all of his 2010 salary, although whether or not the team will do so is still unknown.
Although he is likely out for the entire 2010 season anyway due to his torn Achilles', I would like to clarify that this move does not officially force Merling out for the season. Rather, the NFI list works the same way as the PUP list—he can be activated in six weeks, or remain out the entire season.
Regardless, it has been a disappointing turn of events for the 2008 second-round pick, who was arrested for domestic battery against his pregnant girlfriend in the offseason before suffering the injury. Although the team will retain his rights and could bring him back in 2011 if he's healthy, they can't be happy with his off-the-field issues or lack of development.
With the starting defensive ends set for years to come in Kendall Langford and Jared Odrick, it remains to be seen if Merling will ever play for the Dolphins again and what kind of role he may have.
As for Garner, the move is somewhat surprising in the sense that Garner is a valuable and versatile backup to have and is someone the team would obviously like to have available, even for half a season, if possible.
Obviously, the Dolphins weren't confident in his ability to recover from foot surgery, or they simply didn't feel as if they could afford to carry an injured Garner on the 53-man roster for possibly half the year.
Garner's departure from the team's 2010 depth chart really hurts the team's depth—not only at his current tackle position, but also across the board as he has played both center and guard and started a handful of games at guard in 2009.
The team's only remaining backup tackles are Andrew Gardner and Lydon Murtha, who have a combined two games played in three combined pro seasons.
Both players have struggled in camp thus far and neither is ready for a significant role in the NFL. In my opinion, the team would prefer to keep neither player active if they currently had better options.
In my best estimation, Murtha will make the team (for now) and Gardner will be waived and possibly re-signed to the practice squad. However, I fully expect the Dolphins to scour the waiver wires for a potential upgrade at the backup tackle spot, which could force Murtha off the roster.
Also due to Garner's injury, I am now predicting guard Donald Thomas will make the roster at left guard. Thomas has failed to develop in two pro seasons and has been playing only with the third-team offense this preseason.
I will have a final prediction for the 53-man roster up Friday (after the final preseason game and before final cuts) so be sure to look out for that.
As always, check out the updated projected depth chart here.
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