Thursday, September 9, 2010

Dolphins release Jake Grove, re-sign Cory Procter

Yet another high-profile free-agent signing by Bill Parcells and the Miami Dolphins has met an abrupt and unceremonious end, as the Dolphins terminated the contract of center Jake Grove today.

The oft-injured Grove played just one season for the Dolphins and started only 10 of 12 games after signing a five-year, $29 million contract that included $14.5 million guaranteed.

Grove's release comes soon after he missed the team's preseason finale with a shoulder injury and officially lost the starting center job for Sunday's regular season opener to Joe Berger.

To take Grove's spot on the roster, the Dolphins re-signed offensive lineman Cory Procter, who was with the team during the preseason and survived final cuts last Saturday, only to be released a day later.

An experienced interior lineman with 44 career games played and 13 starts, Procter will likely serve as the primary backup center to Berger in addition to being a reserve guard.

Analysis

I have to say that while I understand the logic behind this move, I am a bit surprised to see it happen at this time.

On the plus side, it clears the huge contract of an injury-prone player off the books in an uncapped year, which will come in handy if they ended up extending the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

It gives Joe Berger, who performed so well replacing an injured Grove in 2009, the uncontested starting center job.

However, Grove is probably the superior talent when healthy and is a much more proven NFL commodity. While Grove has started 56 of 66 games played in six seasons, Berger has largely been a backup in his career, having not started a game during his first four years in the NFL.

In the end, the Dolphins will probably be fine with Berger at center given his recent play, and the $700,000 salary is pretty appealing also.

The bigger concern that is highlighted by Grove's release is the ever-growing list of expensive free-agent busts signed by the current regime in Miami. Some examples:
  • WR Ernest Wilford (four years, $13 million, $6 million guaranteed) — three catches for 25 yards before release
  • QB Josh McCown (two years, $6.25 million) — traded to Carolina for seventh-round pick before ever playing a game with team
  • OG Justin Smiley (five years, $25 million, $9 million guaranteed) — 27 games played (24 starts) in two seasons before trade to Jacksonville
  • LB Reggie Torbor (four years, $14 million) — three starts, 54 tackles in two seasons before release
  • FS Gibril Wilson (five years, $27.5 million, $8 million guaranteed) — 93 tackles and no turnovers in one season before release
  • CB Eric Green (two years, $6 million) — released during first preseason with team

No football executive is perfect and Parcells does have quite a bit of credibility on his side. But the above free-agent signings, combined with big misses in the draft like Shawn Murphy, Patrick Turner, and Pat White, make it hard not to be at least a little concerned about the job the Dolphins' front office is doing.

While I don't consider Grove to be in the same category as Wilson or Wilford because he was actually a highly-productive player when he was on the field, he did have durability concerns coming in and was a risky signing at that price.

The Dolphins have made their share of good moves as well, and there is no question the team is in much better shape now than it was when Cam Cameron was in charge in 2007.

That being said, numerous mistakes by the Dolphins' front office over the past few years make it hard not to be concerned about whether or not the franchise can ever take the next step to becoming a serious contender.

As always, check out the updated projected depth chart reflecting these transactions here.


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