Saturday, August 6, 2011

Dolphins sign OT Ray Willis, work out QB Troy Smith

The Miami Dolphins continue to beef up their offensive line depth, signing former Seattle Seahawks offensive tackle Ray Willis while releasing undrafted rookie tackle Micah Kia.

A borderline NFL prospect from UCLA, Kia lasted just three days on the roster after being signed by the team as a rookie free agent on Aug. 3.

Willis, who spent all of last season on injured reserve with a knee injury, will take Kia's No. 64 and will likely work at right tackle for the Dolphins. The team's roster remains at 82 players.

According to Adam Caplan, the Dolphins also worked out former Ravens and 49ers quarterback Troy Smith late this week, presumably around the same time they worked out Kevin O'Connell.

A former Heisman Trophy winner at Ohio State, Smith was selected by the Ravens in the fifth round in 2007 and spent three seasons with the team before being dealt to the 49ers. He started six games for San Francisco last season, throwing for 1,176 yards and five touchdowns with four interceptions.

Considering O'Connell was just signed yesterday, it seems unlikely the Dolphins will make the 27-year-old Smith an offer any time soon. If he were to be signed, he would likely compete for the third-string job with O'Connell or Pat Devlin.

Ray Willis

An Angelton, Texas native, Willis started 35 games over his four-year collegiate career at Florida State, earning honorable mention All-ACC honors as a senior in 2004 while teaming with future first-round pick Alex Barron to form one of the nation's top tackle duos.

After being selected by the Seahawks in the fourth round of the 2005 NFL Draft, he spent much of his first two seasons inactive, playing in only six games as a rookie and just one in 2006, with no starts either season. A knee injury forced him to miss time in 2007 and he appeared in only five games with zero starts.

Willis finally saw significant playing time in 2008, starting 10 of 16 games primarily at right tackle while allowing just 1.5 sacks on the season. He started all 16 games at right tackle for the Seahawks, allowing six sacks.

After going arthroscopic knee surgery in August 2010, Willis was placed on season-ending injured reserve before the start of the regular season.

An unrestricted free agent in the 2011 offseason, the 28-year-old Willis expressed interest in playing closer to the state of Florida, where he attended college. Represented by Drew Rosenhaus, he initially worked out for the Dolphins on Sunday, July 30.


Dolphins fans may be growing tired of these underwhelming offensive line signings, but I actually like this addition and think it's a good move for the team.

The 6-foot-6, 304-pound Willis has plenty of NFL experience and held his own as a starter for the Seahawks in 2009 before missing last season due to injury. He's a powerful run blocker with good technique and the versatility to play both tackle positions as well as guard, although he is best suited for the right side.

Willis' durability is a bit of a concern and his athleticism and agility were already the weaker points of his game. However, he's still a borderline NFL starter and at worst profiles as a quality backup for the Dolphins.

For now, I'd expect Willis to work as Marc Colombo's primary backup at right tackle, given that Lydon Murtha has been tasked with replacing Jake Long (PUP) at left tackle in training camp. The move may also mean that Nate Garner will focus more on guard.

Willis isn't going to be a lock to make the Dolphins' final roster, but he does possess the talent do so and could even challenge for the starting right tackle job down the line in a best-case scenario.

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

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