Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Dolphins re-sign Will Allen amid secondary struggles

The Miami Dolphins have filled the void left by the hasty release of cornerback Benny Sapp, re-signing veteran corner Will Allen to a one-year contract.

Sapp was released Monday after being a major culprit on Tom Brady's 517-yard passing effort against the Dolphins' defense, including allowing a 99-yard touchdown reception by former Dolphins receiver Wes Welker.

Allen is likely to be installed immediately among the team's top three cornerbacks, joining official starters Vontae Davis and Sean Smith. Expect to see a whole lot of Allen this Sunday against the high-powered Houston Texans offense.

Originally a first-round pick by the New York Giants out of Syracuse in 2001, Allen spent five seasons in New York before signing a four-year, $12 million contract with the Miami Dolphins. He signed a contract extension with the team in 2009.

Allen excelled in coverage for the Dolphins, intercepting seven passes and totaling 45 pass deflections over four seasons. A torn ACL during the 2009 season landed him on injured reserve, and further knee complications wiped out his 2010 campaign.

Despite renegotiating his contract down to just $1.5 million in 2011, Allen missed time in training camp and the preseason with an injury and did not appear in a game until the preseason finale. In the end, the Dolphins chose Sapp over Allen in final cuts.

While Allen returns to a prominent position in the Dolphins' secondary, one thing that appears to be changing is his jersey number. Seventh-round rookie Jimmy Wilson took Allen's No. 25 following final cuts after wearing No. 35 during the preseason. Allen is currently listed as wearing No. 38, which had previously belonged to running back Patrick Cobbs.


My issue with this signing is not that Allen is a bad player, because he's not. In fact, Allen was an underrated cover guy during his first stint in Miami. I'll admit his age and recent injury history concern me, but if he's healthy, he's an asset to any defense he's on, including the Dolphins'.

My problem is that the Dolphins made a football decision to keep Sapp over Allen in Week 1 and I fail to see how their minds could have changed after one bad game against an elite quarterback and offense.

It wasn't about money, as both players were in the final year of their deals and Allen was actually slated to make $100,000 less than Sapp in 2011. Both players had renegotiated their contracts in the offseason, with Allen going from $5.5 million to $1.5 million and Sapp from $1.9 million to $1.6 million.

The only other reasons you'd cut Allen and keep Sapp is because you thought Sapp was better in the nickel role (debatable, probably not true) or, as I've suggested, that Allen's age and knee problems caused you to worry if he could stay healthy for an entire NFL season. It was an entirely logical concern and one that I supported when I suggested Allen would be cut.

Either way, Sapp was your guy in Week 1, but now he isn't? This is a knee-jerk move by the Dolphins after a bad game and clearly isn't based on anything else. The mere fact that Allen's No. 25 was given to a rookie before Week 1 indicates the Dolphins had no prior plans to cut Sapp and bring back Allen. Teams don't give away a veteran's number if they know he's going to be back shortly.'s Michael Lombardi makes a lot of good points about Sapp in this column, which I highly recommend reading. As Lombardi says, "If he was good enough to make the team and get the guarantee, then how can one bad play cost him his job?"

So my issue with these roster moves is not the re-signing of Allen, per se. If healthy, he'll give the Dolphins a third player capable of starting at cornerback, and one has to imagine Davis, Smith and the rest of the Dolphins' will rebound from the ugly Monday night game.

My problem is that this organization doesn't always seem to now what it's doing, seeing as how they either made a mistake in keeping Sapp or made a mistake in cutting him. The Dolphins committed to paying Sapp anyway, so he's gone from your nickel corner for the second straight year to not even in the top five in just a few days?

As Wilson and Nolan Carroll showed us Monday night, they aren't ready to play defense in the NFL. And if Allen should go down again and the Dolphins are left with just two capable (but young) corners, I'm going to be sitting here wondering why the team intentionally thinned it's depth, got rid of a player it had to play anyway, and didn't see it coming before the season opener.

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

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