Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Dolphins sign OT Will Barker away from Buccaneers; make practice squad moves

Desperately in need of a ginger former Cowboys offensive lineman since backup guard/tackle Pat McQuistan was not re-signed as a free agent in the offseason, the Dolphins have apparently remedied the situation by signing second-year tackle Will Barker off the practice squad of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Barker replaces veteran cornerback Nate Jones, who saw his contract terminated Tuesday. The former Dolphins nickel back returned to Miami two weeks ago due to injuries in the Dolphins' secondary after playing last season with the Broncos. He appeared in two games for the Dolphins after his signing, recording one tackle.

The Dolphins also made a few practice squad moves, releasing running back Nic Grisgsby and offensive tackle D. J. Jones, re-signing cornerback Vince Agnew, and signing undrafted rookie nose tackle Isaako Aaitui.


Will Barker

A Bryn Mawr, Pa. native, Barker redshirted his first season a the University of Virginia before earning the team's starting right tackle job the following spring. He was a freshman All-American in 2006 and went on to start 49 consecutive games for the Cavaliers over four seasons while playing opposite three future NFL first-round picks in D'Brickashaw Ferguson (Jets), Branden Albert (Chiefs) and Eugene Monroe (Jaguars).

The 6-foot-7, 325-pound Barker was signed by the Cowboys as an undrafted free agent following the 2010 NFL Draft. He attended training camp with the team before being waived during final cuts.

Barker began the 2010 regular season on the Buccaneers' practice squad, where he remained until Oct. 29 when he was promoted to the active roster. He appeared in three games as a reserve during his rookie season, making his NFL debut on Oct. 31 against the Arizona Cardinals.

Despite finishing the season on the active roster, Barker initially failed to make the team in 2011 and was re-signed to the team's practice squad after being waived during final cuts. He remained there until being signed by the Dolphins on Oct. 5.

Because he was signed off another team's practice squad, the Dolphins cannot replace Barker on the roster for at least three weeks. He will wear his college No. 61 with the team.


Isaako Aaitui

A Pago Pago native, The 6-foot-3, 315-pound Aaitui spent four seasons at UNLV, including the last three years as a starter. He appeared in 43 games and recorded 100 tackles (16.5 for a loss), four sacks, a forced fumble, and blocked kick. He went undrafted in the 2011 NFL Draft and did not attend training camp with the team.

This actually isn't the first time I've written about Aaitui, as he was initially worked out by the Dolphins on Sept. 21 along with a handful of other free agents. He will reportedly wear No. 90 in practice for the Dolphins after wearing No. 99 at UNLV.


Analysis

With a bye week looming and starting cornerback Vontae Davis returning to practice Wednesday, the need for Jones was no longer as great and he obviously hadn't made himself a vital part of the secondary during his two weeks here. Nolan Carroll and Jimmy Wilson will continue to serve as backups despite their strugles, while returning practice-squadder Vince Agnew will provide the practice depth lost with Jones.

Meanwhile, practice squad tackle D. J. Jones was no longer needed with the arrival of Barker. The long-time starting college tackle has good size for the position, plenty of experience, but limited athleticism and agility. He will likely be limited to right tackle in the NFL, lacking the talent for the blind side and probably being too tall for guard.

While Barker may not be long in Miami and could just be on an extended audition for a backup role, it's at least worth considering that the team could be moving to replace Marc Colombo at right tackle. The veteran starter's struggles have been well-documented this season, so it's not out of the realm of possibility the team could Colombo, insert Nate Garner as a starting right tackle, and use Barker as a backup.

As for Aaitui, he seems fairly raw and a borderline NFL talent. I've been unable to figure out why he did not attend training camp with a team (this is actually his first NFL signing since the draft), whether it be due to a college injury or simply talent. He did beat out a handful of other free agents for the gig though and will likely serve as a backup to Paul Soliai in practice with Frank Kearse gone to Carolina and Ryan Baker released last week.

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


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