Thursday, January 5, 2012

Dolphins re-sign seven to future contracts

As is usually the case at the conclusion of the season, the Miami Dolphins have re-signed a handful of players to future contracts.

Per Rotoworld, back with the Dolphins for the 2012 offseason will be nose tackle Isaako Aaitui, cornerback Vince Agnew, cornerback Marcus Brown, wide receiver Chris Hogan, linebacker Jonathan Freeny, safety Anderson Russell and cornerback Jonathan Wade. Six of these players finished the season on the Dolphins' practice squad, while Wade, who has no practice squad eligibility, returns after a three-week stint on the active roster in November.

Quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson and running back Ian Johnson are the lone practice squad players that have not yet been re-signed by the Dolphins this offseason. Both were late-season additions to the practice squad after the promotions of quarterback Pat Devlin and running back Richard Medlin to the active roster.

These seven signings give the Dolphins 49 players on its 80-man offseason roster. The team also have 17 free agents, which can be broken down further into two exclusive-rights, four restricted, and 11 unrestricted.

NT Isaako Aaitui

A three-year starter at UNLV, Aaitui went undrafted in the 2011 NFL Draft. Whether due to injury or lack of interest, he did not attend training camp with the team was was originally signed to the Dolphins' practice squad in early October.

The 6-foot-3, 315-pound Aaitui has your prototypical 3-4 nose tackle build, but his NFL prospects are questionable at best. He has a chance to make it to camp and compete for a backup job, especially since Paul Soliai is unsigned, but he'll be a long shot to make the final roster.

CB Vince Agnew

Undrafted out of Central Michigan in 2011, Agnew player for the Dolphins in the preseason and even logged an interception, although he did not make the final roster. He had a couple separate stints on the practice squad, between which he was a free agent.

Agnew provided practice depth for the Dolphins in 2011, but not much else. The team added a few other cornerbacks to the active roster over him during the season and temporarily replaced him with Brandon King until he was re-signed to the Colts' active roster. Agnew will have to make his mark on special teams to make the roster, but he'll probably have a hard time doing so.

CB Marcus Brown

After an underwhelming collegiate career at Arkansas State, Brown went undrafted in 2010 and spent most of his rookie season on the Seahawks' practice squad. He made his NFL debut in the team's regular season finale, but was cut just one game into the 2011 preseason. The Dolphins signed him to their practice squad in early December.

Brown boasts 4.3 speed but has yet to translate that into an NFL career, and he may never do so. He'll compete with Agnew and a handful of others for a backup defensive back spot, but special teams will be his primary focus.

WR Chris Hogan

A standout lacrosse player at Penn State, Hogan chose to pursue a career in football and transferred to Monmouth, where he played both defensive back and wide receiver. He caught only 12 passes in his lone collegiate season, but found the end zone three times and caught the eyes of scouts with his 220-pound build and 4.4 speed. He spent training camp with the 49ers after going undrafted in 2011 and had a brief stint on the Giants' practice squad in September before finally joining the Dolphins' practice squad last week.

As you'd expect, Hogan is extremely raw and is probably a long way from ever seeing an NFL field during the regular season. He'll have his hands full competing with the likes of Marlon Moore, Roberto Wallace, and Julius Pruitt for a backup receiver spot, and he's the biggest long shot of the bunch right now.

OLB Jonathan Freeny

After a nine-sack performance at Rutgers in 2009, Freeny struggled during his senior campaign and wound up going undrafted in the 2011 NFL Draft. He spent the preseason with the Dolphins before being released during final cuts, and he remained an NFL free agent until being re-signed in December. He is actually under contract with the arena league's Chicago Rush while he pursues his NFL dreams.

A converted defensive end, Freeny looks the part of a 3-4 outside linebacker, but has really struggled to stay employed at the professional level thus far. He has experience in the system from his time in Miami over the past year, but he'll have to make significant strides to stick around in 2012.

SS Anderson Russell

A four-year starter at Ohio State, Russell went undrafted in 2010 and spent his rookie season with the Washington Redskins, appearing in two games and recording two tackles. He was added to the Dolphins' practice squad in September 2011 and has remained there ever since.

With two regular season games played, Russell actually has the second-most NFL experience of anyone on this list. He's also spent a good portion of the season on the practice squad, which bodes well for his ability to contribute in training camp in 2012. I think there could be some turnover at strong safety this year due for cap reasons, so Russell will have a chance to earn a backup spot and special-teams role.

CB Jonathan Wade

Originally a third-round pick by the Rams in 2007, Wade has plenty of NFL experience but has failed to translate an impressive collegiate career and blazing speed into a steady NFL job. Since being let go by St. Louis after the 2009 season, Wade has bounced around with the Lions, Bengals, and Dolphins. He initially came to Miami in November and appeared in two games, but was released when placekicker Shayne Graham was signed to fill in for an injured Dan Carpenter.

On one hand, Wade clearly has the most raw talent of any of these signings as a former third-round pick and thus has the most upside as well. On the other hand, he's also had the most time to prove himself in the NFL and has failed to do so in four NFL seasons.

The Dolphins obviously like Wade enough to bring him back and it's obvious the team would have kept him around if he had practice-squad eligibility. With Will Allen questionable to return in 2012, Wade will have a chance to compete for a backup roster spot at corner. Whether or not he actually can do it remains to be seen.

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

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