Friday, March 16, 2012

Dolphins add free agents Artis Hicks, Jamaal Westerman

As the high-profile free agents scatter across the NFL landscape, the Miami Dolphins continue to add to their roster's depth with the additions of offensive lineman Artis Hicks and linebacker/defensive end Jamaal Westerman.

A 10-year NFL veteran, Hicks has 71 career starts under his belt during stints with the Eagles, Vikings, Redskins and Browns. He will receive a one-year, $2 million contract from the Dolphins with an additional $500,000 available via incentives.

Westerman joins the Dolphins after three seasons with the New York Jets, having signed with the team as an undrafted free agent out of Rutgers in 2009. He was non-tendered as a restricted free agent before the 2012 offseason began.

The two signings give the Dolphins 60 players on the active roster, meaning their still have 20 spots to work with heading into training camp.


Artis Hicks

A Jackson, Tenn. native, Hicks attended the University of Memphis before going undrafted in 2002 and signing with the Philadelphia Eagles. He spent four seasons with his first pro team, starting 31 games including 27 over his final two seasons.

In 2006, Hicks was traded to the Minnesota Vikings where he reunited with head coach Brad Childress, who was his offensive coordinator in Philadelphia. After starting 14 games in his first season in Minnesota, he opened just 13 contests over the next three seasons before becoming a free agent.

Hicks spent the 2010 season with the Washington Redskins, starting 10 of 15 games at right guard. Released just before the 2011 season, Hicks landed in Cleveland and opened three games at right tackle.


Jamaal Westerman

A two-time All-Big East selection at Rutgers, Westerman finished his collegiate career with 141 tackles, 45 tackles for a loss, and sack total of 26 that ranked him third all-time in school history. He was undrafted in 2009 and signed a free agent contract with the New York Jets.

Westerman appeared in 14 games as a rookie, notching a sack in his NFL debut against the Texans while finishing the seasons with 10 tackles. He totaled seven tackles in just six games in 2010, seeing only 32 defensive snaps all season.

In what is his best season to date, Westerman played 411 defensive snaps in 2011 and set career highs with 3.5 sacks and nine pressures. He missed just one tackle all season and graded out positively in two of his three starts on the season.

A restricted free agent in the 2012 offseason, Westerman was non-tendered by the Jets and underwent surgery to repair a torn groin in early February. He arrives with a few ties to the Dolphins' organization, having played with Jason Taylor in 2010 and current Dolphins' defensive end Jonathan Freeny (a 2011 undrafted free agent) for two seasons at Rutgers.


Analysis

The Hicks signing is a curious one, and one that concerns me a bit given how much money the Dolphins are spending on him for the 2011 season. Hicks is going to make at least $2 million this season if he makes the team, but in reality he is not a starting talent and shouldn't even be viewed as a short-term option in that capacity.

The 33-year-old has started games at every offensive line position except center, but he hasn't fared well at guard or tackle in recent years. He'd hardly be an upgrade over Marc Colombo, which is why I hope the team doesn't view him as the fix there. At this point in his career, there'd be no reason to start him over Nate Garner or Lydon Murtha.

In short, Hicks is a guy that can play most every position but can't play any of them well. And if that's the case, why are we paying $2 million for backup and spot starter when there are cheaper, comparable alternatives to be had?

As for Westerman, he likely comes cheap and is a quality special-teamer. He's coming off his best pro season when he did flash a bit on the defensive side of the ball, but he's far from a lock to be a consistent contributor in that area.

As the Dolphins' roster currently stands, Westerman would be competing to start at right defensive end fellow special-teamer with Jason Trusnik. (Actually, they'd probably start Jared Odrick there right now due to lack of options.) However, one would expect the Dolphins to explore better options for a quality starter opposite Cameron Wake in the team's new 4-3 scheme, potentially with the No. 8 overall pick in April's draft.

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


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