Tuesday, April 17, 2012

WR Legedu Naanee inks one-year deal with Dolphins

A day after visiting the Miami Dolphins, free agent wide receiver Legedu Naanee agreed to a one-year deal with the team on Tuesday.

Naanee is the first free agent addition the Dolphins have made at the wide receiver position this offseason. The team traded former Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall to the Chicago Bears in exchange for two third-round picks on March 13.

The Dolphins now have 65 players on the active roster, with 15 spots open on their 80-man offseason roster. Many of those will be filled by the Dolphins' eight draft choices as well as any undrafted rookie free agents.


Background

Naanee initially choose to attend Boise State over various offers from Pac-10 and Big 12 schools because of the opportunity to play quartebrack. However, after Jared Zabransky won the Broncos' starting quarterback job in 2004, Naanee moved to receiver for the opportunity to play.

Measuring in at 6-foot-2 and 226 pounds, Naanee impressed in pre-draft workouts with a 4.41 forty time and 40-inch vertical leap. The San Diego Chargers drafted Naanee in the fifth round (172nd overall) in 2007, nine picks before the Dolphins selected fullback Reagan Maui'a.

Naanee failed to start a single game in 29 appearances over his first two seasons, totaling 16 receptions for 133 yards during that span while also working on special teams. He moved into the team's No. 3 receiver role in 2009, catching 24 passes for 242 yards and two scores.

In what would be his final season in San Diego in 2010, Naanee started nine games in 10 appearances and hauled in 23 passes for 371 yards and one touchdown. His receiving total ranked fifth on the team, while his 16.1 yards-per-reception mark was third on the team among players with at least 15 receptions.

An unrestricted free agent in 2011, Naanee followed former Chargers' defensive coordinator Ron Rivera to Carolina, inking a one-year deal with the Panthers. Despite appearing in 15 games with 10 starts, Naanee totaled just 44 receptions for 467 yards and a touchdown.

Beyond that standard numbers, Naanee actually ranked as Pro Football Focus' worst-rated wide receiver in the NFL last season at No. 115 overall. He suffered a broken foot in Week 16 and finished the season on injured reserve, but he is reportedly recovered and participated in offseason workouts Tuesday.


Analysis

The common fan is going to read about this signing and go "how is this guy going to replace Marshall?" Plain and simple, he's not. The Dolphins parted ways with Marshall knowing full well they weren't going to land a big-time replacement in free agency this offseason, and that's not what this signing is about.

Signed to a one-year deal likely for the league minimum, Naanee is merely another body of competition for a Dolphins' receiving corps that is likely won't have a true. No. 1 included. Brian Hartline and Davone Bess should continue to figure into the team's passing offense, and the Dolphins will try to get more out of the physically-talented Naanee than two other teams have before.

The Dolphins will also likely look for a receiver to groom via the draft. You can't rule out Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon or Notre Dame's Michael Floyd if they are available at No. 8, even though most think the team will look at other positions before receiver. I'd also expect the team to strongly consider Iowa's Marvin McNutt in the third or fourth round, as new receivers coach Ken O'Keefe was McNutt's offensive coordinator at Iowa.

As of now, I'd project Naanee as the team's third or fourth receiver, behind Bess and Hartline, about even with second-year speedster, and having a slight leg up on the rest of the competition like Roberto Wallace, Marlon Moore and Julius Pruitt. That being said, Naanee has had enough chances in this league that he could end up being a September cut if he doesn't really stand out above the younger competition and special-teamers.

Those who are worried about the Dolphins' receiving corps shouldn't be, as Joe Philbin's offense in Green Bay lacked a first-round receiver and it's important to remember that Marshall himself was a fourth-round draft pick.

I'd also remind people that the Dolphins have a ridiculous amount of free agents coming in 2013 and thus an extremely large amount of cap room that will come with it. The Dolphins will be a rebuilding project in 2011 under Philbin, but the following offseason is when they new staff will really be able to mold the roster to its liking.

Check out the updated projected depth chart reflecting these transactions here.


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