Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Dolphins to work out fullback Ovie Mughelli

The traditional fullback has become something of a dying breed in the NFL, but the new offensive in Miami under Dolphins' head coach Joe Philbin and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman seems to be designed to utilize an old-school lead blocker.

Free agent fullback Ovie Mughelli, who was released by the Atlanta Falcons shortly after the 2012 NFL Draft, will work out for the Dolphins on Thursday, according to multiple reports.

The Dolphins have explored other options at the position already, including talking to linebacker prospects in the draft about a position change and working out former Titans veteran Ahmard Hall in early April.

A fourth-round pick out of Wake Forest in 2003, Mughelli spent four seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, working the final two as the Ravens' lead blocker and earning an all-pro nod in 2006.

After becoming an unrestricted free agent in the 2007 offseason, Mughelli signed a five-year, $18 million contract with the Falcons. The deal included a $5 million signing bonus and was the largest ever given to a fullback at the time.

In 2008, Mughelli served as Michael Turner's lead blocker as the Falcons' tailback racked up 1,699 yards and 17 touchdowns on the ground. A year later, Mughelli graded out a Pro Football Focus' top fullback in the NFL.

After grading out No. 1 again in 2010 and earning his first Pro Bowl selection, Mughelli dropped to 17th in PFF's rankings last season, although Turner still rushed for 1,340 yards and 11 touchdowns on a 4.5 average.

Despite Mughelli's high level of productivity in Atlanta, the Falcons drafted Wisconsin fullback Bradie Ewing in the fifth round of last month's draft and certainly preferred his minimum salary to Mughelli's $3 million base pay and $3.7 million cap number in the final year of his deal.

In Miami, Mughelli would be a nice addition at the right price, especially given that the new staff clearly has designs on utilizing such a player in its offense. The 6-foot-1, 250-pound Mughelli can still play at age 31 and has a quality track record as an mauling lead blocker.

The Dolphins currently don't have a true fullback on the roster. Second-year man Charles Clay is more of an H-back and tight end, while CFL running back Jerome Messam has fullback size at 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds but is unproven and recently underwent a second surgery on a knee injury suffered last year.

Dolphins sign undrafted rookie tackle Andrew McDonald

When the Dolphins initially signed 16 undrafted rookie free agents, I suggested the team might use its open roster spot by signing another such player if one stood out during last week's rookie minicamp, which included a number of other rookies participating on a tryout basis.

It seems that was exactly their plan, as a report last week out of Indiana reveals that the Dolphins have indeed signed former Hoosiers offensive tackle Andrew McDonald, who tried out with the Dolphins last week and had plans to try out with the Green Bay Packers.

The signing of McDonald, which was made official on May 14, gives the Dolphins 80 players under contract, nine unsigned rookie draft picks, and one open roster spot.

An Indianapolis native, McDonald redshirted during his freshman season at Indiana in 2007. As a redshirt freshman the following season, he appeared in five games at tackle and guard, including starts at left guard against Iowa and Illinois.

After appearing in eight games as a reserve tackle in 2009, McDonald started all 11 games at left tackle and allowed just a half-sack on the season. He started all 12 games at left tackle as a senior, helping the Hoosiers' rushing attack reach its highest production in more than a decade.

Measuring in at just under 6-foot-6 and 316 pounds at his Pro Day on March 15, McDonald a forty time of around 5.25 seconds and 23 bench reps. He added a broad jump of 8 feet, 9 inches and a 20-yard shuttle time of 4.8 seconds.

McDonald, who borrowed Nate Garner's No. 75 for the minicamp, will be assigned a new number for training camp. He likely received the same three-year deal all the team's undrafted rookies did, which includes base salaries of $390,000 in 2012, $480,000 in 2013 and $570,000 in 2014. He will be a restricted free agent in 2015 should he play out the contract.

He'll have his hands full trying to make the roster, however, as the seventh or eighth tackle on the depth chart. At best he could hope for a practice squad spot with a stellar showing in camp, but there isn't much upside here and I'm not expecting much.

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