Monday, June 11, 2012

Chad Ochocinco bringing his talents to South Beach

Since the Miami Dolphins traded Brandon Marshall to the Chicago Bears in March, all the talk of the offseason is how the team is lacking a true No. 1 receiver. Whether or not Chad Ochocinco is still a No. 1 receiver is certainly debatable, but the Dolphins have indeed signed the former Pro Bowler to a one-year contract.

A move first reported on Ochocinco's own website, the move has since been confirmed by media outlets and comes just four days after his release from the Patriots, who cut the veteran receiver after just one season in New England.

The Dolphins don't have to make a corresponding move to make room for Ochocinco, as his signing gives them 88 players on the 90-man offseason roster. They will, however, now need to clear a spot to sign all three of their draft picks.

The signing should also appeal to HBO's Hard Knocks, which announced last week it would be featuring the Dolphins during training camp in 2012. Ochocinco previously went through the Hard Knocks routine with the Bengals in 2009.


Background

A Miami native, Ochocinco (then Chad Johnson) began his collegiate career at Santa Monica College playing alongside future Panthers' receiver Steve Smith. Ochocinco later transferred to Oregon State and helped the team win the Fiesta Bowl over Notre Dame.

Selected by the Cincinnati Bengals in the second round of the 2001 NFL Draft, Ochocino caught 28 passes for 329 yards as a rookie before breaking out in 2002 with 69 catches for for 1,166 yards and five touchdowns.

In 2003, Ochocinco set a franchise record with 1,355 receiving yards and earned the first of five consecutive Pro Bowl selections. He would go on to break his own record twice more and led the AFC in receiving for four seasons from 2003 to 2006.

After the 2008 season that saw him post the worst numbers (53 receptions, 540 yards) since his rookie year, Ochocinco rebounded in 2009 with 1,047 yards and nine scores to earn his sixth career Pro Bowl berth. He caught 67 passes for 831 yards and four scores in his final season in Cincinnati in 2010.

In July 2011, Ochocinco was acquired by the Patriots for two late-round draft choices and agreed to restructure his contract to a three-year deal worth $6.35 million. Despite his previous success the Patriots' high-powered offense, Ochocinco failed to become a factor with only three starts and 15 receptions for 276 yards and a score.


Analysis

When it was first suggested that Ochocinco could be a target for the Dolphins, I couldn't bring myself to rule it out. I don't particularly care for the guy or his antics, but he was certainly an intriguing and inexpensive option to bolster the team's receiving corps in the short term.

Even if you don't like Ochocinco, there's little reason to be upset about this move because he likely received a one-year contract for the veteran minimum with few guarantees. While I'd expect Ochocinco to make the roster and start for Miami in 2012, it's not out of the realm of possibility that he doesn't make the team at all.

While he isn't quite the franchise receiver he once was in Cincinnati and his ability to separate has waned, Ochocinco still does have the talent to be a 1,000-yard receiver as a No. 1 option if he can keep himself motivated and not cause problems in the locker room. If the 34-year-old Ochocinco is smart, he has to realize this might be his last chance to prevent his career from going the way of Terrell Owens.

Assuming Ochocinco does make the team and does start (he wouldn't make the team as a backup but would just be released instead), his presence hurts the competition of all the fringe receivers competing for a final fifth or sixth spot in the receiving corps.

The Dolphins would likely be set with Ochocinco, Brian Hartline, Davone Bess and Clyde Gates as the top four, meaning the bunch vying for the one or two final spot(s) would include an underwhelming veteran (Legedu Naanee), former undrafted players Marlon Moore and Roberto Wallace, two late-round draft picks (B. J. Cunningham and Rishard Matthews), a perpetual practice-squadder in Julius Pruitt, an ex-lacrosse player (Chris Hogan) and undrafted rookies Jeff Fuller and Derek Moye.

If Omar Kelly's OTA reports are to be believed, Naanee is having an impressive showing thus far. However, I find it unlikely the the team would keep him as the No. 4 or 5 receiver over younger players that haven't had as much time to prove themselves as Naanee, who has largely failed in that regard.

My best guess is that the team would keep a standout special-teamer (Wallace is the most proven in that arena but some of the newcomers could challenge) and/or one of the rookies—specially, Cunningham, Matthews, or Fuller, who played for offensive coordinator Mike Sherman at Texas A&M and has a bit of upside.

Perhaps most importantly (not really), rookie Rishard Matthews has been assigned No. 85, so Ochocinco will have to work out some sort of deal if he wants to don his traditional number for training camp.

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


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