Saturday, September 1, 2012

Dolphins awarded Anthony Armstrong, three others off waivers

The Miami Dolphins cut 22 players from the roster yesterday to get down to a total of 53, but everyone knew the roster would undergo further changes once the team had its shot at players exposed to waivers.

The Dolphins announced the acquisition of four players off waivers Saturday—most notablly wide receiver Anthony Armstrong, who spent the 2008 season on the team's practice squad. As you probably know, Armstrong went on to establish himself as a capable deep threat with the Washington Redskins in 2010, though injuries and a numbers crunch saw him waived during Friday's cuts.

In addition to Armstrong, the Dolphins also landed undrafted rookie linebacker Sammy Brown from the Rams, safety Troy Nolan from the Texans and cornerback R. J. Stanford from the Panthers off waivers.

To make room for the four new faces, the team terminated the contracts of safety Tyrone Culver and running back Steve Slaton while waiving linebackers Jonathan Freeny and Josh Kaddu. Slaton was rumored to be headed to the Redskins in a trade for Armstrong yesterday, although that deal never materialized.

The Dolphins are back to 53 players after today's moves and should be formulating their practice squad today and tomorrow from their own cuts and perhaps a few from other teams. Rookie offensive tackle Andrew McDonald has already confirmed he is returning to the practice squad via Twitter.


Anthony Armstrong

A two-time Lone Star Conference selection at West Texas A&M, Armstrong went undrafted in 2005. He spent 2006 with the Odessa Roughnecks of the Intense Football League and the following season with the Dallas Desperados of the Arena Football League. (Coincidentally, Dolphins fullback Jorvorskie Lane played for the same Roughnecks franchise in 2010.)

Armstrong initially signed with the Dolphins in July 2008 and spent the entire season on the team's practice squad. He attended training camp with the team in 2009 before being waived during final cuts. He spent most of the regular season on the Redskins' practice squad.

In 2010, Armstrong not only made the Redskins' roster but emerged as their best deep threat, catching 44 passes for 871 yards (a 19.8-yard average) and three touchdowns. He started just two of 14 contests last season, however, catching seven passes for 103 yards and two scores.

A shoulder injury limited Armstrong during training camp in 2012 and was waived despite the Redskins despite the fact that the team kept seven other receivers. The 29-year-old is officially listed at 5-foot-11 and 179 pounds and is due $540,000 in 2012 before hitting restricted free agency in the offseason.


Sammy Brown

Brown played basketball only as a high school junior before hitting the gridiron as a senior. He attended Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College for two seasons before transferring to the University of Houston in 2010.

Starting 11 of 12 games played as a junior, Brown made an immediate impact for the Cougars as a pass-rushing outside linebacker in their 3-4 scheme, racking up 76 tackles (20 for a loss), 7.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.  As a senior, he racked up an incredible 93 tackles (30 for a loss), 13.5 sacks and three forced fumbles.

Despite his impressive collegiate production, the 6-foot-2, 242-pound Brown was projected as a Day 3 draft pick and ended up going undrafted due in part to concerns about his motor and effort. He signed with the Rams as an undrafted free agent and recorded two tackles in four preseason appearances.


Troy Nolan

After two seasons as College of the Canyons, Nolan transferred to Arizona State in 2007. He started 25 games in his two-year career and served as team captain as a senior in 2008, racking up 128 tackles, 10 interceptions and 13 pass deflections. He scored an incredible five defensive touchdowns, including four interception returns and a fumble return.

A seventh-round pick by the Texans in 2009, Nolan suffered a wrist injury in the preseason and spent his entire rookie season on injured reserve. He appeared in a 16 games (three starts) in 2010, totaling 49 tackles, three interceptions and five pass deflections. Last year, he played in 14 games (three starts) and racked up 35 tackles and four pass deflections.

Nolan, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract, is due $540,000 after taking a pay cut from $1.308 with the Texans this offseason. He will be an unrestricted free agent if he gains a fourth accrued season (six or more games on the active roster) with the Dolphins.


R. J. Stanford

A California native, Stanford played in 52 games over four seasons at the University of Utah, including 22 starts. A three-year teammate of current Dolphins cornerback Sean Smith, Stanford finished his collegiate career with 125 tackles, four sacks, an interception, 12 passes deflections and three fumble recoveries.

Stanford was selected 223rd overall in the seventh round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Panthers. He spent the first 14 weeks of his rookie season on the team's practice squad before moving up to the active roster for the final three weeks.

Last season, Stanford worked primarily on special teams in 13 appearances (no starts), recording 13 tackles, an interception returned 53 yards and a pass deflection. He is set to make $540,000 in 2012 and will be an exclusive-rights free agent in the offseason.


Analysis

First on the players released: fifth-round linebacker Kaddu joins sixth-round wide receiver B. J. Cunningham as the two Dolphins' 2012 draft picks to not make the roster. (Cunningham was claimed off waivers by the Eagles.) Kaddu is an athletics but raw specimen that would likely find his way back to the practice squad if he clears waivers. It's hard to imagine two outside linebackers on the Dolphins' practice squad, so Freeny might only be asked back if Kaddu gets poached by another team.

It's no surprise to see the veterans Slaton and Culver go, either. Slaton is certainly expendable given the Dolphins' deep running back position and he loses a roster spot to Marcus Thigpen, who can also play slot receiver and appears to be the team's return specialist. Culver was the senior member of the safety unit, but 29-year-old had peaked and gives way to a younger prospect in Nolan.

Of the Dolphins' new additions, Armstrong is obviously the biggest name and is one fans should be familiar with from his time in Miami in 2008-09. He's not going to solve the Dolphins' receiver woes, but he does add a vertical dimension the Dolphins lack and his single-season total of 871 yards in 2010 is a better mark than any receiver on the roster has ever accomplished. I suspect he'll work into four-man sets right away with room to move up.

It's telling that the Dolphins would rather put Brown on the 53-man roster than their own fifth-round linebacker at this point. Brown had a stellar collegiate career and can certainly get to the passer, so perhaps they are hoping to find a breakout player. That being said, Brown won't see the field on defense barring a stellar showing in practice and at most is ticketed for special teams in the near future.

Stanford and Nolan add depth to a shaky secondary that was left extra thin following final cuts with only three corners under contract. Stanford steps in as the fourth corner, although he's no guarantee to stick around long-term after the Dolphins worked out a handful of veteran corners on Thursday. Veterans see their salaries guaranteed if they are on the Week 1 roster, so the team could way until after the Texans game to sign one and that could put Stanford's spot in jeopardy.

Nolan was a media favorite in Houston and has some experience on defense, making him a solid fill-in if Chris Clemons were to go down. It seems unlikely he ever becomes a highly-productive starter, but at worst he should be a special teams ace and top backup on defense.

The Dolphins likely aren't finished making moves before their Sept. 9 season opener. In particular, the team is sure to move at least one of their four quarterbacks and Matt Moore is apparently on the trade block.

Stay tuned all this week for coverage and analysis of all the Dolphins' moves leading up to the regular season!