Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Dolphins claim cornerback Dimitri Patterson off waivers

With cornerback Nolan Carroll's availability for the team's final two games of the regular season in doubt due to a right knee injury suffered in Week 15 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Miami Dolphins picked up some insurance Tuesday but claiming veteran corner Dimitri Patterson off waivers.

The 29-year-old Patterson was let go by the Cleveland Browns on Monday despite being just nine months into a three-year, $16 million contract signed in the offseason. Patterson will make $347,000 from the Dolphins over the final two weeks of the season. He also has base salaries of $4.5 million in 2013 and $5.3 million in 2014.

Patterson takes the roster spot of H-back Charles Clay, who suffered a torn knee ligament this past Sunday and was reported as being out for the season yesterday. The team did not make any other roster moves Tuesday.


Background

An Miami, Fla. native who played high school ball in Orlando, Patterson played college football at Southeast Missouri State and Tuskegee, where he was a first-team all-conference pick as a senior.

After going undrafted in the 2005 NFL Draft, Patterson spent most of his rookie season on the practice squad of the Washington Redskins. A late-season promotion to the active roster allowed Patterson to play in three games that season and he made his first career interception off Drew Bledsoe of the Dallas Cowboys.

Patterson was waived by the Redskins during final cuts in 2006 and spent the entire regular season on the Minnesota Vikings' practice squad. He spent the next two seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, totaling 21 special teams tackles in 20 contests. The Chiefs waived Patterson in November 2008.

After signing with the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2009 offseason, Patterson saw his most extensive action to-date with 11 games played that first season and all 16 games played in 2010. He started the final nine regular season games for the Eagles at cornerback, as well as their Wild Card Playoff game against the Green Bay Packers, and totaled a career-high four interceptions on the season.

Patterson was signed by the Cleveland Browns as a free agent in August 2011. He worked his way into the team's nickel job and earned positive marks from Pro Football Focus, playing 558 defensive snaps and recording 28 tackles and 12 pass deflections.

Despite hitting the open market in the 2012 offseason, the Browns retained Patterson's services and rewarded his good play on March 16 with a three-year, $16 million contract that included $6 million guaranteed. (Perhaps no coincidentally, the Dolphins signed cornerback Richard Marshall to a nearly-identical deal two days prior.)

Patterson once against served as the Browns nickel corner for part of the 2012 season, although an ankle injury forced him to miss Weeks 6 through 13. He returned in Week 14 and played in the last two contests, playing a total of 61 snaps, before being waived on Monday.


Analysis

Patterson brings with him 71 regular games of experience, including 14 starts. He has excelled at times as a nickel corner and at the very least is a capable reserve player in the secondary, as well as a quality special teams player.

Although there isn't much to get excited about with Patterson's arrival and there's a possibility he doesn't contribute much between now and the end of the season (I personally would rather see more of what Bryan McCann and R. J. Stanford can do), I'd be careful to not brush this off as simply a roster shuffling like the team has done with other corners this season.

The fact that the Dolphins are willing to pay Patterson more than $340,000 for the next two weeks says to me they are interested in his services beyond the season. As previously stated, Patterson is signed (and signed rather handsomely for a nick corner) for the next two seasons at $4.5 million in 2013 and $5.3 million in 2014.

While not a true starting-caliber player and someone that has probably peaked nearing age 30, Patterson provides the Dolphins some insurance depth with Richard Marshall coming off a back injury and disappointing No. 1 corner Sean Smith set to hit the open market in the offseason.

Smith started the season well as the Dolphins' top corner following the preseason trade of Vontae Davis, but he seems to have lost confidence and has certainly had a rough couple months. He could possibly be retained with the franchise tag or via an extension, but I wouldn't expect Miami to overpay and he might be greeted by a favorable market as a young, 6-foot-3 corner with plenty of starting experience.

Patterson's acquisition doesn't come close to solving the Dolphins' secondary issues, but it does provide them with insurance and depth heading in 2013. His salary isn't guaranteed unless he's on the Week 1 roster next year, but I'd be surprised if the Dolphins at least didn't keep him around through camp and the preseason and let him try to earn a job.