Dolphins Rumors

Dolphins Waive DT Kendrick Norton

The car accident that resulted in Dolphins rookie Kendrick Norton needing to have one of his arms amputated at the scene led to the team waiving him Sunday.

The Dolphins announced they waived the defensive tackle with an non-football injury designation. Norton, 22, will not play football again, but this transaction will allow him to collect a rookie salary from the Dolphins. He will revert to the team’s reserve/NFI list.

Norton caught on with the Dolphins in December 2018, when the team signed him off of the Panthers’ practice squad.

I realize that I will not be able to play for anyone,” Norton said, via CBS 4 Miami. “We are working past that, you know. That reality is sinking in. I am alive and I am grateful.”

Insurance from the NFL and Dolphins will pay for Norton’s medical expenses. The Jacksonville, Fla., native, chosen in the seventh round of the 2018 draft, was released from the hospital this week.

Minor NFL Transactions: 7/19/19

Today’s minor moves will be posted here:

Green Bay Packers

  • Signed: WR Malik Taylor

Miami Dolphins

Taylor is an undrafted rookie who played his college ball at D-II Ferris State. He originally signed as an UDFA with the Buccaneers after the draft, but didn’t last long in Tampa Bay. The Packers already have a bunch of young receivers on the roster, so he’ll be facing an uphill climb to even make the practice squad.

Blacknall is a speedster who went undrafted out of Penn State last year. He signed with the Raiders and after some impressive moments during the preseason he made the practice squad. He was briefly signed to the active roster in November, so he does have one NFL game under his belt. Blacknall could have a legit shot of making the team since the Dolphins are entering a full-blown rebuild and will be looking for as much young talent as possible.

This Date In Transactions History: Dolphins Sign Arian Foster

Three years ago today, the Dolphins signed running back Arian Foster. Although he was only 29 years old at the time of signing, it would prove to be his last NFL contract ever. 

At his peak, Foster was among the very best running backs in the game. In 2010, he led the NFL with 1,616 yards on the ground and 16 rushing touchdowns. He was a constant threat as a pass-catcher as well: he had 66 catches for 604 yards in that season and 53 grabs for 617 in the following campaign. Injuries sidetracked Foster in 2013 and 2015, but he turned in four campaigns with 1,200+ yards rushing while with the Texans.

Unfortunately, the sport tends to be cruel to standout running backs. After suffering a ruptured Achilles in 2015, Foster drew little attention in the initial waves of free agency. With Miami, Foster would merely support second-year pro Jay Ajayi after Miller fled to join his old friends in Houston. Despite his accomplishments, Foster netted just a one-year deal worth $1.5MM. The only guaranteed portion of his pact came in the form of a $400K signing bonus.

After appearing in four games for the Fins, Foster shocked everyone with his abrupt retirement.

“There comes a time in every athlete’s career when their ambition and their body are no longer on the same page. I’ve reached that point,” Foster revealed in a written statement. “My father always said, “You’ll know when it’s time to walk away.” It has never been more clear than right now. I’m walking away with peace. I know it’s not commonplace to do it midseason, but my body just can’t take the punishment this game asks for any longer. I want to thank the Miami Dolphins, with everything in me, for allowing me to bow out with grace and making this process as easy as possible.”

Foster cited the injuries as his primary motivation to move on from the game, but he later explained that he had fallen out of love with the game of football. In a 2017 interview with Joe Rogan, Foster said that he found himself on the sidelines of games thinking about physics and other topics of personal interest.

“I kind of just fell out of love with it,” he said of the game. He said that he would be on the sidelines at games thinking about physics of all things.

“Football is not a place for thinkers,” Foster said. “If you are inquisitive it comes off as disruptive.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Dolphins Coach Jim Caldwell Taking Leave Of Absence

Dolphins assistant head coach/quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell will be taking a leave of absence to focus on his health, the team announced in a press release this morning.

“I will be stepping back due to some medical complications that require my full attention,” Caldwell said. “I want to thank Stephen Ross, Chris Grier, Coach Flores and the rest of the organization for the support they have given me and my family.”

The Dolphins will still keep the 64-year-old on board, as Caldwell will serve as a consultant to the team for the upcoming season. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport tweets that Jerry Schuplinski, a former Patriots assistant, will likely take on many of Caldwell’s duties.

“Our focus is on Jim’s health and supporting him in every way that we can,” said head coach Brian Flores. “With his knowledge and experience, Jim has been an invaluable member to our coaching staff and will continue to serve as a sounding board for me throughout the season.”

Caldwell has been coaching since 1977, and he’s held NFL gigs since 2001. He had a three-year stint as the head coach of the Colts that included a Super Bowl appearance. Caldwell later moved on to become the head coach of the Lions, and he compiled a 36-28 record during his four years in Detroit.

Caldwell had a handful of head coaching interviews this past offseason, including talks with the Packers, Jets, and Browns. After Flores was hired in Miami, Caldwell was brought in as an assistant.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Preston Williams Impressed During Dolphins' Spring

NFL Supplemental Draft Order

The NFL’s Supplemental Draft order does not go by the inverted win/loss records of clubs. Instead, the order is dictated by a weighted lottery that uses a team’s win percentage as just part of the equation. Here, via Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (Twitter link) is the complete order of the supplemental draft:

1. Lions
2. Broncos
3. Jets
4. Cardinals
5. Giants
6. Bills
7. Raiders
8. 49ers
9. Jaguars
10. Packers
11. Bengals
12. Bucs
13. Falcons
14. Vikings
15. Redskins
16. Titans
17. Dolphins
18. Steelers
19. Panthers
20. Browns
21. Ravens
22. Patriots
23.Cowboys
24. Seahawks
25. Eagles
26. Texans
27. Bears
28. Colts
29. Saints
30. Chiefs
31. Chargers
32. Rams

The supplemental draft is conducted via email. If multiple teams submit a pick for the same player in the same round, this order dictates which club gets the player. Of course, any team picking a player in the supplemental draft will sacrifice the corresponding pick in the 2020 draft.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Dolphins’ Kenny Stills Changes Agents

Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills has new representation heading into 2019. The 27-year-old has fired his reps at Wasserman in favor of Ryan Williams of Athletes First, according to Liz Mullen of Sports Business Journal (on Twitter). 

For Williams, it’s another big-name client to join a stable that features Clay Matthews, Anthony Barr, Josh Norman, and Josh Rosen. For Stills, it’ a major change in advance of a pivotal season.

Still inked a four-year, $32MM deal with the Dolphins in 2017 with nearly $19MM in guarantees. He’ll count for a $8.75MM cap number in 2019, but the Dolphins will have a big decision to make next year. If released, the Dolphins would save $7MM against the cap with just $1.75MM left in dead money.

Stills, of course, hopes to return to the form he exhibited early on in his career with the Saints, but there’s no telling what the Dolphins’ rebuilding offense will look like in 2019. Last year, Stills managed just 37 grabs for 553 yards and six touchdowns, a huge drop from 2017’s 58/847/6 line.

Next year, Stills could be looking for a new employer, or pushing the Dolphins for a big-time extension. In either scenario, he’ll have new representation at work for him.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Make-Or-Break Year: Dolphins WR DeVante Parker

Can a player be on the verge of a “make-or-break year” right after signing an extension with their team? In the case of Dolphins wide receiver DeVante Parker – yes. 

Parker is under contract with Miami through the 2020 season thanks to a new deal inked in March, but little is assured for the fifth-year pro. Initially, Parker was set to play out the 2019 season on his fifth-year option, which would have paid him $9.4MM. Instead, the Dolphins were poised to rip up that contract after another disappointing year, so they were able to leverage Parker into a lower-risk pact. Parker’s restructured deal guarantees him just $4.5MM in 2019 with a non-guaranteed $5MM in 2020.

In other words, the Dolphins stand to have a solid value in Parker if he is able to turn things around and live up to his billing as the No. 14 overall pick in the 2015 draft. Meanwhile, if he gets injured and/or underwhelms like he did in 2018, the Dolphins can walk and focus their resources elsewhere in 2020.

As the Dolphins enter a rebuilding season, they want to know what they have in Parker, a player who entered the league with tons of hype and wound up as the third WR selected in his draft class. The 26-year-old reportedly had a solid spring and new quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick may prove to be a better fit for his style than longtime starter Ryan Tannehill.

To date, Parker’s best season came in 2016, when he finished with 56 catches for 744 yards and four touchdowns. He’ll have to top that if he wants to continue to ply his craft in South Beach beyond this season.

If he falters, the Dolphins can decline his $5MM option for 2020 and walk away with no fiscal penalty.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Dolphins Notes: Mills, Drake, Ledbetter

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald passes along a veritable treasure trove of notes for Dolphins fans today, so let’s dive right in:

  • Although free agent acquisition Jordan Mills was disappointing in minicamp and was replaced at right tackle by Jesse Davis, Jackson says the Dolphins are still very much open to having Mills man the RT position. The club will give him a chance to redeem himself in training camp and may elect to keep Davis at guard, where he played last year. Zach Sterup is also in the mix for the right tackle job.
  • Jackson believes that running back Kenyan Drake has been woefully underutilized to date and that he should be getting 12 to 18 carries a game. Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics support Jackson’s opinion, citing Drake’s ability to win after early contact and force missed tackles. However, PFF also says Kalen Ballage should serve as Miami’s primary third-down/receiving back, which Jackson’s eye test does not support. Jackson says Ballage looked “unnatural” as a receiver out of the backfield during the club’s offseason program, and he even says the embattled Mark Walton could be the Dolphins’ best receiving back. Drake and Ballage will have plenty of opportunity to prove their worth in 2019, which is an especially crucial year for Drake, a 2020 free agent.
  • UDFAs often have a better chance of cracking the roster of a rebuilding team like the Dolphins then they would on a club with playoff aspirations, and Jackson says Miami hopes at least one of the its undrafted defensive linemen — Dewayne Hendrix and Jonathan Ledbetter — will make the cut. Ledbetter, one of the best collegiate DEs at stopping the run, is attempting to diversify his game by refining his pass rush skills.
  • The team also has several UDFA cornerbacks that merit some attention, and the new coaching staff had plenty of luck developing that type of prospect in New England. 2018 UDFA Jalen Davis flashed in minicamp this year, and while the Dolphins have taken a look at him both outside the numbers and in the slot, his size (5-10, 185) may make him better-suited to a slot role.

Revisiting The 2018 Free Agent WR Class

The 2018 free agent class of wide receivers reshaped the market in a number of ways and set the table for lucrative extensions for players like Odell Beckham, Brandin Cooks, and Stefon Diggs. But even allowing for the premium that teams often have to pay in the first wave of free agency, the size of the contracts that the 2018 FA wideouts landed raised a lot of eyebrows throughout the league. As we look ahead to Year 2 of some of those contracts, let’s examine the early returns.

Sammy Watkins‘ three-year, $48MM deal with the Chiefs topped the class in terms of total value, average annual value, and guaranteed money at signing ($30MM). And while his talent certainly merited that type of payday, his injury history was a concern, as he had missed 10 games over the prior three seasons. He ended up missing six games during his first year in Kansas City due to a foot injury, though he did manage to suit up for both of the club’s postseason contests. His raw numbers obviously don’t look too impressive as a result of the missed time, but he did rank fifth among all qualified wideouts in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric, meaning he was very valuable on a per-play basis. He also tallied 10 catches for 176 yards during the Chiefs’ two playoff games, and while injury problems may always plague him, he continues to be a factor whenever he’s on the field. KC is likely not regretting Watkins’ deal at this point.

The Bears doubled up at wide receiver by signing Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel last March, which allowed them to part ways with Cameron Meredith. Chicago brought in Robinson on a three-year, $42MM pact, even though he suffered a torn ACL in Week 1 of the 2017 season and had only posted one elite season in his career (which came back in 2015). And after his first year with the Bears, Robinson is still looking for his second 1,000-yard campaign.

There is some reason to hope that he can get there, especially with a fully-healthy offseason and a year of building chemistry with quarterback Mitchell Trubisky under his belt. A-Rob played in just 13 regular season games last season but was targeted 94 times, and he was brilliant in the Bears’ lone playoff game, posting 10 catches for 143 yards and a score. Football Outsiders’ metrics didn’t love him, but Pro Football Focus assigned him an above-average grade that made him the 28th-best WR in the league. He may not have quite lived up to expectations, but there is still time for him to get there.

Chicago signed Gabriel to a four-year, $26MM deal in the hopes that he could become a big-play threat for Trubisky. But while Gabriel played in all 16 games for the club and saw 93 targets, he managed a fairly modest 10.3 yards-per-reception and two touchdowns. Advanced metrics weren’t overly fond of his work either, and he will be hoping for a bounce-back year in 2019.

It’s still too early to evaluate some of the other significant contracts given to 2018 wide receivers, because the signees saw their seasons derailed by injury. Marqise Lee, who re-upped with the Jaguars on a four-year, $34MM deal, missed the entire 2018 season due to a preseason knee injury, and he is not expected to be back until the end of this year’s training camp. The Dolphins were thinking highly of their three-year, $24MM accord with Albert Wilson, who was performing well for Miami until he landed on IR in October with a serious hip injury. He is expected to be ready for the start of the 2019 regular season, but he may not see the field until then.

Likewise, Paul Richardson showed flashes in the first year of the five-year, $40MM contract he signed with the Redskins last March, but he landed on IR in November with a shoulder injury.

But at least the aforementioned players are still on their respective teams. Michael Crabtree signed a three-year, $21MM deal with the Ravens after being cut by the Raiders, but he disappeared from Baltimore’s offense when Lamar Jackson became the starter, and Baltimore sent him packing in February (as of this writing, there has been no reported interest in his services). And Donte Moncrief signed a one-year contract for a surprising $9.6MM with the Jaguars, but his mostly disappointing performance in Jacksonville had him searching for a new team this offseason. He ultimately caught on with the Steelers.

All in all, then, the 2018 class of free agent wideouts was a mixed bag. None of the contracts those players signed look like a home run at this point, and while that could change in 2019, those who were surprised by the amount of money thrown at WRs last March were right to be a little skeptical.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.