The Miami Dolphins are getting a head start on cutting the roster down to 53 as the 2019 regular season rapidly approaches. Naturally, all the moves Miami makes will be tracked right here on Five Reasons. And correspondingly, we will be analyzing each move to figure out what they mean for the Dolphins in 2019 and perhaps beyond. So, without further ado, let’s get started with the roster cuts.
T.J. McDonald, SS
McDonald is obviously the biggest name on this list of roster cuts. Up until his release on Sunday night, McDonald was projected to be one of Miami’s starters at safety. It seems even stranger when taking into consideration the minimal cap savings releasing him brings. In fact, cutting McDonald sets the Dolphins back $3.69 million for the season. If anything, this move indicates that Miami is fully committed to a full youth movement for the future. Head coach Brian Flores certainly wasn’t forthcoming with details.
“Any time you make a decision, you try to do it in the best interest of the team.” He said on Monday. “We just felt like in this situation, that was the case with T.J. He’s done a good job with this organization for the last few years. Again, all of those decisions are tough but a lot goes into them. Again, those discussions that we have about personnel – and we have a lot of them internally – I’m not going to talk about those particulars and the specifics of those with you guys. But obviously, we have those (conversations) internally and again, those are private conversations that we have as an organization.”
With McDonald gone, that (as of Tuesday evening) leaves Reshad Jones, Bobby McCain, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Walt Aikens, Maurice Smith, and Montre Hartage. More than likely, Miami will move forward with Jones and McCain as the starting safeties, while Fitzpatrick acts as the starting slot corner. That leave Aikens as the other backup at safety, unless Smith finally gets a chance to show he deserves a chance to play.
Akeem Spence, DT
Spence is one of the cuts that still comes as somewhat of a surprise, and yet not really. Spence is a fun-loving guy and was a solid role player on the Dolphins defensive line. But from the moment he arrived in Miami, it was clear he couldn’t come close to filling the void left by Ndamukong Suh’s departure.
Adding Spence to the roster cuts saves the Dolphins $3.15 million according to Spotrac. And with all the able bodies at defensive tackle, the 27-year old Spence was expendable. With Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor acting as young veterans, and rookie Christian Wilkins developing, Miami only really needs one or two players more in that rotation. True, Spence could have fit that role, but the fact of the matter is, Spence got outplayed.
Adolphus Washington, a 24 year old defensive tackle who was originally drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the third round of the 2018 draft, was signed to a one-year deal worth only $720,000 dollars. It didn’t take long for him to make his mark, showcasing powerful hands and playmaking ability. Considering Washington’s success, it isn’t hard to figure out why Spence got cut. Spence is older, more expensive, and not as effective. Surprising because he’s a name, not surprising because names mean nothing to Flores’s regime.
Jordan Mills, OT
This experiment did not last long. After Ja’Wuan James signed a huge deal with the Denver Broncos, Miami needed a new right tackle, and they signed Mills to a one-year, $3 million dollar deal. Mills will ultimately only count for $2 million against the Dolphins cap. Watching Mills play, either at right or left tackle, was not pretty. He regularly got beat for sacks, and was unseated by Jesse Davis for the starting job. It may have been for an injury settlement, but it’s not a stretch to say Mills would have been cut even if fully healthy.
This is another one of those cuts that ignores an established veteran name and favors overall performance instead. True, no one on the offensive line really wowed the coaches, aside from Laremy Tunsil. However, Mills was particularly bad. Miami wants to develop new, young talent, not stand pat with players who have low ceilings. Zach Sterup, Isaiah Prince and Jaryd Jones-Smith offer more in terms of potential than Mills. Even then, it’s likely that one or more of those players will fall victim to roster cuts as soon as preseason ends.
Will Holden, OL
Aside from the several jokes based on his name, Holden was not good. Again, the offensive line as a whole is pretty bad for the Dolphins, but Holden – like Mills, was particularly bad. There’s no need to dwell on Holden’s release, there are more than enough players to take his place. Even as depth, Miami can do better than him.
Clive Walford, TE
Another injury settlement release, but once again, even if healthy, Walford was a long shot. A former UM standout, Walford was signed to a one-year, veteran minimum contract of $720,000. He didn’t make an impact, similarly to another failed tight end draft pick who tried out with the Dolphins the year before, Gavin Escobar.
The impact this move makes for Miami is minimal at best. As it stands, the Dolphins still have Mike Gesicki, Durham Smythe, and veteran Nick O’Leary and Dwayne Allen. Obviously, Gesicki will stay, as will Smythe and O’Leary. The jury’s still out on Allen, who’s been a major disappointment since coming back from injury. As for Walford, he may catch on somewhere else just for that team to kick the tires, but that’s all. He was inconsequential with the Dolphins, an easy addition to the roster cuts.
Chase Allen, LB
While never really starter material, Allen’s waiving is unfortunate. As as depth player, Allen is a solid tackler and reliable backup. But, as the saying goes, availability is also a skill, and Allen wasn’t available since last season. Allen ended the 2018 season on injured reserve with a foot injury, and now his waiving is with an injury designation. There is some good news, however. In the past, Allen’s injury would mean the Dolphins had to scour the free agent pool for a replacement body.
This year though, Miami has some young talent in the wings who can fill that reserve void fairly well. Andrew Van Ginkel, Tre’ Watson, Nick DeLuca, Terrill, Hanks, and even Quentin Poling all have some talent to be developed. As for starters, with the emergence of Sam Eguavoen and Jerome Baker, and Kiko Alonso and Raekwon McMillan prepared to be run stuffers (assuming both stay on the team), the Dolphins are set.
Quentin Poling, LB
As a former seventh-round draft pick, Poling never made enough of an impact to warrant a roster spot. While he made some flashes within the lower levels of the depth chart, he didn’t shine bright enough higher up. Consequently, Poling was waived at the end of the preseason last season and signed onto the practice squad, where he remained throughout the season. History appears to be repeating itself now.
Poling, 25, is still eligible for the practice squad, so he could find himself landing there again after he gets healthy. He’s a phenomenal athlete who did a little bit of everything back when he was in school. His departure isn’t surprising given his lack of play time with this new regime, but there’s always the option to return someday.
Trenton Irwin, WR
Irwin is a former Stanford standout who went undrafted and latched on with the Dolphins. While he did make some flashes, and proved to be a solid depth player, Miami just wasn’t going to be a team he would stick with.
The presence of Kenny Stills, DeVante Parker, Albert Wilson, Jakeem Grant make it difficult to justify adding Irwin as a fifth receiver. Also, the emergence of Preston Williams as a potential playmaker made Irwin seem dimmer in comparison. He could potentially return as a part of the practice squad, especially with his value on special teams. If there’s one thing coach Flores loves, it’s players who do things on special teams.
Joey Mbu, DT
Mbu is a hulking 6’3″, 330 pound brute who could have fit the niche need for a nose tackle in Miami’s hybrid defense. Unfortunately, preseason roster cuts claimed him, and now he’ll have to hope to latch on elsewhere. Mbu has been in and out of the NFL over the past few years, signing on as an undrafted free agent with the Atlanta Falcons in 2015. He also spent time with the Redskins, Colts, and the Packers before finally joining the AAF’s San Antonio Commanders after failing to make the Green Bay Roster.
Once he joined Miami, Mbu didn’t make much of an impact. It didn’t help that there were a lot of much better players standing in his way. Davon Godchaux, Christian Wilkins, Adolphus Washington, and Vincent Taylor all project to be ahead of him on the roster. Even the release of veteran Akeem Spence could not save him. Mbu may find another home soon, but it’s unlikely to be with the Dolphins.
Jalen Davis, CB
Sometimes players suffer a fall from grace from year to year. Davis was one of Miami’s most promising undrafted free agents just one season ago. Now, it seems that he struggled more often than he shined. Davis has the ability to work in both the slot and on the boundary, but he couldn’t get ahead of the likes of Torry McTyer, Eric Rowe or even Cornell Armstrong. Davis is eligible for the practice squad if Miami wants to keep him around. Plus, the cornerback depth seems fluid at the moment. It would likely be in Miami’s best interest to sign him to the squad if he clears waivers in case something goes wrong.
Tyler Patmon, CB
Patmon was signed about halfway through training camp after the Dolphins released AAF standout Jamar Summers. Patmon had a strong performance in the final preseason game against the Saints, but it wasn’t enough to prove he deserved a spot on the 53-man roster. Patmon’s second stint with Miami – his first was near the tail end of 2015 after he spent most of the year with the Cowboys – ends with him looking for yet another job. There will be some team looking for cornerback depth somewhere, but the Dolphins don’t appear to be that place.
As it stands, Miami has Xavien Howard, Eric Rowe, Chris Lammons, Cornell Armstrong, Torry McTyer, Nik Needham, and also Cordrea Tankersley on the PUP list. There’s depth for Miami, it’s just a matter of choosing who it will be.
Reece Horn, WR
Essentially, everything that was said about Trenton Irwin, repeat for Reece Horn, except for a slightly different background. Horn is a former Titans wide receiver who joined the AAF for a time before signing with the Dolphins. Like Irwin, he was solid. But when there’s a level of competition that can’t be overcome without constant herculean effort, there’s not much hope.
Horn is also eligible for the practice squad. Miami can bring him back if he clears waivers.
Brice Butler, WR
This is perhaps the most unfortunate release from the wide receiver corps. Butler is a solid wide receiver who appeared to be more than solid at times. He also came up big during the 2018 season, as the Dolphins were desperate for bodies and he not only filled the void, he actively contributed. Halfway through the season, he signed with Miami after being released by the Dallas Cowboys, and in that eight game span, he made six catches for 60 yards and a touchdown.
His 2019 competition, however, was fierce. As a big-bodied guy, his main challenge was overcoming former first round pick DeVante Parker, who’s currently nursing an injury, and physical freak Preston Williams, who wowed the fan base with plays that belong on highlight reels. Parker and Williams are staying, and they didn’t play in the final preseason game. Butler, however, did. That was the main indicator that he was behind his constituents. He made mistakes, as did Williams, but Butler didn’t have the benefit of incredible plays to boost his stock.
Butler should find a new home soon, he’s too good to not latch on somewhere. But if by some miracle he’s not signed, and either Parker or Williams get hurt, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Dolphins give Butler another call.
David Rivers, CB
Another cornerback added on late that ultimately was inconsequential to the grand scheme of things. Rivers did about as well as any of the other fringe roster players throughout preseason, but that’s still not good enough to make the team, obviously. Rivers only played in three games over the course of two seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. So even then, he didn’t amount to much. Miami can easily replace his production, but if they desire to keep him around for whatever reason, he’s practice squad eligible.
Kyle Fuller, G/C
Must be confusing, sharing a name with a cornerback who makes interceptions on a seemingly weekly basis. Unfortunately, this Kyle Fuller didn’t perform up to par. Fuller, along with several other members of the offensive line, struggled to accomplish much of anything in camp or preseason.
They can bring him back onto the practice squad if/when he clears waivers if they so desire. But it seems more likely the Dolphins will look elsewhere to replenish their offensive line talent. such Trades for Vikings and Colts interior linemen Danny Isidora and Evan Boehm come to mind.
Aaron Monteiro, OL
Yet another offensive lineman who struggled during the preseason and even in camp. Monteiro is versatile, that’s about all that can be said about him for now. He had a decent showing against the Saints, coming in a sixth offensive lineman and allowing the Dolphins to convert on third down a couple times.
However, aside from that, there isn’t much positive to say. He’s eligible for the practice squad. But again, Miami seems content to look elsewhere for OL help.
Kenneth Farrow, RB
The running back position is strangely loaded for Miami. With Kenyan Drake and Kalen Ballage, the Dolphins have a solid one-two punch to keep defenses on their toes. True, they’re not the same as back in the days of Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, but it’s close enough for now. But after that, former Bengals back Mark Walton came on strong in preseason, and signs seem to point to him being allowed to play the season for now. Then with the emergence of Patrick Laird, and seventh-round pick Myles Gaskin in the mix, there wasn’t room to keep Farrow.
Farrow is a former AAF star and was one of its best running backs. His claim to fame should have been his ability to block and be a power runner, perhaps even getting looks at fullback to compete with rookie Chandler Cox. However, that never materialized, and Cox solidified his role as the team’s fullback. Farrow is eligible for the practice squad, but with Gaskin and Laird still awaiting judgment as of this moment in time, it’s more likely one of them will get a spot there.
Jaryd Jones-Smith, OT
Of all the offensive linemen to get the boot, this might be one of the more surprising ones. Jaryd Jones-Smith has a huge wingspan and has talent to be developed, but he also struggled during preseason, making him vulnerable to release. Granted, not all of the mistakes he’s accused of were necessarily his fault. But he did make his fair share of errors exclusive to him. He’s overcome a lot of adversity in his life, including the loss of his father and tearing three out of four ligaments in his knee back in college.
If anyone is likely to see the practice squad, Jones-Smith is a good candidate. As of now, Zach Sterup and Isaiah Prince are the projected backups at the tackle positions, but don’t count out this physical freak yet.
Wes Farnsworth, LS
John Denney will be the Dolphins long snapper until the day he decides to retire. Farnsworth never had a chance. No further analysis necessary.
Cory Thomas, DT
Thomas is an undrafted rookie out of Mississippi State, and he saw limited action in the preseason. Frankly, there were times where it was easy to forget he was even on the roster to begin with. He’s practice squad eligible of course, but considering his release came with almost no fanfare, it’s unlikely he’ll be added.
His best best at this juncture is to keep training and hope that someone picks him up for next year’s training camp.
Durval Queiroz Neto, G
Originally brought in as a nose tackle candidate through the 2019 International Player Pathway Program, Durval Queiroz Neto offers untapped potential that needs refinement. For the past four years, he played on the best football teams in Brazil and is a judo champion, meaning he’s very good with coordinating his hands. But many saw his frame and felt he was better suited to play guard. Eventually, the Dolphins came around to that line of thinking, and Queiroz traded his aqua practice jersey for a white one.
Nevertheless, the release comes as no surprise. Queiroz is undoubtedly talented but is extremely raw. Adding a position change puts him behind the curve even more, and he spent the entirety of training camp and preseason learning the basics of playing guard. If he clears waivers, then the Dolphins can put him on a special 11th slot on the practice squad set aside just for him by the rules of the league. Almost certainly, Miami will do just that.
Jamiyus Pittman, DT
Pittman is another undrafted free agent who originally came on strong but seemed to wilt as new faces came in and made him seem not as impressive. Pittman didn’t make the team last season, but he was immediately added to the practice squad, and eventually got promoted to the active roster, playing in three games and contributing two total tackles. However, he was soon waived and placed back on the squad after the team’s need for an extra player vanished.
Pittman offers promise to be sure, but the Dolphins have the likes of Dewayne Hendrix and Jonathan Ledbetter awaiting their fate as well, and both of them shined brighter than Pittman. Miami will have to make some difficult decisions soon.
Jake Rudock, QB
One would think that after the incredible performance he put together against the Saints backups, Miami would be compelled to leave a roster spot for Jake Rudock. If things go as everyone is expecting, either Ryan Fitzpatrick or Josh Rosen will get hurt at some point, and the Dolphins will need a third-string QB in case of an emergency. Rudock went 22 of 29 for 229 yards and a touchdown against New Orleans, and proved he’s a viable backup quarterback in the league.
If he somehow clears waivers, Miami should look to add him to the practice squad as he is eligible. However, his game against the Saints may prompt other teams looking for a backup to put in a claim for him. Unfortunate if that’s the case, but the Dolphins apparently believe that it’s better to have another position player who can more regularly contribute rather than a bench warmer.
Tyrone Holmes, DE
Miami is starting run short of defensive ends with the release of Tyrone Holmes. The former sixth round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars showed some flashes in a Dolphins uniform, but ultimately didn’t show nearly enough consistency for him to make the final 53 over other players.
Like many of Miami’s other players, Holmes is eligible for the practice squad if they see it fit to add him on. But bear in mind, there are only ten slots available, and that’s assuming no team claims him or the other aforementioned roster cuts. Things are only going to get trickier from here.
Cornell Armstrong, CB
This is one of the more shocking releases to be sure. Armstrong is a young, developing corner who showed serious promise in his second year in the NFL. But, the Dolphins seem willing to let him test the waiver wire anyway.
On top of his developing coverage skills, Armstrong is also an excellent special teamer. This makes his release all the more baffling, as coach Flores loves when players can contribute on special teams. If he clears waivers, Armstrong will likely be a priority practice squad target. If he doesn’t, and ends up in the hands of, say, New England…well, things could turn sour for the Dolphins for letting him go so easily.
Tre’ Watson, LB
Another somewhat surprising release considering the Dolphins will need some backup linebackers. Watson had his fair share of moments during the preseason, racking up 17 tackles in four games.
Watson went undrafted as a Maryland standout, and his solid tackling gives him a certain level of appeal. But evidently, it wasn’t enough to make the final roster. Obviously, he qualified for the practice squad.
Nick DeLuca, LB
While not as surprising as Watson, former Jaguars linebacker Nick DeLuca had his fair share of impressive moments as well. Last year as a rookie, DeLuca played in nine games for Jacksonville, starting two of them. In that time, he racked up seven tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble. Certainly, not bad for an undrafted free agent. With Miami, he got 13 tackles during the preseason, but that’s about it. Add him to the long list of players eligible to be signed to the practice squad.
This leaves only Baker, McMillan, Eguavoen, and rookies Andrew Van Ginkel and Terrill Hanks. That list assumes Kiko Alonso does not remain and eventually gets traded. It’s clear Miami does not want to let Alonso go for nothing. This will be monitored closely.
Dwayne Allen, TE
It’s unfortunate that one of head coach Brian Flores’s first transactions ends up being a bust. In New England, Allen was a solid blocker, and at the start of his career in Indianapolis, Allen was an excellent pass catcher. With Miami, Allen was none of those things. He spent most of his time with a knee injury, and once he did get on the field, it was not impressive. One could argue it wasn’t even good.
Allen will go down as another name in the long list of veteran tight ends that have failed to make an impact upon joining the Dolphins. Now the coaching staff will have to hope they can develop Mike Gesicki and Durham Smythe to be starting caliber players. Nick O’Leary does his job well, but he’s unlikely to ever make a Pro Bowl. As for Temple TE Chris Myarick, he was impressive in the final preseason game, but him making the final roster is a mystery.
Torry McTyer, CB
McTyer is yet another member of the team who started strong enough to warrant some looks in 2018, then failed to meet expectations when greater responsibility was placed on his shoulders. As the son of former Eagles cornerback Tim McTyer, there was hope that his NFL pedigree would give him sort of a boost. Now, he is practice squad eligible, and in years past, the Dolphins have found themselves strapped for cornerback help due to injuries. It’s not a stretch to assume Miami will keep McTyer close by, just in case.
T.J. Rahming, WR
There isn’t much to say about Rahming that hasn’t already been said about several other released wide receivers. Rahming was signed later on in training camp and spent time acting as a body on punt returns. Aside from that, nothing special to report. He was a camp body through and through. Eligible for the practice squad, but unlikely to be added.
Nik Needham, CB
This release is surprising. But not in the way one would think. In this context, it’s more about how surprising it is that it took so long for them to announce his release. Needham was thrust into the starting lineup after the injury to Eric Rowe that kept him sidelined for a few weeks. In that time, Needham was relentlessly abused by opposing quarterbacks, and it showed that he’s not ready for what the team was trying to give him.
Eligible for the practice squad? Of course. And Needham did start to improve a little near the tail end of the preseason. Coach Flores’s standards for evaluation are hard to pin down at this point. Maybe he sees something in Needham worth investing in.
Tank Carradine, DE
This answers the question of which of the two veteran defensive ends the Dolphins wanted to keep. Nate Orchard makes the roster over Carradine, so maybe now Orchard can have a number more befitting a defensive end. Carradine’s career has been laden with struggles. Injuries slowed him down along with mismanaging of his career by coaches.
Perhaps Carradine showed enough to warrant another team giving him a look. But unlike many of Miami’s other roster cuts, Carradine cannot be added to the practice squad. His best bet is for someone else to give him a chance, or an injury to one of the Dolphins ends during the season.
Maurice Smith, SS
Once again, Smith fails to make the final 53-man roster. It seems no matter what happens, he just can’t break through the ceiling to make it onto the team even as a reserve. However, unlike in years past, Smith didn’t make any flashy plays to remind everyone he has talent worth investing in. For most of the preseason and training camp, he appeared to just be another camp body.
Perhaps that’s a consequence of the new defensive scheme, perhaps the talent he was competing against just made him appear worse by comparison. Whatever the case, Smith is still eligible for the practice squad, and if he clears waivers again, perhaps he makes it onto that list. This leaves Reshad Jones, Bobby McCain, Walt Aikens, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and undrafted free agent Montre Hartage as the team’s safeties.
Tony Adams, G
Not much to say about Adams. He struggled, didn’t play well, didn’t beat out Michael Deiter or Shaq Calhoun, and the Dolphins traded for two guards on Friday. Practice squad eligible but unlikely to be added. There’s almost nothing of note worth mentioning.
Isaiah Ford, WR
This is likely the most shocking late roster cut of all. All indication was that Ford had done an excellent job in preseason, finally managing to stay healthy and show what he could do. He made seven catches for 102 yards in the preseason, and was wholly impressive. About the only thing he didn’t do well was return kicks and punts. Perhaps that’s what ultimately doomed him, since Flores takes special teams under heavy consideration.
It feels like Ford being released over the likes of veteran Allen Hurns is another situation where the best man didn’t win. Hurns was wholly pedestrian through his preseason with the Dolphins, and Ford looked better than him in every way. Ford is still eligible for the practice squad, but if there are any wide receiver needy teams scouring the waiver wire, Ford could be a quick pick up as depth.
Dewayne Hendrix, DE
It’s clear that as the deadline draws closer, the decisions become more and more challenging. Hendrix was impressive throughout the preseason, racking up nine tackles, three sacks and two forced fumbles.
Hendrix should be a priority practice squad player if he clears waivers. The undrafted free agent out of Pitt made a lot of good plays and showed a lot of potential that deserves investing in. Development is definitely the team’s focus for the future.
Terrance Smith, LB
With this final release, the initial 53-man roster is complete. Terrance Smith being gone officially leaves the Dolphins with only six linebackers, which could very quickly turn into only five when they figure out what to do with Kiko Alonso. Smith is a former Kansas City Chief whose claim to fame is his ability on special teams. During his three year tenure with the Chiefs, Smith racked up 36 tackles, one sack, and an interception.
Him being gone is no surprise. He signed in early August to take an open roster spot, and now he’ll be on the hunt for a new home as he is not eligible for the practice squad. Some of these players will latch on elsewhere, while others may never play football again. It’s a difficult reality, but one that everyone has come to accept. Now, all that’s left to do is see what this coaching staff can do to develop players for the future.
Luis Sung has covered the Miami Dolphins for numerous outlets such as Dolphins Wire for six years. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
Contributions made by Josh Houtz: @Houtz