Miami Dolphins Waive Returner Clifton Smith, Promote Tight End Jeron Mastrud
I already covered the release of tight end John Nalbone earlier, but the Miami Dolphins made a few more moves today, including the addition of Nalbone's replacement.
The Dolphins waived return specialist Clifton Smith just two games into his tenure with the team, while promoting rookie tight end Jeron Mastrud from the practice squad.
The most productive tight end in Kansas State's history, Mastrud signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent but was waived during final cuts. He had a brief stint on the Patriots practice squad before the season before joining the Dolphins last week.
Smith was in his third NFL season after two years with the Buccaneers. Originally an undrafted free agent out of Fresno State in 2008, Smith earned a Pro Bowl selection as a return specialist during his rookie season.
While his kick return average increased in 2009, Smith's punt return average dropped, and he missed significant time with a pair of concussions.
Mastrud replaces Nalbone as the second tight end on the roster behind Anthony Fasano, but Smith's spot has yet to be filled, leaving the active roster at 52 players. The Dolphins also have two practice squad spots open.
I'm a bit surprised to see Mastrud get the promotion to replace Nalbone, simply because neither Mastrud or fellow practice squad tight end Dedrick Epps have any regular season NFL experience.
Of course, the Dolphins promoted and utilized undrafted rookie Kory Sperry in eight games in 2009, so perhaps they've seen something in Mastrud to give him a shot at playing time.
It will be interesting to see how long Mastrud lasts, as it's hard to imagine the Dolphins using an undrafted rookie as their second and last tight end for the next 14 games.
As for Smith, I'm not sure his release is entirely related to his lack of production. While his numbers were not good (17.3 average on three kick returns; 4.5 average on two punt returns), two games is not really a large enough sample size to adequately judge his abilities.
Instead, I would guess the Dolphins—a team that has always valued position versatility—simply didn't want to devote a roster spot to a player that didn't contribute on offense or defense.
The Dolphins might also be confident in rookie Nolan Carroll on kickoffs, who had a good preseason and can also contribute as a gunner and on defense.
Carroll looks to get the first crack at returning kicks, as veteran Patrick Cobbs doesn't have much big-play ability on special teams.
Meanwhile, it looks like we might again be stuck with Davone Bess on punt returns. A quality slot receiver, Bess lacks the speed or athleticism to present any kind of threat in the return game.
Stay tuned over the next few days, with more moves surely to come as the Dolphins have three open spots between the active roster and practice squad.
As always, check out the updated projected depth chart reflecting these transactions here.
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Chris J. Nelson majored in journalism at Georgia State University and is currently a programming coordinator for Turner Sports in Atlanta. He operates his own Miami Dolphins website, The Miami Dolphins Spotlight, and he can be followed on Twitter here.
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