Former Miami Hurricanes tight end and first-round pick Jeremy Shockey could decide between signing with the Miami Dolphins or Carolina Panthers as early as today, according to Darin Gantt of the Rock Hill Herald.
Unlike those players with expiring contracts that must wait until a new CBA and free agency to his the open market, Shockey is free to sign elsewhere immediately because he was released by the Saints in the 2011 offseason.
Let go by the Saints on Feb. 22, Shockey has drawn interest from numerous teams. Despite claims by general manager Jeff Ireland that the team had no contact with Shockey, it was confirmed by ESPN's Adam Schefter that Shockey did indeed take and pass a physical with the Dolphins on Feb. 24.
Shockey, 30, also worked out for the Carolina Panthers on Feb. 27, and it was reported that weekend that he intended to sign with a new team before the expiration of the current CBA on Mar. 3.
The 14th overall pick in 2002 out of the University of Miami, Shockey spent six seasons with the New York Giants and three with the New Orleans Saints, earning a Super Bowl ring with each team.
In 121 games (116 starts) during his nine-year career to-date, Shockey has totaled 510 receptions, 5,688 yards, and 33 touchdowns.
The brash and often controversial tight end has battled injuries in recent seasons, but was named the Diet Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year in 2002 and has been named to one All-Pro team and selected to four Pro Bowls in his career.
It's hard to guess which team Shockey would pick if given the option between the Dolphins and Panthers, especially since it's unknown what kind of money he's likely to receive and just how much the teams' offers vary in that department.
Pros in the Panthers' favor are a likely bigger role in the offense, as Carolina's top two tight ends in 2010 (Dante Rosario and Jeff King) combined for fewer than 400 yards and just two touchdowns, and both are unrestricted free agents this offseason. The Dolphins, meanwhile, have an entrenched starter in Anthony Fasano, who signed a contract extension during the 2010 season.
Signing with Carolina would also reunite him with rookie offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, who was Shockey's position coach and later offensive coordinator during the tight end's time with the Hurricanes.
Working in Miami's favor would be a more talented offense, a better contender than last year's 1-15 Panthers, and a return to the city where he played college ball. Since his release from the Saints, Shockey himself has been quoted as saying, "it would be a dream to play for the Dolphins."
While I've never really cared for Shockey's personality and his best days are probably behind him at 30, I've actually been a proponent of the Dolphins signing the veteran tight end since he was released by the Saints last month.
Shockey isn't the elite tight end he once was and can't be counted on to play in 16 games, but we saw how much the Dolphins offensive struggled in all facets without two legitimate receiving and blocking options at tight end.
While Fasano is just a decent receiver, he is a fantastic blocking tight end, and the acquisition of Shockey would give the Dolphins a potential upgrade in the passing game and allow Fasano to contribute more to the running game as a blocker.
I don't expect a Pro Bowler to show up if the Dolphins add Shockey, but I would say it'd be a better duo than the Fasano/David Martin pairing that was so effective back in 2008, and that can't be a bad thing.
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Chris J. Nelson majored in journalism at Georgia State University and currently works for Turner Sports in Atlanta. He operates his own Miami Dolphins website, The Miami Dolphins Spotlight, and he can be followed on Twitter here.