The Miami Dolphins have retained a key piece of their defensive line and added their first unrestricted free agent of the offseason, re-signing defensive end Tony McDaniel to a two-year deal and agreeing to terms with former Browns and Jets linebacker Jason Trusnik.
McDaniel receives a two-year, $6 million contract to remain in Miami through 2012, while Trusnik also receives a two-year deal with with undisclosed contract terms.
The additions, which can't become official until Friday, give the Dolphins 68 players on their active roster, not including six unsigned draft picks and four restricted/exclusive-rights free agents that will be retained.
NFL rosters have been expanded to 90 players for the 2011 preseason.
McDaniel played three seasons at the University of Tennessee before declaring for the 2006 NFL Draft. He was undrafted, instead signing as a free agent with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
In three seasons with the Jaguars, McDaniel appeared in 25 games (three starts), totaling 37 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and four pass deflections. He was traded to the Dolphins in March 2009 for a seventh-round pick, which was eventually sent to the New England Patriots and used on wide receiver Julian Edelman.
After a pretty unspectacular first season with the Dolphins, McDaniel was forced into a bigger rotational role following injuries to Phillip Merling and Jared Odrick. The 2010 season saw McDaniel set career highs in tackles (36), sacks (2.5) and pass deflections (4) as one of the better 3-4 defensive linemen in the game.
Trusnik (6-4, 250) starred at Ohio Northern University, where he totaled 44.5 career sacks and 277 tackles, including 90.5 for a loss. He was signed by the New York Jets as an undrafted free agent in 2007 and split time between the practice squad and active roster, appearing in six games and recording eight tackles before landing on injured reserve with a foot injury.
After beginning 2008 training camp on the PUP list, Trusnik went on to appear in seven games and record 10 tackles. He added six tackles in four games in 2009 before being traded to the Cleveland Browns in the October deal that sent Braylon Edwards to the Jets. Trusnik appeared in 12 games for the Browns that season including 10 starts, recording 56 tackles and 2.5 sacks.
Splitting time between special teams and both inside and outside linebacker in 2010, Trusnik appeared in all 16 games (five starts) and racked up 24 tackles and a sack.
Word of Trusnik's deal with the Dolphins was initially broken by a few of his family members on twitter, but the signing has since been confirmed by Jeff Darlington of the Miami Herald.
In all honesty, I'm surprised the Dolphins were able to re-sign McDaniel and that there wasn't a bigger market for his services. It's possible he took less money to remain in Miami, but I would have expected him to be able to get more money and a true starting role with another team.
While the Dolphins would have been deep on the defensive line even if McDaniel had bolted, his return solidifies the unit even more and is nothing but beneficial. He has the ability to play nose tackle when Paul Soliai needs a breather and he is more than capable of holding his own at defensive end, making him a versatile backup to have.
His return also gives the Dolphins a bit of wiggle room in case they want to trade one of their other lineman, as suggested by Ben Volin of the Palm Beach Post. With McDaniel back and Jared Odrick healthy, it's possible the team could view someone like Phillip Merling as expendable and use him as a potential trade chip.
As for Trusnik, he's certainly not the big free agency splash everyone was hoping for and still might get at some point in the next week, but he's likely a cheap addition and adds depth at a need position.
Trusnik, who worked with pass rush coach Bryan Cox in both New York and Cleveland, also has experience facing Brian Daboll's offense in practices and has played for former Jets and Browns head coach Eric Mangini, who was reportedly advising the Dolphins in January.
The Dolphins will likely use Trusnik as depth at both inside and outside linebacker, where he has experience in the 3-4 scheme. However, he doesn't offer much upside on defense and won't be a lock to make the roster.
Trusnik's experience with his position coach and the team's current lack of depth at outside linebacker should benefit him, and the Dolphins will hope he can be a centerpiece of the special teams unit under Darren Rizzi.
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 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.