The Miami Dolphins' deep defensive line just got deeper, as the team has signed free agent nose tackle Ronald Fields to an undisclosed contract.
I'm proud to say that Fields was one of the players mentioned on my offseason plan article from April, as he was a natural fit given the Dolphins' need for depth at the position and his experience with Dolphins' defensive coordinator Mike Nolan in both Denver and San Francisco.
The signing gives the Dolphins 81 spots spoken for on their 90-man expanded training camp roster. Fields will not be able to practice until Aug. 4 due to the new CBA.
A 36-game starter at Mississippi State, Fields earned first-team All-SEC honors as a senior and was selected by the San Francisco 49ers in the fifth round of the 2005 NFL Draft under first-year head coach Mike Nolan.
After playing sparingly as a rookie, Fields appeared in 13 games in 2006 including nine starts, recording 28 tackles and a pass deflection. He spent the following two seasons backing up highly-regarded nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin, totaling 40 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble during that span.
Fields followed Nolan to Denver in 2009, signing with the Broncos as an unrestricted free agent. He opened all 16 games for the team that season, recording 37 tackles on the team's seventh-ranked rushing defense.
In May 2010, Fields was arrested on a misdemeanor weapons charge in Houston. He was relegated to a backup role that season when Nolan left for Miami, starting none of the 16 games in which he appeared and recording 22 tackles.
This may not be a huge splash in free agency, but this is an excellent depth signing for the Dolphins and is one that you could have seen coming a mile (or Mile High, heyoooo) away.
Fields (6-foot-2, 314 pounds) is a longtime pupil of defensive coordinator Nolan, having been drafted by Nolan in 2005, following him to Denver in 2009 and playing the first five seasons of his professional career under the man until he was hired by the Dolphins last season.
While Fields is far from an elite nose tackle and really what I'd call a borderline starter, his starting experience should provide useful and he is a significant upgrade behind Paul Soliai. In fact, his signing might mean that not one of Chris Baker, Ryan Baker or rookie Frank Kearse will make the team, given that someone like Tony McDaniel can serve as an emergency nose tackle.
To a lesser extent, Fields also provides some insurance and leverage for the Dolphins if contract negotiations with franchise player Soliai were to get ugly.
I won't say Fields is an absolute lock to make the team, given what happened to Marques Douglas and Charles Grant before last season, but barring a big surprise, he should be Soliai's top backup in 2011 and potentially beyond.
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.
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