Just three days after releasing veteran linebacker Channing Crowder, the Miami Dolphins have released the man that replaced him for much of last season, terminating the contract of Tim Dobbins and signing undrafted rookie linebacker Mark Masterson.
The Dolphins signed free agent Kevin Burnett to a four-year, $21 million contract last week to replace Crowder in the starting lineup in 2011. Dobbins' release also shows the team is obviously expecting bigger things from 2010 fourth-rounder A.J. Edds, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL.
Acquired from the Chargers in the 2010 draft-day deal that landed Ryan Mathews in San Diego and Jared Odrick in Miami, Dobbins was given a new three-year, $7.9 million contract with $3 million guaranteed upon his arrival. He was due to make $1.7 million in 2011 and $1.9 million in 2012.
Dobbins played a significant role on special teams in 2010 and also replaced both Crowder and Karlos Dansby at times when they were injured. He appeared in all 16 games with six starts last season, recording 47 tackles and one sack.
With the swap of Dobbins and Masterson, the Dolphins remain at 82 players on their 90-man expanded training camp roster.
A Williamstown, N.J. native, Masterson (6'2", 240) saw action in 11 games as a freshman at Maine, primarily on special teams. He started four of 11 contests in 2007, finishing the season with 31 tackles, three tackles for a loss, one interception and two pass breakups.
As a junior in 2008, Masterson started all 13 games for the Black Bears, totaling 68 tackles (3.5 for a loss), two sacks, one fumble recovery, two forced fumbles, one interception and seven pass breakups.
A foot injury allowed Masterson to play in just one game in 2009, and he was granted a medical redshirt by the NCAA. He returned to the field as a fifth-year senior in 2010, appearing in nine games and recording 26 tackles, one forced fumble, one interception and two pass breakups.
I obviously can't prove it now, but I was just thinking about writing in the coming days about how Dobbins' roster spot may not be safe if the team likes what they see from Edds. It seems Miami decided not to waste any more time, opting to save some cash and lower the mean age of their linebacker corps.
Dobbins was solid against the run last season, but he wasn't the impact player on special teams that the Dolphins had hoped he would be, and the defense was noticeably worse when he was on the field compared to when Crowder was. Considering Crowder was pretty mediocre himself, this is more of a reflection on Dobbins.
With Dobbins gone, Edds is the unquestioned top backup inside linebacker as long as he can remain healthy. Coming out of Iowa, his best attributes were his athleticism and coverage skills, so he could very well see time on defense behind Dansby and Burnett.
As for Masterson, he had a pretty unimpressive collegiate career at Maine and doesn't offer any extraordinary physical tools. He's an extremely borderline pro prospect and will have a battle on his hands just to make the practice squad, competing with fellow inside linebackers Mike Rivera and Austin Spitler.
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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