The Miami Dolphins found running back Larry Johnson expendable, releasing him yesterday. But the team has apparently opted to keep five running backs in house by signing undrafted free agent Richard Medlin to the practice squad.
Medlin joined fellow undrafted rookie Nic Grigsby as one of two running backs on the team's eight-man practice squad. He replaces seventh-round rookie nose tackle Frank Kearse, who was signed to the Carolina Panthers' active roster Monday.
As a member of the practice squad, Medlin will make roughly $5,700 a week. He will not be eligible to play in games but will participate in practice and team meetings. He can be signed to the Dolphins' active roster if they choose, or he can sign to another NFL team's active roster at any time just as Kearse did.
The Dolphins now have a full eight-man practice squad and 53-man roster after the additions of Nate Jones and Igor Olshansky yesterday.
A Raleigh, N.C. native, Medlin walked on at Division II Fayetteville State in 2007 and earned his way into a featured role in the team's backfield. He led the Broncos in rushing three of his four seasons, amassing a total of 2,721 yards and 28 touchdowns on the ground. Medlin also excelled as a returner, earning CIAA Special Teams Player of the Year honors after averaging 41.7 yards per kickoff return and taking three back for scores.
Measuring in at 5-foot-11 and 205 pounds, Medlin was routinely clocked in the 4.6s in the 40-yard dash during pre-draft workouts. He was not selected in the 2011 NFL draft but was signed by the New England Patriots as a rookie free agent on Aug. 3.
Medlin faced an uphill battle to make the Patriots' roster with two drafted rookies—Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley—joining returning veterans BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead. Medlin rushed for 66 yards on 20 carries while adding 39 yards on six receptions, scoring two touchdowns in the preseason finale before being waived during final cuts on Sept. 3.
In Miami, Medlin will wear former Dolphins running back Patrick Cobbs' old number 38. He will work at running back in practice and will also get a look on special teams, potentially as a returner and certainly in coverage.
Medlin certainly isn't a player who is going to jump out at you on paper. He doesn't have particularly impressive measurables or physical attributes and his collegiate production at the Division II level was solid but not dominant. His return numbers are indeed impressive, but he doesn't seem to have the speed to carry that success over to the pro level.
What the Dolphins are getting in Medlin is another body at running back for practice purposes, and a much cheaper one than Johnson would have been. It makes sense for the team to keep five total backs between the active roster and practice squad, considering Lex Hilliard also doubles as a fullback and Reggie Bush may be moved around more than we've seen the first two weeks of the season.
For every Arian Foster there are a thousand running backs who don't ever succeed in the pros;and Medlin will certainly have his hands full just making an active roster. He just doesn't seem to have much upside on offensive due to his lack of physical tools.
Moving away from all the negatively and reality checks for a second, it is worth noting that Medlin is regarded as smart, mature player and an extremely hard worker. He won't be Ronnie Brown or Ricky Williams, but he does have the chance to be just like another former Patriots undrafted running back that wore number 38 for the Dolphins if he can make an impact on special teams.
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.