Richie Incognito Adds a Gritty Punch To the Miami Dolphins' O-Line

Michael PintoSenior Writer IMarch 17, 2010

ATLANTA - DECEMBER 27:  Richie Incognito #62 of the Buffalo Bills against the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on December 27, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

It's been reported that the Miami Dolphins have signed controversial offensive guard Richie Incognito to a one-year deal.

Though terms have not yet been disclosed, its believed the 26-year-old lineman will earn somewhere near the $1 million he collected a year ago while playing with the St. Louis Rams and Buffalo Bills.

Incognito was named the NFL's dirtiest player last season in a poll by players from around the league. He's been fined over $100,000 for various on-field infractions and is known around the league for his gritty (sometimes too gritty) performance. 

Players don't earn reputations like his for no reason. Incognito is a good talent, but he comes with baggage. 

When he's at his best, the six-year veteran is capable of being one of the better guards in the league. When he's at his worst, he's capable of being thrown from a game for head butting an opponent. 

At times he's rubbed coaches the wrong way—that's what got him booted from Saint Louis. He can rub teammates the wrong way as well—that's what assured he wasn't re-signed by the Bills.

But the Dolphins front office must see something in him that they like. After his release from the Rams last season, the team put in a waiver claim for Incognito, but were denied their request when Buffalo—who was higher on the waiver list—put in a claim as well.

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Now Miami has their man, character issues aside. 

The Dolphins have one of the deepest, most talented offensive lines in the league, but the unit is also injury prone. Left guard Justin Smiley, center Jake Grove, and right guard Donald Thomas have missed a combined 28 games over the last two seasons.

All three are excellent talents when healthy, but each raise a certain level of worry as they can't seem to stay that way. 

Backing them up, Nate Garner and Joe Berger filled in admirably. Garner did well enough to merit splitting starting minutes with Thomas at right guard down the stretch last season. 

Incognito will join the mix to beef up the competition, but also to serve as further injury insurance. He, Garner, and Berger are capable of playing every interior position along the offensive line. They could probably start on most teams in the league as well.

It remains to be seen how the line will pan out once the regular season starts, but what can be assured is a healthy competition this summer. 

Smiley is an All-Pro talent when healthy, and should be a lock to start at left guard. Incognito, Thomas, and Garner will battle it out for the honor to play on the right side.

So while some might look at the move to sign the controversial guard as a dangerous one, the flip side of the coin is that Incognito is a true talent. He's started most of his career for a reason, and earned that role just as much as he did his dirty reputation.

Offensive lines need that kind of fire though, that grittiness can be an asset in the trenches. At the very least, he'll serve as yet another solid backup on an already talented unit. At the most, he'll unseat one of the starters at guard.

The move doesn't seem to have a downside. As long as Dolphins coach Tony Sparano can keep Incognito's dirty side focused on leveling opponents the legal way. 

Bet Sparano and Co. will tame the beast or maybe just unleash him on the rest of the AFC. Either way, Miami's O-line just got better.

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