The Miami Herald's Barry Jackson reports that the Miami Dolphins have signed veteran free agent wide receiver Damian Williams to a 1-year deal. Both Barry Jackson and ESPN's James Walker report that the deal is worth just $800,000, with no details on how much of that is guaranteed.
After hosting receiver Nate Burleson last week before Burleson signed with the Browns, the Dolphins clearly continued their pursuit of veteran wide receiver depth, leading to this signing in the weeks leading up to the draft. The Dolphins last season signed Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, and Brandon Gibson to multi-year deals, and former 2012 7th round pick Rishard Matthews showed promise as a sophomore last season. In addition, the Dolphins recently decided to tender an offer to exclusive rights free agent wide receiver Armon Binns, giving him a 1-year deal for $495,000.
So why sign Williams? It's important to note that 3 of the Dolphins top-5 wide receivers are coming off knee injuries of varying severity. Brian Hartline suffered a torn PCL that did not require surgery but requires several months of rehab. Despite suffering the injury late last season, Hartline is expected to be ready for training camp, if not earlier. Meanwhile, Brandon Gibson suffered a mid-season patellar tendon tear that required surgery. The Dolphins hope that he's ready for training camp, but training camp would only be 9 months after his injury and surgery. Last but not least, Armon Binns suffered a combined ACL and MCL tear during training camp last year that required surgery.
...Basically, with 3 wide receivers all suffering various ligament/tendon tears, including 2 of the top 3 on the depth chart, it makes sense to sign veteran depth as insurance in case one or more wide receivers suffers a setback in his recovery.
Williams was drafted in the third round of the 2010 draft by the Tennessee Titans after playing college football at the University of Southern California, and he was a 22 year old rookie when the season started. He posted a modest 16-catch, 219 yard rookie season statline, averaging 13.7 yards per catch with 0 touchdowns.
He managed to break into the starting lineup as a sophomore in 2011 after Kenny Britt suffered a season-ending knee injury, and Williams produced a respectable 45 catches, 592 yards, and 5 touchdowns in 13 starts (15 total games played), averaging 13.2 yards per catch.
However, as a third year player, he was then demoted back to WR3/WR4 for most of the season, and only had 30 catches for 324 yards, with just 10.8 yards per catch and 0 touchdowns.
Last season was the worst of his career, with just 15 catches for 178 yards at 11.9 yards per catch and 0 touchdowns in 10 games as he wasn't able to move up the Titans' WR depth chart and earn significant snaps.
Overall, he's a veteran wide receiver who is only 25 years old and has experience playing in both the slot and boundary. However, he accepted a 1-year deal for just $800,000 for a reason. He's only been able to earn starting snaps when other, more talented wide receivers are injured. In addition, he was benched for a game last season for violating unspecified "team rules," which isn't smart for a guy in a contract year.
He's a good depth signing at a reasonable price, with no long-term risk, but he shouldn't be getting starter's snaps unless the Dolphins WR corps suffers key injuries. He has some kick return experience in the NFL, but it isn't much - just 4 career punt returns for a total of 12 yards (3 yards per return), and 5 career kickoff returns for 123 yards (24.6 yards per return). He's a darkhorse to challenge Marcus Thigpen for kick return duties, not a favorite.