The Miami Dolphins have reinforced their defense while losing a starter on offense, according to a team announcement. On Saturday, the Dolphins officially activated safety T.J. McDonald from the suspended list, making him available to make his debut with the team during their Monday Night Football contest against the Carolina Panthers.
McDonald was suspended for the first eight games of the 2017 season for a violation of the NFL’s substance abuse policy. McDonald was arrested in May 2016 on a suspicion of driving under the influence of prescription medication. He pleaded no contest in January to “wet reckless” for the incident.
The Dolphins signed McDonald, knowing about the impending suspension, this offseason. He spent the first four years of his career with the St. Louis / Los Angeles Rams, recording four interceptions, 18 passes defensed, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, five sacks, and 281 tackles in 53 games started. He was the Rams’ 2013 third-round pick.
To make roster space for McDonald, the Dolphins placed right tackle Ja’Wuan James on injured reserve, effectively ending his 2017 season. James suffered a hamstring injury last week in the team’s Sunday Night Football loss to the Oakland Raiders. James was thought to be “week-to-week” earlier in the week, but reports over the past few days had indicated the injury might be more severe than initally thought and that the season could be in jeopardy for Miami’s 2014 first-round pick.
James has played in 47 games for the Dolphins over the past four years. He played in all 16 games as a rookie before only being in seven games in 2015. He again played all 16 games last season, but will finish this year with just eight games played.
The Dolphins will likely look to Jesse Davis or Sam Young to replace James.
McDonald is expected to immediately assume a starting role in the secondary next to Reshad Jones. The Dolphins like the ability for the two players to work as both free- and strong-safeties, giving the team versatility with how they are used from play to play. McDonald impressed the Dolphins coaches and front office during his preseason work, leading to the team signing him to a contract extension through the 2021 season.