The Miami Dolphins have added veteran linebacker Rey Maualuga to the roster today, signing the former Cincinnati Bengals player to a one-year, $900,000 contract. The move brings in another player for a linebacker group that is already dealing with injuries. But, where and how will the Dolphins use Maualuga?
The Dolphins entered the preseason with Kiko Alonso and Lawrence Timmons as the team’s two outside linebackers, while rookie Raekwon McMillan settled into the middle linebacker position. After a torn ACL during the first preseason game ended McMillan’s rookie campaign, speculation was that the Dolphins would consider moving Alonso or Timmons, both of whom have inside linebacker experience, to the middle and look to make the replacement on the outside. That did not happen, however, as the team started third-year linebacker Mike Hull in the middle throughout the week of practices and in the team’s second preseason game.
Now, it appears, Maualuga will come in and immediately fill the middle linebacker spot, giving the Dolphins a veteran to assume the position. Maualuga has ties to Miami defensive coordinator Matt Burke, who coached the Bengals linebackers in 2014 and 2015.
Maualuga has not played as many snaps in recent years as he did early in his career, but that could fit perfectly with how the Dolphins planned to use McMillan as the middle linebacker. Miami considered McMillan part of the “base” defense - four defensive linemen, three linebackers, four defensive backs - but did not have him on the field in nickel situations - four defensive linemen, two linebacker, five defensive backs. Assuming the Dolphins keep the same plan, using Alonso and Timmons as the linebackers when an extra defensive back is needed, that keeps Maualuga’s snap counts down, but keeps him on the field for running situations.
Similar to how the Dolphins were able to sign Jay Cutler, giving them a quarterback to replace Ryan Tannehill that understood head coach Adam Gase’s offensive system, the Dolphins may have found a plug-and-play replacement for McMillan that gives them the best addition they could get without disrupting what everyone else will be doing throughout the year.
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