The Dolphins have signed safety T.J. McDonald to a one-year minimum contract, but he’ll play no more than eight games in a Miami uniform in 2017.
McDonald has been suspended for half the season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. He’ll return in either Week 9 or 10, depending on when the NFL gives the Dolphins their bye.
McDonald comes to the Dolphins from the Rams, with whom he spent his first four NFL seasons. He started 53 games in that time, recording 281 tackles.
He joins a crowded position. The Dolphins already have Reshad Jones, Nate Allen, Michael Thomas and Walt Aikens at safety.
If nothing else, McDonald will be an insurance policy in case one of Miami’s top players gets hurt.
McDonald, who chose the Dolphins over other options, will be allowed to participate in the Dolphins’ offseason program, training camp and preseason. Then, he must sit.
Why? McDonald was arrested in May 2016 on drug and driving under the influence charges after crashing into a parked car.
He ultimately pleaded guilty to reckless driving charge involving drugs or alcohol, a misdemeanor. As part of the plea deal, McDonald must serve three years probation and complete a three-month alcohol program, attended Narcotics Anonymous and perform 200 hours of community service, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Meanwhile, the league’s punishment came this week.
During his interview with the Dolphins, he made assurances that his past behavior would not be repeated but knows that “words only [mean] so much.”
“This is something that will never happen again and I’ve learned [from it] and owned up to [it],” McDonald said. “I definitely want to grow from [it]. Priorities changed, everything’s changed. This whole experience is something I’m definitely going to grow from. Whatever I can do to help this team is what I’m ready to do.”
McDonald, who can play free or strong safety, added: “I just got to be hungry, stay clean and be open and honest about everything and make sure that this doesn’t happen in the future. My back is up against the wall. I’m just happy to be able to move forward with this and be able to just get back to playing ball. It’s all about ball for me right now.”
Miami Herald sportswriter Armando Salguero contributed to this report.