Rookie punter. And now rookie kicker.
That’s the Dolphins’ bold plan on special teams after cutting kicker Caleb Sturgis on Saturday, clearing the way for Andrew Franks, an undrafted rookie out of tiny Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, to win the job.
The specialist switch was the biggest news during an otherwise ho-hum cut-down day, as the Dolphins pared their roster from 75 players down to 53 ahead of the league’s deadline.
The other big takeaways: Will Davis, the subject of trade talks earlier in the week, survived; so did A.J. Francis and C.J. Mosley, giving the Dolphins five defensive tackles — for now.
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This is all subject to change, of course. The roster late Saturday won’t necessarily be the roster come Monday morning. The team will scour the waiver wire in the coming days for ways to upgrade a roster that appears built for a playoff run.
But, at the very least, we have a general idea of what executive vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum wanted to build in his first year in Miami.
He has always valued corners, and he stayed true to his convictions Saturday. The Dolphins remarkably kept seven cornerbacks, including Davis, who still is not fully healthy after tearing his ACL last fall.
With seven corners, four safeties (including Jordan Kovacs, a mild surprise), nine defensive linemen and seven linebackers (including Neville Hewitt, a very big surprise), the Dolphins currently have 27 defensive players on their roster.
That left room for just 23 on offense, which meant Miami kept only two quarterbacks and just two tight ends.
The Dolphins will almost certainly try to add a third tight end once they sift through some 600 players who were cut loose around the league Saturday.
As for Franks, he’s a gamble. He impressed coaches this summer with his big leg, but made only 37 of 56 kicks in his college career. Still, the Dolphins saw enough in him and punter Matt Darr to go with untested players at both positions.
Earlier this week, the Dolphins chose Darr over veteran Brandon Fields. Some around the league speculated that the youth movement was a part of Tannenbaum’s analytic-based approach, with the belief that kickers and punters are largely overvalued in the NFL.
Of course, we will learn the true value of a dependable kicker once Franks is asked to make a pressure field goal to win a game.
“I’m incredibly grateful to Miami for giving me this opportunity to realize my dream,” Franks wrote on Twitter. “I’m looking forward to doing great things here. #phinsup.”
For Sturgis, it’s a disappointing end to a disappointing two-plus years in Miami. He came to the team with high hopes as a fifth-round draft pick in 2013, but never panned out.
Sturgis never could stay healthy (most recently, injuring his quad during a team-organized kickball game), and wasn’t particularly good when he was available. Sturgis made just 77.5 percent of his field-goal attempts in his first two seasons.
On offense, the Dolphins’ big winners Saturday were running back LaMike James (who might be the team’s new primary returner) and veteran lineman Jacques McClendon (who will be Mike Pouncey’s top backup).
The complete list of Dolphins cuts: WR Damarr Aultman; QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson; C Sam Brenner; DT Deandre Coleman; LB James Davidson; DE Emmanuel Dieke; RB Mike Gillislee; WR Cobi Hamilton; T Donald Hawkins; LB Mike Hull; DT Anthony Johnson; S Don Jones; G/T Michael Liedtke; LB Jeff Luc; TE Tim Semisch; TE Jake Stoneburner; K Caleb Sturgis; S Cedric Thompson; LB Jordan Tripp; T Aundrey Walker; WR Christion Jones (waived/injured); QB Josh Freeman (contract terminated).