Legedu Naanee’s untouched fumble was apparently the last straw.
Jabar Gaffney’s return to health was his last hurdle.
Those stars aligned Tuesday when the Dolphins swapped one journeyman receiver for another.
The Dolphins signed Gaffney to a one-year deal for the veteran minimum, and also released Naanee, whose disappointing tenure in Miami ends after four games in which he produced just one catch.
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Gaffney is expected to immediately compete for playing time, and if he can develop into a dependable third option, would fill a need. Although Brian Hartline (25 catches for a league-best 455 yards) and Davone Bess (20 for 297) have played well, no other Dolphins wideout has more than three receptions.
“It seemed like a good fit, and they wanted me,” Gaffney said. “That’s why I’m here. It’s good to go where you wanted.
“It’s an opportunity to play. With the weather here, it’s a great place to play football.”
It certainly will be a lot more pleasant come December than where Gaffney woke up Monday morning. Cut by the Patriots in late August after significantly injuring his thigh muscle, the former University of Florida star remained in New England as his leg healed.
It had not healed fully when the Dolphins worked him out before the regular season began. But he’s seemingly 100 percent now.
Gaffney, 31, is in his 11th NFL season, but he proved last season that he had plenty left when he set career highs in catches (68) and receiving yards (947) while playing for the Redskins.
“Jabar has great experience,” offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said. “He knows how to practice and how to prepare, and we’re excited about the culture he’s coming from. I think it will be a smooth transition for him.”
Naanee never got comfortable in Miami. His preseason was marred by drops, and of the five times he was targeted in the regular season, the Dolphins turned the ball over three times (twice on an interception, and once on Naanee’s only catch).
The Dolphins also cut Andre Fluellen and waived an injured Mike Rivera on Tuesday, two defensive players signed by the team in recent weeks. Combined, the moves leave two open spots on the 53-man roster.
But it’s unlikely any new player would generate the kind of enthusiasm as the Gaffney signing — either within the locker room or outside of it.
“The more weapons you have, the better,” Hartline said. “There were times when [Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson] was on me for some of the game, and then Davone did well, so he went over there. That’s good team football.”
Added Bess: “We need to do a great job at winning the matchups, and obviously week in and week out, the defenses are going to start keying and start trying to take guys away. You need everybody to show up.”
Miami has gotten little production from its passing game outside of Hartline, Bess and tight end Anthony Fasano (15 catches, 115 yards), yet it still has the league’s ninth-ranked offense. Miami averages 397 yards per game, but is minus-5 in takeaways, and turnovers have loomed large in its three losses.
Gaffney has turned the ball over just four times in 466 career touches.
He spent his first four seasons with the Texans before stops with the Patriots, Broncos and Redskins. Gaffney returned to New England last offseason and was expected to be a contributor. The quadriceps injury, and its two-month rehabilitation, scuttled those plans.
• Dan Marino appeared on CBS Sports Network on Monday and discussed whether the Dolphins have a player they can build around in Ryan Tannehill.
“I really think they do,” Marino said. “He can make all the throws.
“I like the fact there was a couple of times where he changed the play at the line of scrimmage late in the ball game, took some shots down the field. So he’s not afraid to make a change at the last second.”
• Back-to-back losses in overtime have been plenty tough on the Dolphins. Center Mike Pouncey knows they haven’t been easy for their fans, either.
“I say sorry to the fans, because those games were all on us,” Pouncey said. “Those are games we should have won.”