Dennis Hickey ran the Buccaneers’ college scouting department when Tampa Bay bet its future on Josh Freemean.
It was a losing hand.
Six years later, Hickey and Freeman are reunited, but this time four hours south on Alligator Alley.
Freeman and the Dolphins agreed on a one-year deal Thursday, perhaps giving the former first-round pick his last chance to prove he belongs at this level.
Additionally on Thursday, the Dolphins signed free agent linebacker Spencer Paysinger to a one-year deal, providing the team much-needed depth at the position.
Paysinger, who played on all four major special teams in New York, has been brought in to do the same in Miami.
But that doesn’t mean he won’t dream even bigger.
“Every linebacker that plays in the NFL wants to be a starter at some point,” Paysinger said, not long after affixing his name to the contract. “For me, it was about having an opportunity.”
The same can be said for Freeman, who fell out of favor with then-Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano in 2013 and has been in a career free-fall ever since. The Buccaneers cut Freeman early in his fifth season with the team; he had a disastrous stint with the Vikings and was out of the league after a failed tryout with the Giants during the spring of 2014.
Freeman, still only 27, has completed 57.6 percent of his passes as a pro for 80 touchdowns and 67 interceptions. His career’s high-water mark came in 2010, when he led the Buccaneers to a 10-6 record. He will presumably compete with McLeod Bethel Thompson for the No. 3 quarterback job behind Ryan Tannehill and Matt Moore.
As for Paysinger, he has hopes of more than being merely a backup. The Dolphins’ linebacker position is in flux. Jelani Jenkins and Koa Misi appear set as starters, but that third spot remains up for grabs. Paysinger can play on both the weak and strong sides.
Paysinger, 26, broke into the league as an undrafted rookie in 2011, winning a Super Bowl in his first year. He has missed just two games in his career.
Though mostly a situational player for the Giants, Paysinger did start 10 games in 2013, recording 65 tackles and a sack. He logged just 81 snaps on defense last year, but was an unofficial co-captain of the Giants’ special teams.
A Los Angeles native, Paysinger played collegiately at Oregon. His teammate: Dion Jordan, another versatile Dolphins defender whose biggest impact thus far has been in the kicking game.
But unlike the overachieving Paysinger, Jordan is seen as a disappointment; two years ago, he was the third pick in the draft.
“I’d like to help him in any way possible,” Paysinger said of Jordan. “He’s an athletic freak. ... For him, I think it’s getting back to basics.”
Offseason dates announced
The Dolphins’ offseason program begins April 20 with voluntary strength and conditioning workouts, the league announced Thursday. The two-month program culminates with the team’s mandatory minicamp, which is June 16-18.
The dates of the team’s organized team practice activity (also voluntary) are May 26-27, May 29 June 1-2, June 4 and June 8-11.