Barry Jackson

Dolphins bring in another veteran tackle and 10 things to know about the one they added Thursday

Washington Redskins defensive tackle Terrell McClain warms up prior to an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos, Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017, in Landover, Md.
Washington Redskins defensive tackle Terrell McClain warms up prior to an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos, Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017, in Landover, Md. AP Photo

A day after trading for one defensive tackle, the Dolphins on Friday are hosting another at their team headquarters.

According to a league source, former Cowboys starter Terrell McClain is visiting the Dolphins on Friday, and Miami has genuine interest in signing him if the price is right.

One problem is that the Dolphins are up against the cap until Ndamukong Suh's $17 million in dead money comes off their cap on June 1. But Miami has a small amount of space if it wants to sign McClain or another player to a modest deal.

McClain, 29, started 15 games for Dallas in 2016 and had 40 tackles and 2.5 sacks and parlayed that into a four-year, $21 million deal with Washington last offseason.

McClain appeared in 12 games but started just two games for the Redskins last season and had 20 tackles and two sacks. Pro Football Focus rated him 120th of 122 defensive tackles.

The Redskins released McClain after the draft.

McClain, who missed Weeks 12 through 15 with a toe injury last season, was a third-round pick in the 2011 draft by the Carolina Panthers.

A University of South Florida alum, McClain has played for Carolina, Houston, New England, Dallas and Washington in an eight-year career.

McClain, if signed, would give the Dolphins even more depth at defensive tackle. Jordan Phillips, Davon Godchaux, Spence, Vincent Taylor and William Hayes (who will be an end and tackle) are under contract. They also like UCF undrafted rookie Jamiyus Pittman, who will try to make the team as an undrafted free agent.


Ten things to know about new addition Akeem Spence and the Dolphins’ situation at defensive tackle, plus a few other notes:

1) Here’s the good news on Spence: He’s young (26) and cheap ($2.6 million base after taking about a $500,000 pay cut). He did his best work last year playing for then-Lions and now-Dolphins defensive line coach Kris Kocurek – finishing with a PFF grade of 76.7, well above his previous high of 51.3. (That ranked 65th among 122 qualifying defensive tackles.) And he ended the year well; according to Pro Football Focus, his five highest graded games of the season came in his last six.

2) Spence loved how Kocurek used him, and it not only resulted in his best PFF score but a career high 3.0 sacks. (By comparison, Ndamukong Suh had 4.5 last year). He also had a career-high 39 tackles.

“Talking to coach Kris before I was making my decision, he told me he was going to give me that opportunity," Spence said last August. "You know what I'm saying, just to be free, play in people's backfields. You know, most coaches say that and then when you get here, they want you to read, playing blocks. But he kept his word."

3) One negative: Spence had a career high six penalties in 2017.

4) The Dolphins gave up only a conditional seventh-rounder for Spence. Because of his price and age and Kocurek’s background with him, the Dolphins concluded he was a better fit than the top three remaining free agent defensive tackles: Jonathan Hankins (who reportedly was seeking $8 million per season), Cedric Thornton and Pat Sims.

5) Kocurek rotated his defensive tackles in Detroit, much like he plans to do here. That keeps everybody fresh. Miami would be fine with Phillips and Godchaux starting, but Spence will be given a chance to compete to start.

6) Spence did not stand for the national anthem during a September game and tweeted in subsequent days: “Got some awful news from my father. A contractor deny giving him a job on doing a house because of my peaceful protest.”

Spence made clear that he was protesting police killings of African Americans. “It’s an issue we can’t turn a blind eye to,” he said at the time. “It’s something that needs to be talked about and something that needs to be done about it.”

7) Here’s what longtime Lions and Michigan Wolverines radio analyst Jim Brandstatter told me about him on Friday: "Akeem was part of the rotation in the middle of the defense. He’s a pro, gets the job done, not flashy but very capable. Really didn’t get consistent chance to show a lot, but when in the game didn’t get lost. Solid player but didn’t crack into the 'we don’t want to lose him' category as the Lions got a draft pick next year."

8) Spence started 30 games in the first four years of his career for Tampa before signing the three-year, $10.6 million deal with Detroit. He started 11 last year. Miami was 14th against the run last year and Detroit 18th.

9) Tampa Bay took Spence 100th overall in 2013 out of Illinois, seven spots after Miami drafted cornerback Will Davis and six spots before the Dolphins took Dion Sims.

10) Spence has one suspension in his past; he was forced to sit out the 2015 opener for violating the league’s substance policy. NFL Network said that was a result of a 2014 arrest on a marijuana possession charge. He missed half of that season because of a back injury.

Couple notable things from Yahoo reporter Pete Thamel’s 10-part series on the life of a scout and how the Dolphins prepare for the draft: 1) Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen referred to Dan Marino as “Mr. Elway” in his pre-draft interview with the Dolphins. 2) Scout Ron Brockington was bowled over that Minkah Fitzpatrick was watching film by himself at 9 a.m., six hours before the start of the Alabama-Tennessee game on Oct. 21. 3) GM Chris Grier pushed for the Dolphins to select Raekwon McMillan in the second round in 2017 even though others on the team had a third round grade on him.

The Dolphins gave access to Thamel because Dolphins executive Mike Tannenbaum wanted to call attention – and give acknowledgement – to the good work of his scouts. Thamel did not report anything on why the Dolphins bypassed any specific player in the draft or their thoughts on the draft’s quarterbacks or anything to do with free agency.


A few NFL media notes, if you missed it this week:

ESPN announced that retiring former Cowboys tight end Jason Witten will be its new Monday Night Football analyst, replacing Raiders coach Jon Gruden. Witten is expected to be joined by former college football announcer Joe Tessitore.

“Jason’s passion, his insight, and his ability to clearly communicate his knowledge of the game thoroughly impressed us,” said Connor Schell, ESPN Executive Vice President for Content. “He has all the potential to be an exceptional analyst and we can’t wait to get started.”

Witten said it was a difficult decision to retire.

“I don’t know that anybody knows when it’s their time to go. I certainly did not,” Witten said. “It was emotional. I never thought about that day. I shared with Jerry [Jones] the other day, I got to the edge of thecliff in the last 72 hours and really longer than that and really couldn’t jump. I’m excited.”

CBS hired former Arizona coach Bruce Arians as an NFL analyst, joining Greg Gumbel and Trent Green on what was its No. 3 team last season, behind Jim Nantz/Tony Romo and Ian Eagle/Dan Fouts.

Renowned football writer Peter King is leaving to join in a deal involving writing and broadcasting. King has worked for NBC in the past.