Barry Jackson

Dolphins to add former Browns edge rusher, continue reshaping defensive front

Seeking a veteran edge rusher, the Dolphins are expected to add defensive end Nate Orchard after he impressed the team in a workout on Wednesday. His signing is imminent, according to a source.

The Dolphins brought in several veteran edge players, including linebacker Connor Barwin and some young prospects for workouts on Wednesday.

Barwin has been mulling various options, and the Dolphins ultimately decided to offer Orchard, who has five sacks in 38 NFL games for Cleveland, Buffalo and Kansas City.

Orchard, 26, was drafted in the second round, 51st overall, by Cleveland in 2015 after a senior season at Utah in which he had 18.5 sacks, was named All Pac-10 and won the Ted Hendricks Award for the top college defensive end.

Orchard, who’s 6-3 and 255 pounds, started 13 games over three seasons for Cleveland - including 11 as a rookie - but was waived after preseason in 2018, a stressful ordeal which was chronicled on HBO’s Hard Knocks.

He then signed with the Bills Sept. 10 and played three games before being released on Oct. 2, then spent a month with the Chiefs, appearing in one game.

He signed with Seattle April 4 of this offseason but was released May 10.

His career numbers: five sacks, 69 tackles, nine tackles for loss, five passes defended, one interception, one fumble recovery and two forced fumbles in 38 games.

The Dolphins also had explored several other edge rushers in recent weeks, including former Green Bay defensive end Nick Perry and ex-Tennessee defensive end Derrick Morgan.

The Dolphins now have more than a dozen candidates to play substantial snaps at defensive tackle, defensive end and outside linebacker.

Beyond outside linebackers Kiko Alonso and Jerome Baker, that group is highlighted by defensive tackles Christian Wilkins, Davon Godchaux, Vincent Taylor and Akeem Spence; end/linebacker Charles Harris; rookie linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel and veteran ends Orchard and Tank Carradine.

The Dolphins believe their defensive tackles - including Wilkins and Godchaux - can be effective defensive ends in a 3-4, which the Dolphins expect to use a lot of the time. That’s why Miami hasn’t felt compelled to add a bunch of defensive ends even after parting ways with Cam Wake, Robert Quinn and Andre Branch.

Also competing for roster spots on the defensive line or outside linebacker, among others: end Jonathan Woodard, undrafted rookie ends Jonathan Ledbetter and Dwayne Hendrix; former Alliance of American Football edge rushers Jayrone Elliott and Tyrone Holmes, former Colts defensive tackle Joey Mbu and former UM defensive tackle Kendrick Norton.

Among their AAF additions, the Dolphins are eager to see what they have in Elliott (who has four sacks in 38 games with the Packers) and Holmes (one sack in 14 previous games for Cleveland). They were two of the AAF’s best pass rushers.

And Dolphins front office officials also indicate they’re high on the three undrafted rookie defensive linemen they’ve signed and want a long look at them, too.

Hendrix, who had 7.5 sacks in 28 college games at Tennessee and Pittsburgh, is “a tough physical player,” Dolphins assistant general manager Marvin Allen told the team’s web site. “You love everything about him. He’s a strong, gritty guy who gives us a presence. We think he has a big upside.”

Ledbetter was one of the best run-stopping defensive linemen in college football last season, according to Pro Football Focus, and Dolphins co-player personnel director Adam Engroff said Ledbetter “is somebody scouts really liked, including myself all year long. Highly recruited kid, going into Georgia. Could have gone anywhere, went there. Tough, physical, plays the run really well. He stood out at the Senior Bowl. He plays with attitude, plays violent, really like what he brings to our team.”

Though Ledbetter had only 4.5 sacks in his career at Georgia, he had a would-be sack of Josh Rosen on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Engroff said undrafted Mississippi State rookie defensive tackle Cory Thomas “is a mountain of a man, 6-5, 315. He’s got 35 inch arms. Very raw [but a] lot of upside. He’s very impressive.”

The Dolphins don’t permit reporters to reveal who lined up at what position during OTA practices, so we can’t specifically say who was where in Miami’s front seven on Tuesday, the only practice open to media this week.

But we can tell you that Harris (wrist injury) wasn’t spotted much in team drills and middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan (minor injury) didn’t participate at all.

Orchard will now join the defensive end competition, giving Miami a former high draft pick who’s looking to regain a permanent footing in the league after bouncing around last season.

Once Orchard signs, the veteran defensive ends on the Dolphins will have a total of 14.5 career sacks - 5.5 by Carradine, five by Orchard, three by Harris and one by Woodard.

Every single one of the Dolphins’ defensive linemen and outside linebackers are in their 20s. The Dolphins’ 2019 approach at those positions, among some others, is clear: Develop players they obtained in the draft process or hope to extract something new and better from others’ discards.

Here’s my Wednesday piece with analysis of every player in the mix for the Heat’s pick at No. 13 in the draft.

Here’s my Wednesday piece with Canes notes.

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