Barry Jackson

Dolphins add former first-round pick coming off promising year but also a knee injury

The new Dolphins regime has displayed a penchant for adding early-round draft picks who didn’t quite fulfill their potential elsewhere, and that trend continued Thursday when Miami signed defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche, a former Cardinals first round pick who was released two weeks ago.

Nkemdiche, who signed a one-year, $1.16 million deal, was immediately placed on the active/physically unable to perform list. He sustained a torn ACL late last season and isn’t expected to be ready until September.

Arizona selected him 29th overall in the 2016 draft. His draft stock fell because of a marijuana incident; in December 2015, Nkemdiche fell from a fourth-floor window of a hotel in an Atlanta suburb.

Nkemdiche, who at the time was with then-college teammate and Dolphins left tackle Laremy Tunsil, was conscious and in stable condition when officers reported to the scene, and was immediately transported to an area hospital. Police later found seven marijuana cigarettes in his room, leading to a drug possession charge that led to a suspension for Mississippi’s bowl game and his stock dropping in the draft.

Nkemdiche appeared in only five games as a rookie and 12 in his second season, producing 12 tackles and no sacks - but one fumble return for a touchdown - in those two seasons.

Robert Nkemdiche
Boise State quarterback Grant Hedrick is hit by Mississippi defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche during an NCAA college football game in Aug. 2014. Nkemdiche, a former first-round pick of the Arizona Cardinals, signed with the Dolphins on Thursday. (AP Photo/The Idaho Statesman, Darin Oswald) Darin Oswald AP

But he became a solid contributor last season, appearing in 10 games and starting six and produced 32 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 9 tackles for loss and a forced fumble before sustaining the knee injury in May 14.

Nkemdiche, who’s 6-4 and 296 pounds, has another legal issue this year; on June 6, he was arrested in Scottsdale, Ari. and cited for speeding and driving with a suspended license and taken into custody on an outstanding warrant for his arrest in Tempe.

Police records indicate that Nkemdiche, 24, was pulled over after he was observed traveling 75 mph in a 45 mph zone. Nkemdiche told police officers he was heading to practice for the Cardinals’ final OTA session. He was arrested after being informed that there was an active traffic warrant for his arrest.

While taking possession of Nkemdiche’s personal property, police found a credit card holder containing a trace amount of a white powdery substance. The report indicates that the case “appeared consistent with drug paraphernalia” and the substance “appeared consistent with the appearance of cocaine.”

Nkemdiche told the officers that the substance was a bathroom product. Officers chose not to test the substance in the credit card holder in lieu of impounding it for destruction with Nkemdiche’s cooperation.

Arizona stood by him after that incident but waived him July 28 after he failed a physical.

Nkemdiche is the latest under-30 high-draft pick to get a chance with Miami. Earlier this offseason, the Dolphins signed three previous second-round defensive players in Tank Carradine, Nate Orchard and Eric Rowe.

Miami also traded for another Arizona first-round pick (Josh Rosen) and signed Mark Walton, a former fourth-round pick of Cincinnati.

If Nkemdiche can build on what he did last season, he could add to a talented young nucleus of defensive tackles including rookie first-round pick Christian Wilkins, Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor.

In fact, Nkemdiche had more NFL sacks last season than anyone currently on the Dolphins roster.

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