Chad Ochocinco was signed by the Dolphins despite totaling just 15 receptions last season. (Geoff Bolte/Southcreek/ZUMAPRESS.com)
Well ... this is going to be interesting.
Just days after working out for the Miami Dolphins, Chad Ochocinco reportedly signed with his hometown team, a move that instantly adds some more intrigue to this season's "Hard Knocks" season. But is it worth the risk for rebuilding Miami?
The Dolphins and new head coach Joe Philbin must have seen something during that workout -- after Ochocinco was released by the Patriots -- that convinced them it was. And it must have been something that we haven't seen since at least 2010. Ochocinco was a complete bust in New England last season, finishing with just 15 catches and spending more time on the sideline than on the field. Even this summer, a year removed from arriving in Foxborough, Ochocino was said to be struggling with New England's playbook.
So there are no guarantees that anything will come of this -- Ochocinco's reported one-year deal almost certainly will give Miami the ability to send him packing prior to the season, if he proves his tank is empty.
On the other hand, you can understand why Miami kicked the tires on an available wide receiver.
The Dolphins are already dealing with a jumbled quarterback situation that includes incumbent starter Matt Moore, free-agent pickup David Garrard and rookie Ryan Tannehill. Chances are that it will take the Dolphins' offense a little while to get cooking in 2012.
The fact that their wide receiver spot is almost completely devoid of depth promised to make that even tougher. The leading returning receivers are Davone Bess, who had 51 grabs in 2011, and running back Reggie Bush. The projected starter opposite Bess, Brian Hartline (35 receptions last season), missed his team's summer workouts with a leg or knee injury.
Even the signing of Legedu Naanee, the presence of promising second-year man Clyde Gates, and the arrival of draft picks B.J. Cunningham (sixth round) and Rishard Matthews (seventh) didn't do much to ease the team's concerns.
From a pure position-of-need perspective, this move makes sense.
But why Ochocinco, of all guys? The Dolphins, after all, just traded away the enigmatic Brandon Marshall, in part because he didn't fit in well in the locker room. Miami has also shown no outward interest in guys like Plaxico Burress or Santonio Holmes -- players who, like Ochocinco, can make a few plays here and there but also raise a team's trouble quotient.
Maybe Miami believes Ochocinco brings more to the table than those guys, or that he'll be extra motivated playing in Miami, where he grew up. Maybe the Dolphins think last season's embarrassing run in New England will give Ochocinco the spark he needs to pick up the pieces and put together one last 1,000-yard season.
It's difficult to see the switch flipping back on suddenly, given how Ochocinco worked his way out of favor in both Cincinnati and New England.
In reality, what this boils down to is a "What do we have to lose?" situation. The veterans on the Miami roster have more or less hit their ceiling, and there do not appear to be any game-changing youngsters breaking down the door.
If a team is going to take a chance on someone, mid-June is the time to do it -- when there's plenty of time to backtrack on that decision. And that's what Miami may end up doing in the long run, especially if the 2011 version of Ochocinco is an accurate portrayal of the former Chad Johnson's remaining football ability.