The Miami Dolphins gamble did not pan out and GM Andrew Berry took full advantage of their mistake. Berry claimed rookie DE Curtis Weaver off the waiver wire after he was waived by the Dolphins earlier this week. Weaver was drafted this year in the fifth-round (no. 164) and was waived with an injury designation after an apparent foot injury during a padded practice.
Weaver being waived so quickly may be shocking to some but Dolphins GM Chris Grier was likely using a common roster management strategy. Since Weaver was waived with an injury designation, it was expected that they would place Weaver on injure reserve to save training camp roster space.
The transaction is considered a gamble because Curtis Weaver is subject to the waiver wire since he doesn’t meet the NFL experience requirements to avoid waivers. Cleveland Browns GM Andrew Berry recognized claiming Weaver as an opportunity to add more depth to the defensive end group.
There are obvious steps to Curtis Weaver joining the roster and his potential impact. The biggest question mark which must be answered is the extent of his foot injury. It is obviously a cause for concern since the Dolphins even risked him being claimed by another team for the free roster spot.
During training camp the Browns have already been bitten by the injury bug and placed second-round pick Grant Delpit on IR. If the injury is not severe enough for Weaver to miss the whole season, then Berry was able to add a young developmental pass rusher whom he sought after during the draft process.
Curtis Weaver played collegiate football at Boise State and finished his career as the Mountain West Conference all time sack leader (34). Weaver was very productive in college rushing the passer and disrupting the LOS with 47.5 tackle for loss. He is listed at 6’3” 265 lbs. and projects as a base end in an even front. There may be some slight concerns about his weight after losing 31 pounds at Boise State and moving from DT to DE. He must improve his body type to improve his play speed and athletic ability.
During the pre-draft phase Weaver was applauded for his versatility, football IQ and playing with his hands. He played a significant portion of his snaps on the EDGE in a two-point stance and also excelled with his hand in the dirt. There were even times he dropped into coverage but it's unlikely he’ll be asked to do so in the NFL. Weaver has been constantly referred to as a technician with good footwork rather than a freakish athlete with tons of length. Although many evaluators prefer athleticism and length on the EDGE, Weaver being technically polished gives him a high floor.
Given this season the Browns defensive line has a healthy Myles Garrett, Olivier Vernon, and Adrian Clayborn there is less pressure on the newly claimed rookie. Looking at the short term, the most important thing for Weaver is getting healthy enough to showcase his pass rushing potential. If he is able to compete at any capacity during training camp his final roster evaluation will be simpler for Andrew Berry.
In the situation that Weaver survives the final roster cuts, then his focus should shift to getting on the field during gameday. There would be numerous veterans ahead of him on the depth chart, yet in the case of an injury or moving up the rotation a 4-5 sack season would be outstanding for the rookie EDGE rusher. Even if the sack production is not there, improvement setting the edge in the run game and becoming more consistent after the point of attack would be considered a good season.
The potential true value of this move by Andrew Berry is the long term outlook. Olivier Vernon is scheduled to be a free agent next offseason and Clayborn’s contract is essentially a one-year deal. That would leave Chad Thomas, Porter Gustin and Curtis Weaver next season to play across from Myles Garrett who recently signed a contract extension. Thus far neither Thomas nor Gustin have showcased enamoring production on the EDGE, but on the same token neither has Weaver.
If Weaver can provide consistent production as a pass rusher over a few years then this move is a home run. Even in the situation he does not develop into a solid starter, his college production at least suggest success as a sub-package pass rusher. These are the most positive outcomes for his future with the Browns, but if the waiver claim does not work out there is less negative criticism if he was a draft pick. Weaver obviously has some talent but his health still remains the question needing answers for this season and possibly the future.