Thursday, June 21, 2012

Was Ochocinco Fins' best free agent WR option?

Photo: Beth Hart, Flickr 

The Dolphins recently signed Miami native and six-time Pro Bowl wideout Chad Ochocinco to address an obvious deficiency at the receiver position. Always a magnet for controversy and fines from the commissioner, the signing of Ochocinco brought more of the ridicule that the Dolphins organization has become so accustomed to in recent years.

After all, it's been three years since the artist formerly known as Chad Johnson has produced a 1,000 yard season or a Pro Bowl selection.

Now 34-years-old and coming off a disgraceful one-year stint in New England, it would appear that Ochocinco's career is drawing to its conclusion.

Was Ochocinco the best choice for the Dolphins? Was there a better option out there to fill Miami's hole at receiver?

Miami neglected to select a receiver until the sixth and seventh rounds of April's draft due to the multitude of needs at other positions, neither did they allot the cap space to make a push for any big-name free agents.

This late in the offseason, the free agent pickings are slim. The biggest possibilities are Plaxico Burress, Braylon Edwards, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and former Dolphin Greg Camarillo. Burress has been vocal about his desire to sign on with his hometown Dolphins, but it's obvious that the interest only went one way. He would bring just as much if not more baggage than Ochocinco, but also would be the big, experienced red zone target that Miami very much lacks. It would have seemed like a logical fit, but it doesn't look like any other teams are eager to sign the former Jet, either.

Edwards is in a similar situation as Burress, though he would have more years in the tank if he can rehab from the knee injury that ended his 2011 season. He is another big target who can stretch the field vertically as well, but neither Edwards or Burress are ideal receivers for the west coast offense that Miami will be running.

Houshmandzadeh and Camarillo would both struggle to be higher than a fourth receiver on just about any other team, so they aren't much of an improvement in any sense other than depth. The fact that they are in the top four free agents is more of a testament to the weakness of the remaining options.

Camarillo does have a special place in Dolphins lore, as he scored the overtime touchdown in the sole victory of the 2007 season.

Given Miami's need for a receiver and the available options, Ochocinco was in fact the best choice. He should have at least a season left in the tank, where he could return to being a natural playmaker who can make the difficult catches.

Ochocinco can also help the Dolphins' young and developing receivers in a couple of ways. Firstly, he can provide a level of competition that will raise everyone's game.

Having a talented and experienced receiver in drills and meetings will give the younger players a reference point for success in the league. Prior to signing Ochocinco, the Dolphins' best example was fourth-year wideout Davone Bess.

Secondly, Ochocinco will help their development by taking some heat off of them in games. Since the Dolphins have no clear-cut No. 1 receiver, Ochocinco will command the most attention from the defense. This allows Hartline, Bess and the rest of the Fins wideouts to face lesser coverage and get receptions.

There is much to be seen from Ochocinco before his impact can be accurately measured. He will have to learn the playbook, which was a problem in New England, and get accustomed to not having a Carson Palmer or Tom Brady caliber quarterback.

But in the meantime, at least he is working on developing "Brokeback Mountain chemistry" with his new teammates.

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