There’s a fundamental rule of thumb out there that’s typically applied to the stock market and to real estate that says: “buy low and sell high”.
The Dolphins did almost the complete opposite when it came to linebacker Philip Wheeler.
Step into the “way back machine” and go back to the 2012 NFL season.
Wheeler was a member of the Oakland Raiders. He played the season on a 1-year deal and ended up having the best 16-game stretch of his career up to that point. Wheeler started every game and totaled 109 tackles, three sacks, and two forced fumbles.
The Dolphins stepped in rewarded Philips for the career year and signed the 6-foot-4, 245-pound “budding star” to a 5-year, $26 million deal with $13 million in guaranteed dollars in March of 2013. Miami had to replace linebackers Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett – their two leading tacklers from 2012 – and Wheeler was a slightly younger, higher upside option.
Or so it seemed.
To his credit, Wheeler performed solidly during his first season in Miami. During the 2013 season, Wheeler started all 16 games for the Fins and set a career-high for total tackles with a team-leading 118.
He did little else besides racking up tackles – having only a half a sack, no forced fumbles or no interceptions – and worse yet, he consistently showed flaws in pass coverage, but Miami execs probably still felt justified in their acquisition of the 29-year-old.
Things got worse the following season.
Wheeler’s struggles in pass defense grew – exponentially – and he ended up losing his starting position. His run defense – supposedly his strong suit – even took a dip. He only totaled 45 in 15 games and was swiftly jettisoned after the 2014 season.
The Dolphins bought high and sold extremely low on Wheeler.
After leaving Miami, Wheeler spent a portion of the 2015 offseason with the San Francisco 49ers but never played in a game for the team. The Atlanta Falcons then scooped him up out of the free agent pool in October of 2015.
And that’s where Wheeler is today.
Dolphins fans can take a bit of solace in the fact even in his two seasons with the “Dirty Birds”, Wheeler’s production has fallen further. He appeared in nine games in 2015 and totaled 29 tackles and a sack.
This season was worse – as he has totaled just 27 tackles even though he has played in all of the Falcons’ games up to this point.
Still, Wheeler joins other Dolphins alums turned Falcons Dan Quinn, Richard Smith and Bryan Cox who will be preparing to play in Super Bowl LI this Sunday.