DAVIE (CBSMiami) – The Miami Dolphins addressed a major defensive need on Saturday, signing free agent linebacker Rey Maualuga.
Maualuga is coming into his ninth season in the NFL, the first eight coming with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Miami is signing Maualuga to a one-year deal worth $900,000, the minimum for a veteran with his experience in the league.
The move will count just $615,000 against the Dolphins salary cap due to them invoking the minimum salary benefit.
Miami had previously used the minimum salary benefit on cornerback Alterruan Verner, who was signed last month and will likely play a key role in the Dolphins secondary this season.
It’s expected that Maualuga will step into Miami’s starting middle linebacker position but he’ll be used primarily on running downs in the Dolphins ‘base’ defense.
When Miami moves into the ‘nickel’ defense, which features an extra defensive back and only two linebackers, Maualuga will likely come off the field while outside LBs Kiko Alonso and Lawrence Timmons stay on.
This will help keep Maualuga’s snaps down, something he’s seen happen during recent years in Cincinnati.
Considering that is how Miami was expected to use its linebackers heading into training camp, the signing seems like a solid fit.
Maualuga is known for his above-average run-stopping ability, which is an area that the Dolphins defense struggled mightily last season.
A mainstay on the Bengals defense during his career, Maualuga has accumulated 584 tackles, seven interceptions, six forced fumbles and four sacks while playing in 114 games, starting all but 10 of them.
Cincinnati drafted Maualuga in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft.
He has a history with Dolphins defensive coordinator Matt Burke, who was linebackers coach with the Bengals in 2014 and 2015.
The signing comes as no surprise after Miami lost rookie linebacker Raekwon McMillan to a season-ending injury during the Dolphins first preseason game.
The following Wednesday Miami had several free agent linebackers down to the team’s facility for a visit.
Four days later the Dolphins announced the signing of Maualuga.
In a corresponding move, the Dolphins also placed wide receiver Isaiah Ford on injured reserve.
Ford was drafted by Miami in the seventh round of the 2017 NFL Draft but suffered a knee injury during training camp and had surgery on August 2.