TACKLING CHESTER

The Dolphins found out the hard way last year that you can never have enough big bodies along the defensive line, and they addressed that need on Tuesday with the signing of unrestricted free agent Larry Chester to a four-year contract.<P>The big defensive tackle, formerly of the Carolina Panthers, was targeted by the Dolphins on the first day of free agent (March 1) and his signing appeared a foregone conclusion over the weekend.<P>

Chester is a 6-2, 310-pound five-year veteran out of Temple. He is pretty much strictly a run defender, but that's just fine in the Dolphins' defensive scheme.

Chester won't be asked to do much pass rushing, with the team substituting on obvious passing downs.

With the Panthers last season, Chester started five of the 11 games he played before suffering a broken left fibula. He took a physical with the Dolphins before signing, and while he might not be ready for the spring minicamps he should be at 100 percent by the start of training camp.

Despite missing the last five games, Chester was second among Panthers defensive linemen with 55 tackles, and he also had half a sack and a fumble recovery.

Prior to joining Carolina as a free agent last year, Chester spent his first three NFL seasons with the Colts, with his best season coming in 1999 when he started eight games.

The addition of Chester could prompt the Dolphins to use Daryl Gardener at left defensive end next season. The move not only would bolster the team's run defense, but it would lessen the amount of pounding on Gardener, who has been battling well-documented back problems.

Also on Tuesday, the Dolphins signed guard Jamie Nails, who spent a couple of weeks with the team last training camp. Nails wasn't in ideal physical condition back then, and that shouldn't be an issue with some much time before training camp.


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