Should They Sign Willie McGinest?

Free agent Willie McGinest has been connected to the both the New England Patriots and the Miami Dolphins recently. McGinest addressed the possibility of his return to the NFL for one more season after a disappointing finish in Cleveland. We asked two insiders what they thought of McGinest's ties to either AFC East club and where he might end up. insiders Alain Poupart of Dolphin Digest and Jon Scott of Patriots Insider address the rumor that free agent linebacker Willie McGinest may return to either club for the 2009 season. Is it possible?

Does McGinest make sense in Miami?

Alain Poupart: Picking up the Willie McGinest who played for New England early in his career would be a no-brainer for the Dolphins -- or any team, for that matter -- but this clearly not the Willie McGinest who is now available. And this older, reduced version probably wouldn't represent enough of an upgrade at outside linebacker for the Dolphins to sign him. Just consider the fact that as it stands right now, Jason Taylor likely will be a situational player for Miami's defense in 2009, and Taylor is a much better player than McGinest at this time.

Joey Porter shows his excitement at the beginning a game vs the Raiders (AP Photo/Jeffrey M. Boan)

The truth is the Dolphins have an abundance of outside linebackers, highlighted by returning starters Joey Porter and Matt Roth. There was a problem with generating enough of a pass rush to complement Porter last season, but the Dolphins are confident that's been addressed with the additions of Taylor and two-time CFL defensive MVP Cameron Wake. For good measure, the Dolphins also have a few promising young players, such as Erik Walden, Tearrius George and Charlie Anderson. The Dolphins showed little interest when former Dallas starter Greg Ellis became available earlier in the offseason, and it would be surprising if things were different with McGinest.

Does McGinest Make Sense in New England?

Jon Scott: At first glance adding McGinest is a no-brainer. People believe that if McGinest can play at close to the level he was at before then he'd be an upgrade over unproven players like Pierre Woods, Shawn Crable or Vince Redd. The comparisons to Tully Banta-Can are another reason people prefer McGinest (on paper). When McGinest left for Cleveland, Banta-Cain was unable to replace McGinest as a full-time starter.. Banta-Cain was allowed to depart for San Francisco uncontested because he couldn't perform the duties required at outside linebacker the way the Patriots wanted.

The Patriots appear ready to head into the off-season with their three young backers and the veteran Banta-Cain (now in his second stint with the team) at outside linebacker supporting veteran Adalius Thomas. Though Derrick Burgess and Greg Ellis were targets of the team, New England has had to move forward, not willing to overpay for additional insurance at the position. As new director of personnel Nick Caserio stated, the Patriots are content to head into this season with the players they have on the roster. With that said, don't be surprised to see someone end up on New England's roster. If a vested veteran wants to join New England, it's still possible the team will sign him AFTER opening day so they don't have to guarantee the full contract.


Where will McGinest end up in when it's all over?

Alain Poupart: Given his history with Bill Belichick and the fact the Patriots, from this vantage point, have much more of a need for an outside linebacker than do the Dolphins, it would seem New England is the logical landing spot. Belichick also likes having veterans at linebacker, and McGinest certainly fits that description. The Dolphins don't want too much age on their team, and they already have veterans to lead on defense with guys like Jason Ferguson, Porter, Taylor and Will Allen. Having said that, it's no slam dunk the Patriots will pick him up because McGinest's play clearly has slipped in recent years. But he probably still has some football left, and the Patriots always find a way to get the most out of guys anyway.

McGinest thinks highly of both Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick. New Englnad may be his best option

Jon Scott: Expecting McGinest in New England is a possibility, though the Patriots would prefer to sign someone younger than a 37-year old linebacker. Junior Seau showed he can still play at the age of 39, but Seau is a physical specimen and someone to be admired for his workout regimen. Though McGinest is sure to be a hard worker, he's not in Seau's category. It's hard to remain in the league as an elderly linebacker, just ask Seau, who was discarded by the Dolphins before he willed New England to the Super Bowl. Another is Tedy Bruschi, 36, who's already considering a post NFL career in coaching or Roman Phifer who tried to make a comeback with the Giants in 2005 after turning 36 with the Patriots in 2004.

McGinest is not Jason Taylor's caliber player at this point in time. If he was, the Patriots, or other 3-4 defenses would have jumped all over signing him. Eventually, McGinest - if he gets a job - will end up with one of Belichick's teams, possibly even in Green Bay where Dom Capers is rebuilding the Packers defense in the mold of the Steelers 3-4 system. It would be a good fit for McGinest due to the similarity to New England's.


Where does your team need help if not at LB and what do you expect them to do to address it?

Alain Poupart: The one glaring spot where there is some concern for the Dolphins is at right guard, and that's because of the offseason injury to 2008 opening-day starter Donald Thomas. After surprising everyone by winning the starting job as a rookie sixth-round pick, Thomas sustained a foot injury in the season opener against the Jets and was done for the year. Then he tore a chest muscle while working out in the offseason, which means he's had two significant injuries against only one start in his NFL career. Word is Thomas is making good progress in his recovery from his latest injury and should be ready for the start of training camp, but it doesn't change the fact there's now reason for concern over whether he's a talented kid who always will be injured. The real problem for Miami is there's no proven commodity behind Thomas. During OTAs and the June minicamp, the guys taking turns lining up at right guard with the first-team offense were journeyman Joe Berger, second-year player Brandon Frye and 2008 fourth-round pick Shawn Murphy, who was inactive for all 16 games last year. Another option would be veteran Ikechuku Ndukwe, but he's more valuable as a backup swing guy. The bottom line is Thomas better be able to hold up because there's a clear hole if he doesn't.

Jon Scott: Outside linebacker is the primary concern, but wide receiver is another. The Patriots have Randy Moss and Wes Welker returning in their roles but defenses are beginning to catch up with those two. If a team can take away both, then the Patriots really need a third - even a fourth - receiver to step up to the plate. In the off-season the Patriots added Greg Lewis via trade from the Eagles, and Joey Galloway as a free agent. The newcomers ill be asked o replace Jabar Gaffney, who was a solid third option for New England's quarterbacks the past two years averaging 37 catches for 460 yards an 3 TDs per season. Lewis has the furthest to go, averaging less than 20 catches for roughly 250 yards per season the past two years. Galloway is coming off an injury-plagued season where he managed less than 140 yards in 13 catches. Before last year however, Galloway had back-to-back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons.

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Alain Poupart covers the Miami dolphins as the Associate Editor of Dolphin Digest
Jon Scott covers the New England Patriots for Patriots Insider

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