In the weeks after the Dolphins signed former Bills tight end Nick O’Leary to their practice squad on Sept. 20, coach Adam Gase said more players asked him when he would be promoted to the 53-man roster than any practice squad player he has ever been around.
O’Leary rewarded the Dolphins with solid all-around play during the past two months, and the Dolphins rewarded O’Leary on Saturday by extending his contract through 2019. He will make $1.5 million next season, with $500,000 guaranteed.
The deal was agreed to, but not yet signed, as of early afternoon on Saturday.
O’Leary has seven receptions for 77 yards and a touchdown in seven games, including four starts, since he was promoted to the 53-man roster on Oct. 5.
He was unemployed for nearly three weeks after being cut Sept. 1 by the Bills, who selected him in the sixth round of the 2015 draft out of Florida State. O’Leary, the grandson of golf legend Jack Nicklaus, had 32 catches for 473 yards and two touchdowns in three years with the Bills.
O’Leary, who attended Dwyer High in Palm Beach Gardens, this season is rated 22nd among 69 tight ends by Pro Football Focus. “He does everything well,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said.
O’Leary’s signing gives the Dolphins three inexpensive tight ends under contract for 2019. Mike Gesicki, the team’s second-round pick in April’s draft is set to make $780,542 next season while Durham Smythe, the team’s fourth-round rookie, will make $570,000.
A.J. Derby, who has played in four games and dealt with a foot injury much of the year, will be a free agent after the season, as will MarQueis Gray, who was the projected starter in August before sustaining a torn Achilles’ in a practice days before the regular season opener.
Speaking of O’Leary, Gesicki, Gray and Derby, coach Adam Gase said last week: “I like all four of those guys. Every week is a tough decision. If they’re all four healthy, that’s a tough decision. You almost want to figure out, how do I get them all up? Because they all can do something offensively. They all can do special teams stuff. There’s a lot of value in that room.”
But the Dolphins haven’t gotten big receiving numbers from the position. In addition to O’Leary’s seven catches for 77 yards, Gesicki has 18 receptions for 156 yards, Derby three for 48 and Smythe two for 27.
O’Leary has played 253 offensive snaps, compared with 296 for Gesicki, 125 for Derby and 74 for Smythe.
Here are the results of a Miami Herald study on Adam Gase’s third-down play calling.. Twitter: @flasportsbuzz