There are six players on the active and reserved/injured lists of both Atlanta and New England that will be a part of Super Bowl LI in Houston.
There has been much speculation about what could have been had the Miami Dolphins selected Matt Ryan with the first overall pick back in 2008. The murmurs have only picked up in recent weeks with Ryan, an MVP candidate, leading the Atlanta Falcons to their second Super Bowl in team history. While some continue to wonder what if, there are some players partaking in the big game that have already been a part of the Dolphins organization. Here’s a look at the players who have already sported the aqua and orange in their careers.
Derrick Shelby, Atlanta
Unfortunately, a couple of former Dolphins will miss Super Bowl LI due to injury. After signing with Atlanta this past offseason, Shelby tore his Achilles in October, and was placed on IR. Shelby spent the first four seasons of his career with Miami, and appeared in every game except one. Serving primarily as a reserve, Shelby never recorded more than 37 tackles and 3.5 sacks for a season. The Falcons signed Shelby to a four-year deal in March worth $18 million. He finished 2016 with just eight tackles and zero sacks through six games.
Jonathan Freeny, New England
Freeny’s story is quite similar to Shelby’s. Freeny was initially signed by Miami in 2011 as an undrafted free agent. He was released that September but re-signed in December, and would spend the next three seasons as a Dolphin. After the 2014 season, Freeny became an unrestricted free agent after Miami decided to not tender his contract.
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Freeny then joined the dark side of the Patriots on a one-year deal. New England extended his contract through this season after Freeny exploded for 50 tackles in 2015, more than all three seasons with Miami combined, and became an important member on special teams as well. He too, was placed on injured reserve this October after dealing with a nagging shoulder injury.
Believe it or not, Matt Bryant made a cameo appearance for the Dolphins back in 2004. Bryant only served on the team for three weeks. He bounced around some that year, going from the Giants to the Indianapolis Colts, where he appeared in just one game, then Miami. In his short stint with the Dolphins, Bryant was perfect, making good on all three of his field goal attempts, and seven extra points. He’s been with the Falcons now since 2009.
Miami signed Philip Wheeler to a five-year deal worth $26 million in 2013. Him and Dannell Ellerbe were brought in to replace Kevin Burnett and Karlos Dansby by then General Manager Jeff Ireland. Even though Burnett and Dansby were still very productive, Ireland wanted linebackers who were younger and faster. That would proved to be a drastic move.
Wheeler had a stellar season in Oakland prior to joining Miami, and even recorded a career-high 118 tackles in his first season with the Dolphins. He fell off drastically however in 2014, and Miami elected to release him in March 2015. The Falcons signed Wheeler in October 2015 to add some depth at the position, and he has been with the team ever since.
Chris Hogan never actually appeared in a Dolphins regular season game, but he became a popular player when Miami appeared on HBO’s Hard Knocks in the summer of 2012. That is where he was tagged with the nickname “7-11” because he was always able to get open in practice. Despite his overnight sensation on the hit show, Hogan had an uphill battle to make the Dolphins final 53-man roster.
Similar to the Dolphins position now, Miami was considered stacked at the WR position then as well, and Hogan would be the odd man out come final roster cuts. Consider that guys like Legedu Naanee and Marlon Moore made the final roster in 2012, it feels like a missed opportunity letting Hogan go now. Naanee showed upside after a fantastic training camp, but quickly became a bust once the season began and a laughing stock throughout the league.
Hogan, on the other hand, is now in his fourth season, and first with the Patriots. His stats do not pop out at you, but he does a lot of little things very well. Evidenced by his performance in the AFC Championship game, he’s still living up to his “7-11” nickname.
Ninkovich had a brief stint with Miami back in 2007. He appeared in just four games after being claimed off waivers from New Orleans. He recorded just two tackles during his time in Miami. New England signed Ninkovich prior to the 2009 season, and he has been with them ever since. He’s missed just five games total during that span, four of which came this season after he was suspended for a positive drug test. In 2010, Ninkovich recorded the first and second interceptions of his career in a Monday night rout over the Dolphins.
All stats provided by ESPN.com.