Wheeler Is Second Free Agent LB Signed By Dolphins

Posted Mar 13, 2013

Georgia native is coming off career season with Oakland Raiders.

Clearly not satisfied with bringing onboard one key free agent linebacker, the Miami Dolphins kept things going today by signing Philip Wheeler to a deal.

The 6-foot-2, 240-pound ex-Oakland Raider and ex-Indianapolis Colt joins former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Dannell Ellerbe as Miami’s two big free agency moves on defense. Wheeler enjoyed the best season of his career in 2012 with the Raiders by registering 109 tackles (78 solo), three sacks, two forced fumbles and six passes defensed and actually visited with the Dolphins last offseason.

“I’m tired but I’m very excited at the same time,” said Wheeler, who flew across the country to take his physical and sign his contract. “On the inside I’m excited but physically I’m a little tired just from flying. I came here last year and thought I was going to sign but it was a different situation this year and I’m just happy to be here now.”

Indianapolis selected Wheeler in the third round of the 2008 NFL Draft (93rd overall) and he spent his first five seasons with the Colts, putting up solid numbers each year. He has a total of 329 tackles (219 solo) five sacks, four forced fumbles and eight passes defensed in his career.

Wheeler, 28, is the oldest of the three free agents signed by General Manager Jeff Ireland but not by much. He also helps Ireland keep his roster, which was the second youngest in the league last year, in that realm and his versatility is something to take into account. Wheeler has the speed and athleticism to play outside linebacker in Miami’s 4-3 system under defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle and the size and strength to play inside.

“I think this is going to be a little more of an aggressive defense and I was aggressive last year,” Ellerbe said. “I’m aggressive like a shark and it’s ironic that I’m a Dolphin. I was on a plane out here and it came across the TV that Ellerbe was going to Miami, after I had agreed, and I texted my agent with the WiFi and asked him if I was going to the right place. He’s a good player and we’re in the same hotel and rode in the car together and it feels like we got recruited to come to a good college or something.”

Of course being that Wheeler played at Georgia Tech and Ellerbe was a Georgia Bulldog, they’ll have to put that natural rivalry behind them. He agrees with Ellerbe on the direction the Dolphins are going.

“Just from talking to Coach (Joe) Philbin and some of the coaches and even talking to them last year, I remember the conversation we had last year was a good one when I almost came here,” Wheeler said. “I feel like it’s a good fit.”

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