Miami Dolphins’ one-day contracts trigger emotions, aren’t purely just for show

Dolphins vice president Nat Moore, center, is flanked by Dolphins for one more day. From left: punter Brandon Fields, defensive tackle Paul Soliai, end/linebacker A.J. Duhe, defensive end Jeff Cross, offensive tackle Vernon Carey and receiver Chris Chambers. (Hal Habib / The Palm Beach Post)

DAVIE — A big-play receiver, a solid blocker, two disruptive edge defenders, a run stopper and a Pro Bowl punter were added to the Dolphins’ roster on Thursday, all without making a dent in the salary cap, no less.

Alas, it was ceremonial, because the contracts of those six Dolphins expire Friday, the purpose of the exercise being just so they could say they retired as Miami Dolphins.

But here’s the twist: Defensive tackle Paul Soliai became so emotional he couldn’t get through one sentence of his acceptance speech before breaking down, which says more than words could say about how much it meant to them that the organization still holds them in such high regard to stage this second annual alumni ceremony.

Nat Moore, a Dolphins vice president, says it’s about “giving these guys a chance to leave under their terms. They get a chance to sign a contract and then retire — not being cut, but a chance to say, ‘I was a Dolphin.’ ”

Honored along with Soliai were receiver Chris Chambers, offensive tackle Vernon Carey, end Jeff Cross, end/linebacker A.J. Duhe and punter Brandon Fields. 

It may sound like a technicality, but even players who spend their entire careers with the Dolphins do not automatically “retire as a Dolphin.” Most eventually get released by the club and dangle out forevermore as unceremonious free-agent castoffs. To give them their due, teams can sign players to one-day contracts, then have the players file paperwork with the NFL allowing their team to place them on the reserve/retired list.

The Dolphins even printed up rosters as of April 18 listing the newcomers. Think Adam Gase would find it satisfactory to look over his list of defensive linemen and see names like Wake, Quinn and Godchaux next to Duhe, Soliai and Cross? Soliai certainly liked it.

“I’m an island boy,” said Soliai, a fourth-round pick and a Dolphin from 2007-13. “Growing up where I came from, from Samoa, I never thought I’d be here. This organization believed in me and drafted me. I did everything I did (in my career) when I was here. I might be a big dude but I’m really humble and just a very emotional guy.”

Placing his hand on Soliai’s shoulder, Duhe said if he were honored the way Soliai was, so soon after his career ended, “I probably would have cried my heart out, too.”

In Duhe’s case, maybe it’s just as well that 34 years have passed since he last suited up.

“I was a little bitter after leaving the organization,” Duhe said. “I don’t know how many of you guys here know my story but it was not a good ending and I was bitter for awhile. But you grow past that, sweep it under the carpet and just go on with your life and enjoy everything you’ve had and reflect on how meaningful it was to be part of this organization. It’s heartwarming.”

For Cross, no bridges needed mending.

“I consider myself a lifelong Miami Dolphin, a card-carrying Miami Dolphin,” he said. “I always will be.”

You can never have too many talented defensive linemen.

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