Holliday's addition suggests shift to 3-4 defense

Updated: March 5, 2005, 10:16 AM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

In what could be a precursor to the team's much-rumored switch to a 3-4 defense in 2005, the Miami Dolphins have reached agreement with unrestricted free agent lineman Vonnie Holliday on a two-year contract, financial details of which were not yet available.

Vonnie Holliday
Defensive End
Kansas City Chiefs
Profile
2004 SEASON STATISTICS
Tot Ast Solo FF Sack Int
13 12 1 0 0 0

The seven-year veteran was released by Kansas City last week, after playing two seasons with the Chiefs, in part for salary cap considerations. Holliday was due a $5.125 million roster bonus, and had a scheduled salary cap charge of $8.025 million, a prohibitive number for a player whose production is in decline and who lost his starting job in 2004.

Frequently injured in the past few years, Holliday could nonetheless be a solid contributor for the Dolphins, assuming he can stay healthy, and particularly if Miami moves to a 3-4 front. Miscast at various time in his career as a good outside pass-rusher, Holliday is a far better run defender.

At 6-feet-5 and 290 pounds, Holliday possesses the kind of size the 3-4 defense demands in its ends. Teams that employ the three-man defensive line require bigger ends, because their primary responsibility is anchoring against the run. Most 3-4 teams use their outside linebackers to rush the passer, especially in "nickel" situations.

Miami, which has been a conventional 4-3 team for about the past decade, has recently featured smaller, quicker ends like Jason Taylor. If new coach Nick Saban does change to a 3-4, Taylor could be moved to linebacker.

Saban was purposely evasive last week at the scouting combine when asked about changing to a 3-4 defense. But some of the moves the Dolphins have made, and some of the free agents Miami is pursuing, certainly suggest a defensive overhaul is in the offing.

Holliday, 29, is coming off a disappointing season, one in which he had career lows in games played (nine), starts (three), tackles (13) and sacks (none). He suffered through some injuries and then lost his starting spot to rookie Jared Allen, who played well.

In two seasons in Kansas City, he posted only 51 tackles and 5½ sacks. He signed a five-year, $21 million contract in 2003 as an unrestricted free agent and got off to a quick start, collecting three sacks in his first regular-season appearance with the Chiefs. For the most part, though, he made little impact and, following that first-game spree, had only 2½ sacks in the next 24 games.

The former North Carolina star was a first-round choice of the Green Bay Packers in the 1998 draft. He played five seasons with the Packers before signing with the Chiefs. In 91 appearances, Holliday has 303 tackles, 37½ sacks, six forced fumbles and two interceptions.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here Insider.