Like the majority of the Pitt football team’s graduating seniors, former Panthers defensive end Dewayne Hendrix was not selected during the 2019 NFL draft. However, he will get an opportunity to earn a spot on an NFL roster, as the Miami Dolphins opted to sign Hendrix as an undrafted free agent on Saturday, according to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald.
Hendrix’s road to the NFL has been complicated, and it began in O’Fallon, Illinois, where he was a standout at O’Fallon High School, amassing 60 tackles in his senior year, including eight sacks and nine tackles for losses. Considered a consensus four-star recruit, Hendrix drew 19 offers from Power Five schools and committed to play for Butch Jones at Tennessee in 2014.
While Hendrix saw immediate action with the Volunteers, playing in seven games as a freshman, he ultimately decided to transfer and landed at Pitt. There, in accordance with NCAA transfer rules, he sat out for the 2015 season. But upon making his return to the field with Pitt, Hendrix suffered a foot injury in his team’s 28-7 victory over Villanova in Week 1, forcing him to miss the remainder of the 2016 season.
Despite two years of setbacks, Hendrix became a key member of Pitt’s defensive line after working his way back from the injury. As a redshirt junior, he played in 11 games and racked up 21 tackles in 2017, including five tackles for losses. He also ranked third on the team in sacks, with three, tying Rashad Weaver for the lead among Pitt defensive linemen.
In 2018, Hendrix continued to improve, as he upped his tackle total to 29, accumulated five tackles for losses and got to the quarterback 4.5 times in 13 games. His sack total ranked second on the team, and his consistent improvement begged questions about what heights Hendrix might have reached had he been able to play in each of the three years he was eligible at Pitt.
In Miami, Hendrix will be met with a better opportunity than most undrafted free agents to win a roster spot, as the Dolphins defense struggled in nearly every facet of the game in 2018. Despite a second-place finish in the AFC East, Miami fielded the fourth-worst defense in the NFL, giving up 391.1 yards per game. It also ranked 29th in sacks, with 31 on the year.
In addition, the Dolphins also lost their top two defensive ends during the offseason, as Cameron Wake signed with the Tennessee Titans on March 13, and Robert Quinn was traded to the Dallas Cowboys on March 28, leaving a void to be filled at the position.
Only Tank Carradine, Charles Harris, Jeremiah Valoaga and Jonathan Woodard remain at defensive end on the Miami roster, and none of them have produced significantly at the NFL level. As a result, the Dolphins signed Hendrix and Georgia defensive end Jonathan Ledbetter as undrafted free agents over the weekend and will likely give both players a serious look.
Hendrix still has many challenges ahead of him, as he will have to distinguish himself in the coming months in order to land a spot on the Dolphins roster. However, relative to other incoming undrafted free agents, the former Pitt standout’s situation is fairly opportune.