Tart excited to join Dolphins, explains abrupt Titans exit. And Berrios weighs in

The Dolphins have never had a player from FIU suit up for them in a regular-season game.

This season, they will very likely not only have two Golden Panthers, but two potential starters (or part-time starters) in tight end Jonnu Smith and new defensive tackle Teair Tart.

Tart, who did a Zoom session with Dolphins reporters on Tuesday, hopes to get his career back on the ascent after a tumultuous 2023 when he requested and received his release from Tennessee after 36 starts through four seasons there.

“I just needed a culture change,” he said of his reasons for asking for his mid-December release from the Titans. “It was better to not be a part of that situation anymore.”

He’s thrilled to join the Dolphins; his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, said on his WSVN-Fox 7 segment that Tart turned down more money from other teams. He signed a one-year, $1.29 million deal with the Dolphins.

Why did he pick Miami? “Familiarity for me. I went to college here. It’s great to be back in a comfortable environment, familiar environment…[The Dolphins] gave off a good family environment. It was something I thought I could benefit from.”

Tart said he hasn’t spoken with coaches about his role. He could compete with Benito Jones (a Detroit starter in 2023) for the starting nose tackle job vacated by Raekwon Davis’ move to the Indianapolis Colts.

He’s also capable of playing snaps at Christian Wilkins’ former spot. Wilkins signed with Las Vegas in March.

“They said I would have a fair opportunity to come here and play if I worked hard,” he said. “Wherever they feel comfortable is where I’m comfortable. I can play in multiple schemes.”

Tart, 27, started nine games and appeared in 13 last season for Tennessee (and had 24 tackles, including eight for loss) before receiving his release in December, after missing a practice due to personal reasons.

Longtime Titans writer Paul Kuharsky of reported that the Titans decided to release him, at his request, “after season-long issues reached a breaking point. Tart has expressed displeasure with his contract situation, and the Titans became unsatisfied with [Tart’s] effort and attitude.”

Titans coach Mike Vrabel at times publicly voiced concerns about the defensive tackle’s conditioning and effort.

Asked about that on Tuesday, Tart said: “I was in Tennessee four years and never had work ethic questions until I asked for my release…. I’m not afraid to show emotion and be competitive and compete. I’m really excited for a new beginning. I’m in awe to be here. It’s a blessing.”

Tart finished last season in Houston, appearing in two regular season games but was inactive for the Texans’ two playoff games.

Tart started 16 games for Tennessee in 2022 and had 34 tackles, including five for loss, and 1.5 sacks. He started 10 of 11 appearances for the Titans in 2021 and had 14 tackles and two for loss. He played in seven games and started one as a rookie for the Titans in 2020 after being signed as an undrafted rookie free agent.

During his rookie season, he was suspended one game for after stepping on Cleveland’s Wyatt Teller in a Week 13 game.

Pro Football Focus ranked Tart eighth among free agent defensive tackles in this year’s class, noting that he’s “difficult to displace with just one blocker in the run game.”

Tart, who is 6-2 and 304 pounds, has 16 career tackles for loss (including eight last season) and 2.5 sacks.

Tart had his eight tackles for loss in just 379 snaps last season. As perspective, Wilkins had 10 in 894 snaps for the Dolphins in 2023.

“Everyone thinks if you don’t get sacks, you’re not a good pass rusher, which is not true at all,” Tart said. “There are a lot of ways to disrupt the quarterback. I had almost 30 pressures a couple years ago.”

Tart is pleased to be reunited with Dolphins linebacker David Long Jr. “It’s a blessing to be playing with him again. David gets double teams off you quick. He’s passionate about everything he does. He plays hard.”

Tart — who said his “aunt picked out my [first] name and my mother ran with it” — played college football at ASA in New York and Ellsworth Community College in Iowa before playing his final two seasons at FIU, where he had 17.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks over two seasons.


Receiver Braxton Berrios, the other Dolphins’ player who appeared on Tuesday’s media Zoom session, signed a one-year, $2.15 million deal to stay with the Dolphins in March and said he’s “absolutely ecstatic to be back here. That was the hope. I’m really happy it worked out.”

Berrios caught 27 passes (on 33 targets) for 238 yards and a touchdown last season and played 44 percent of the Dolphins’ offensive snaps.

But his role in the passing game diminished over the final three months of the season. Berrios had 16 targets in the first four weeks but just 17 the remainder of the season.

Berrios said he wasn’t aware of those statistics and doesn’t have any issue with any dropoff in targets.

“We have so many elite guys, so it becomes a numbers game,” he said. “You have all these guys to feed, running backs, tight end, and two elite receivers. Sometimes it happens that way.”

Berrios likely would be the Dolphins’ No. 3 receiver if the season started today. But there’s a decent chance that Miami will add a veteran boundary No. 3 receiver in the months ahead.

Berrios, incidentally, is excited about the NFL’s new kickoff rules that should spark more exciting plays on special teams.

The new rule features a “landing zone;” only two returners can be in the landing zone, which falls between the goal line and 20-yard line. A kick that falls short of the 20-yard line will result in the play being blown dead and the receiving team getting the ball at its 40. The receiving team takes possession at its own 30 if the ball goes through the end zone or rolls into the end zone after initially hitting the landing zone.

“First and foremost, I love it,” Berrios said. “I think it brings back a really exciting play in the game where it was kind of eliminated the last few years, especially earlier in the season in the warmer conditions.”

Last season, his first with Miami, Berrios returned 23 punts for 235 yards (a 10.2 average), which ranked 13th in the NFL. He also returned 18 kickoffs for 441 yards (a 24.5 average).