One of the many rumors flying around South Florida right now is the possibility of Miami Dolphins’ CB Sean Smith playing safety next year. If at all, it would most likely be free safety. At first, this idea seemed like a long shot and pure speculation. However, after further review and assessing the Dolphins’ secondary situation for next year, utilizing Smith as a centerfield safety rather than a press cornerback could be a realistic option. Please keep in mind that the key word here is “could” and that I am not trying to make the case for this transition to occur.
Standing at 6’3”, Smith is a versatile athlete that has the ability to play many positions. In high school, he excelled as a running back, wide receiver, and kickoff return specialist. In his first year playing college football with the Utah Utes, he was utilized as a running back and slot receiver. It wasn’t until the end of his first year with the Utes when he shifted over to defense. The following season he was officially positioned as the left corner for most of the year before moving to the nickel back.
Smith excelled in the Utah secondary. As a junior, he was named All-American third-team and All-Mountain West Conference first-team. He was selected by the Dolphins in the second round of the 2009 draft. The Trifecta was in the market for a strong, tall, physical corner that could help contain some of the bigger receivers in the AFC East; Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, and Braylon Edwards. At that time, the Dolphins looked into their magic eight ball and saw Smith as an imposing shutdown cornerback. Three years later, this new coaching staff could have a slightly different vision for smith.
Even though CB Vontae Davis is locked in as the every down starter across from Smith, the Dolphins have felt the need to continually add depth to the list of defensive backs. In the past two drafts, the Dolphins have selected two more cornerbacks; Nolan Carroll and Jimmy Wilson. Just this past week, Miami signed CB Quinton Lawrence who played with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Similar to Smith, Lawrence was a former standout receiver at McNeese State. In fact, he played his first six games with the Chiefs as a receiver in 2009. It wasn’t until training camp last year when Lawrence started working as a defensive back. He is athletically gifted with tremendous speed. Jeff Ireland brought in the former McNeese State track star to compete for next year’s starting cornerback slot. If Lawrence, Carroll, or Wilson can demonstrate that they can compete at a high level, it would make sense to at least try Smith out at Safety to see what he can do.
The wild card in this speculation conversation is strong safety Yeremiah Bell. Personally, Bell is one of my favorite players who has been the heart and soul of the secondary. I would love to see him rocking the teal and orange next season. However, due to the salary cap restraints for next year, the Dolphins can’t afford to pay the soon-to-be 34 year-old the $6.2 million owed to him.
Unless Bell agrees to restructure his contract for far less money, he is a prime candidate to be released this offseason. The Dolphins are already seriously anemic in depth at the safety position. If they do release Bell and do not sign free agent SS Reggie Nelson from the Cincinnati Bengals, most likely Reshad Jones would take Bell’s place at strong safety. In return, Smith converting over to play free safety could be a logical move, or vice versa.
If we assume Bell does get released this offseason, that just leaves three viable options at safety; Chris Clemons, Reshad Jones, and Tyrone Culver. Clemons has issues staying healthy and was beat out by Jones for the starting spot in training camp last year. Jones was very inconsistent last season and got off to a terrible start. Although he slightly improved as the season continued, it would be foolish right now to assume Jones will be a playmaker next year. As for Culver, he won’t give up long passes, but he is incapable of making game changing plays.
I don’t want to come off as a “hater” towards these guys, but I’m just giving you my personal assessment of their performance. Honestly, I’m just not sold on their ability to be consistent and reliable at safety and their productivity has been mediocre. Thus, the Dolphins may have nothing to lose by testing out Smith’s skills at safety to see if he can hold down the fort.
I am fully aware that every article written about the Dolphins here on out, including this one, is 100% speculation. Especially with free agency coming up on March 13th, and the NFL draft on April 26th, the sky’s the limit for what the Dolphins could do. Sean Smith has the size, speed, and skill-set to potentially be a decent safety. Of course, no one will know the true answer until we see him on the field in action. Based on the depth and current state of the Miami secondary, don’t be surprised if you see Smith playing a new role for the Dolphins in 2012.