Miami Dolphins free agency options to fill needs at cornerback
The news that Byron Jones can no longer run or jump seems to make it clear that the Miami Dolphins will be seeking an addition at the cornerback position. Returning for the Dolphins at cornerback are Xavien Howard, Kader Kohou, Noah Igbinoghene, Keion Crossen, Trill Williams, and Tino Ellis, all under contract for 2023. Nik Needham is a free agent that the Dolphins are expected to resign.
Williams and Needham return from injuries that kept them out for most or all of the 2022 season. Ideally, both players will hopefully reach their 2022 pre-injury level of play. Needham has shown the ability to be serviceable on the boundary and a “better than average” nickel corner. Trill Williams was showing significant improvement during the preseason and appeared to be ready to be the 4th corner and contribute before his injury. The hope is that both players are back and both are able and ready to contribute.
Kader Kohou exceeded all expectations last season and appears to be a quality NFL corner. Noah Igbinoghene has still not shown that he can consistently play a quality corner. Keion Crossen played significantly more defensive snaps than he was expected to play.
The question is are Kader, Williams, and Needham good enough to be relied on over the course of an NFL season? While Crossen possesses the speed to cover anyone not named Tyreek Hill he had never been given consistent defensive reps until last season. The results for Crossen were mixed. He made some plays but also was taken advantage of at times.
As for Igbinoghene, it was telling that despite the multiple injuries at the cornerback position he played sparingly. The hope is that Vic Fangio can tap into the talent that made him a first-round draft pick.
Despite the multiple options for the Dolphins, it seems doubtful that the dolphins will go into the 2023 season with Howard as the number one corner, Kohou as the second, Needham as the nickel, and Williams as the 4th corner. It is far more likely that the Dolphins try to find an upgrade through free agency. So who are some of the names that the Dolphins will be looking at as possible additions to the cornerback options?
The top corners available this year in free agency are James Bradberry formerly of the Eagles and Jameel Dean of the Buccaneers. Both players would provide immediate upgrades to the Dolphins. They would also provide an upgrade to almost every team in the league so the competition should be fierce for their services. While the idea of teaming Bradberry or Dean with Xavien Howard is tempting. Either player would be a great addition. However, with the Dolphins having limited salary cap availability for the 2023 season, it seems these two will be out of the Dolphins’ price range.
Other quality options might be Cam Sutton of the Steelers, Patrick Peterson of the Vikings, Jonathon Jones of the Patriots, and Marcus Peters of the Ravens. Each of these players could provide the Dolphins with a quality addition. These players should receive substantial contracts but may be closer to the Dolphins’ available budget. As Patrick Peterson is from south Florida there is always the chance that he might agree to a team-friendly deal in order to play close to home. I have heard no credible rumors to support this notion and it seems unlikely.
Players that may be a little more under the radar but, could still be quality upgrades are Anthony Brown of the Cowboys (who is coming off of an Achilles injury), Rock Ya-Sin of the Raiders, Isaiah Oliver of the Falcons, and Byron Murphy of the Cardinals. Most likely, this group and these types of players are where the Dolphins will be shopping. The Falcons’ Oliver showed significant improvement in 2022 and is a player that could benefit greatly from Vic Fangio’s presence in Miami. Rock Ya-Sin not only has a great name but he has developed into a quality number 2 corner. The Dolphins are clearly in the market for a 2nd corner.
2023 will be Rock Ya-Sin’s fifth year in the NFL. According to Pro Football Reference, he has appeared in 52 games with 38 starts over his first four seasons in the NFL. During that time he has 2 interceptions and 27 passes defended. While those numbers don’t leap off the page and excite you Ya-Sin has shown consistency. One concern about Ya-Sin is that he missed 6 games in 2022.
While Isaiah Oliver has played one more season than Rock Ya-Sin they are both 26. Oliver played in 12 games in 2022 for the Atlanta Falcons. He had 1 interception and had 7 passes defended according to Pro Football Reference. Like Ya-Sin his stats are not overwhelming. However, there is a very good chance that he will be available at a more affordable price than many of the other quality options.
With free agency just around the corner, we won’t have to wait long to see which, if any, of these players the Dolphins go after. Given the salary cap problems I expect to see the Dolphins sign a cornerback like Rock Ya-Sin or Isaiah Oliver who is a little under the radar and not one of the more expensive options.