Dolphins free agent watch: Defensive backs

Janoris Jenkins (Getty Images)

Janoris Jenkins (Getty Images)

The Dolphins need help. A lot of help.

As usual, there’s plenty of it available on the free agent market.

But it’s a tricky situation for the Dolphins, who need upgrades at cornerback, safety, linebacker, guard and may need reinforcement at defensive end if Olivier Vernon bolts in free agency.

The Dolphins are currently trying to rework their deals with defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and defensive end Cam Wake that could free up some cap space.


We’ll be looking at top free agents in the next few days, starting with defensive backs.


Brent Grimes, who will be 33 this season, is a $9.5 million cap hit and his salary is not guaranteed. They would free up $6.5 million if he’s released.

But the Dolphins have more questions than answers at cornerback. Former second-round draft pick Jamar Taylor is still on the roster but struggled in his first full healthy season.

Bobby McCain showed signs of promise as a rookie last year but might be ideal as the team’s nickel. Tony Lippett, another rookie last year, is also an up-and-comer.

The only foreseeable way Grimes would be released is if the Dolphins sign a major free agent cornerback to replace him. If they sign a mid-level player, it’s probably to compete for the other starting job.

Grimes last season was tied for 41st of 111 cornerbacks in Pro Football Focus’ grade system.

Janoris Jenkins, 27
2015 statistics: 64 tackles, three interceptions
2015 Pro Football Focus grade: 26 of 111 cornerbacks

The former Pahokee and University of Florida standout might not re-sign with the Rams and is arguably the top cornerback on the market because of his age and ability. He might be looking at a four-year deal worth at least $35 million.

Sean Smith, 28
2015 statistics: 45 tackles, two interceptions
2015 Pro Football Focus grade: 12 of 111 cornerbacks

This would be an odd reunion considering that Smith began his career with the Dolphins. He’s improved since his time in Miami and had a strong 2015 season despite being suspended for the first three games following a DUI arrest.

Leon Hall, 31
2015 statistics: 55 tackles, two interceptions, 1 TD
2015 Pro Football Focus grade: T-33 of 111 cornerbacks

His age makes him less of a long-term option, but his familiarity with new Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph — who was defensive backs coach of the Bengals — makes Hall a realistic option.

Adam “Pacman” Jones, 32
2015 statistics: 62 tackles, three interceptions
2015 Pro Football Focus grade: 15 of 111 cornerbacks

See above. He’s even older than Hall, but also comes from the Bengals so he’s familiar with Joseph. He’s still playing at a high level and his off-the-field issues have simmered down.

Prince Amukamara, 27
2015 statistics: 63 tackles, one interception
2015 Pro Football Focus grade: 32 of 111 cornerbacks

If this were based on talent alone, Amukamara would be near the top. But he’s an injury risk, missing 13 games in the last two years.

Casey Hayward, 25
2015 statistics: 65 tackles, no interceptions
2015 Pro Football Focus grade: T-16 of 111 cornerbacks

He has a lot of talent but is more of a slot corner. His age is certainly a plus.

Other players on the market:

Patrick Robinson, 28, San Diego (PFF grade: 30 of 111)
Brandon Boykin, 25, Pittsburgh (PFF grade: 38 of 111)
Jeremy Lane, 25, Seattle (PFF grade: 51 of 111)
William Gay, 31, Pittsburgh (PFF grade: 46 of 111)
Sterling Moore, 26, Tampa Bay (PFF grade: 64 of 111)

George Iloka (Getty Images)

George Iloka (Getty Images)



The Dolphins are set at strong safety with Reshad Jones but need a quality free safety. Last year they gambled on Louis Delmas’ health and lost before the preseason even began.

George Iloka, 25
2015 statistics: 47 tackles, 1 interception
2015 Pro Football Focus grade:15 of 88 safeties

Like Hall and Jones, Iloka comes from the Bengals and has a relationship with Joseph. He’s a young player who still hasn’t hit his peak. He’s played more strong safety in his career but could make the transition to free safety.

Tashaun Gipson, 25
2015 statistics: 60 tackles, two interceptions
2015 Pro Football Focus grade: N/A

Dealt with an ankle injury last season and still had a strong year for the Browns. Played in 13 games but isn’t listed in Pro Football Focus’ grades.

Walter Thurmond, 28
2015 statistics: 71 tackles, three interceptions
2015 Pro Football Focus grade: 26 of 88 safeties

Has dealt with injuries in his career but has been a quality player when healthy. Had a strong season in 2015.

Rodney McLeod, 25
2015 statistics: 82 tackles, one interception
2015 Pro Football Focus grade: 10 of 88 safeties

An underrated player who wasn’t drafted but has been a productive starting free safety the last three years for the Rams.

Reggie Nelson, 32
2015 statistics: 71 tackles, three interceptions
2015 Pro Football Focus grade: 9 of 88 safeties

Age is the big deterrent — he’ll be 33 this season. But he had a Pro Bowl season in 2015 with eight interceptions and is yet another Bengals DB who’s played under Joseph.

Eric Weddle, 31
2015 statistics: 78 tackles, no interceptions
2015 Pro Football Focus grade: 33 of 88 safeties

He’s 31 and is coming off his least productive season in years. But the former All-Pro safety might be available at a decent price and he’s still a quality player.

Other players on the market:

Isa Abdul-Quddus, 26, Detroit (PFF grade: 21 of 88 safeties)
Husain Abdullah, 31, Kansas City (PFF grade: 20 of 88 safeties)
Tyvon Branch, 29, Kansas City (PFF grade: 30 of 88 safeties)
Chris Conte, 27, Tampa Bay (PFF grade: 32 of 88 safeties)
Rashad Johnson, 30, Arizona (PFF grade: 50 of 88 safeties)

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