Miami Dolphins sign Tracy Howard, former Miramar, ‘Canes star

Tracy Howard intercepts the ball late in the fourth quarter during the University of Miami Hurricanes football game against the University of Florida in 2013 (Al Diaz / Miami Herald)

DAVIE — Tracy Howard was seeking out Malcolm Lewis in the Miami Dolphins locker room and, well, it was like old times.

“Best friends,” Howard said. “I wouldn’t have believed it. Crazy how things work out.”

The Dolphins signed Howard, a defensive back, on Thursday. Howard and Lewis, a receiver, played together at Miramar High School and the University of Miami. Now they’re both Dolphins.

In fact, Howard is the third former ‘Cane signed by Miami in recent past, along with receiver Rashawn Scott.

“I was very excited,” Howard said Thursday.  “It was just a blessing. I’ve been a free agent for most of the year. I was with the Jaguars for a while. Being from Miami, the Dolphins were my team.”

Howard played cornerback at Miami, where he posted 102 tackles, 10 passes defensed and 5 interceptions, but was been transitioned to safety by the Browns, his first NFL team, and he’ll be a safety in Miami.

Howard grew up as a fan of former Miami cornerback standouts Patrick Surtain and Sam Madison, both of whom also coached him on a 7-on-7 team called the South Florida Express. That program has won national championships.

Howard listed a lot of familiar names who he played with on those 7-on-7 squads.

“Teddy Bridgewater, Eli Rogers, Amari Cooper, Malcolm Lewis, Ricardo Lewis, Duke Johnson, Deon Bush, Andre Debose,” Howard said. “A lot of guys made the league.”

Howard started appeared in 15 games for the Browns in 2016, starting 3, recording 20 tackles. Howard also had 7 kickoff returns.

“I got my feet wet,” Howard said. “I was a rookie in the league but it was fun. I enjoyed it. I grew up  a lot. I matured a lot.”

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Byron Maxwell signing with Seattle Seahawks, per reports

Miami Dolphins cornerback Byron Maxwell (41) is called for pass interference on New York Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall (15) at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida on November 6, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

CHARLOTTE – The Seattle Seahawks are signing former Miami Dolphins cornerback Byron Maxwell for the rest of the season, according to multiple reports.

Maxwell was a member of the famed Legion of Boom in Seattle between 2011 and 2014. In his final season in Seattle, Maxwell started 12 games, spring-boarding into a big free-agent deal with the Philadelphia Eagles.

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But Maxwell lasted only one season in Philadelphia, shipped off to Miami along with Kiko Alonso in what amounted to salary dumps. Maxwell played down the stretch for Miami last season, helping the team into the playoffs, but was cut after starting only two games, replaced by rookie Cordrea Tankersley.

In Seattle, Maxwell will attempt to fill the void left by injured Richard Sherman, out for the season with an Achilles injury. Seattle’s signing of Maxwell does not impact Miami’s salary cap situation.

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Is T.J. McDonald the Miami Dolphins’ Gronk Kryptonite?

T.J. McDonald of the Miami Dolphins looks on before the preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings. McDonald should start Monday at Carolina. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

DAVIE — T.J. McDonald hasn’t covered Rob Gronkowski before, as the Patriots tight end was placed on injured reserve with a back injury the day before a Rams meeting last December.

But McDonald has regularly covered tight ends throughout his career. And the Dolphins have regularly been destroyed by opposing tight ends like Gronkowski (who they’ll face twice this winter).

Could McDonald, the safety now coming off an 8-game suspension, be Gronk Kryptonite?

“I’ve heard all about Gronk and I know he’s a beast,” McDonald said Thursday. “With the Rams, covering tight ends? That’s all I did. Whenever there was a tight end, I was covering him, whether it was Vernon Davis in San Francisco, or Jimmy Graham in Seattle. But yeah. I’ve done that. I can do that.”

The Dolphins have already faced the tight ends ranked fourth, fifth, sixth and 10th in the NFL (Jared Cook of Oakland, Ben Watson of Baltimore, Delanie Walker of Tennessee and Austin Seferian-Jenkins.)

Last week, Cook had eight catches for 126 yards.

Still on Miami’s schedule: Gronkowski (8th in the NFL in tight end catches), Travis Kelce (first), Cameron Brate (12th) and recently-signed Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett (18th).

Plenty of players for McDonald to study.

The meshing of McDonald and Pro Bowl safety Reshad Jones should be fascinating.

Both players are physical and aggressive and could at some also point could also best be described as strong safeties.

It’s up to defensive coordinator Matt Burke to execute the plan on a week-to-week basis, capitalizing on his safeties’ strengths while also trying to neutralize opponents’ strengths and exploit their weaknesses.

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“We’re welcome to do whatever they ask us to do,” McDonald said. “Whatever coach Burke asks us to do, I feel like we’re both capable to play deep, play in the box, whatever they want us to do – come blitz. It helps us be able to show different looks because you never know which one’s down, which one’s back. We’ll be able to come out here and do some different things.”

During the suspension, McDonald was unable to practice but was able to attend meetings and work out. He watched games at his house with injured cornerback Tony Lippett.

“It’s been humbling,” McDonald said. “It’s been tough to sit back and watch, but I’ve been doing what I can to be here for my teammates and it’s definitely made me appreciate the game. I’ve done everything I can to get back right and being around this building, being around these guys, has kept me going and kept me pushing.”

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The Dolphins think McDonald can run fast, cover with range and be an intimidating enforcer.

McDonald can’t get to get his first big hit of 2017.

““I definitely want my presence felt,” he said. “That’s what I love about the game. I want to make those pads pop and that’s what I’m going to do on Monday.”

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