2018 NFL free agents: Top safeties available for Miami Dolphins

Tyvon Branch could be an affordable, veteran option for the Dolphins. (Getty Images)

The Dolphins believe they’re set for years at safety with Pro Bowler Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald signed long term, and those two form a solid, hard-hitting duo at the back end of their defense.

Miami’s interest in free agent safeties will likely be to find a contingency in case one of its starters gets injured. The team picked up Nate Allen for that role last year, and it didn’t work out well. He struggled early in the season and was done for the year with an injury by Week 8.

As the Dolphins sift through their options, here’s who they had last year and who’s on the market this spring:

2017 Starting safeties

Reshad Jones (16 starts)

Pro Football Focus ranking: #29

Age: 29

2018 Contract: $11.6 million salary cap hit; signed through 2022

T.J. McDonald (eight starts)

Pro Football Focus ranking: #59

Age: 27

2018 Contract: $2.5 million salary cap hit; signed through 2021

Nate Allen (seven starts)

Pro Football Focus ranking: #83

Age: 30

2018 Contract: $3.4 million salary cap hit; unrestricted free agent

Michael Thomas (one start)

Pro Football Focus ranking: Not rated

Age: 27

2018 Contract: $1.8 million salary cap hit; unrestricted free agent

Top 2018 free agent safeties (and some more affordable options)

LaMarcus Joyner, Los Angeles Rams

Pro Football Focus ranking: #3

Age: 27

Contract Expectation: $10.6 million per year market value (Spotrac)

Eric Reid, San Francisco

Pro Football Focus ranking: #30 (tied)

Age: 26

Contract Expectation: $8.6 million per year market value (Spotrac)

Morgan Burnett, Green Bay

Pro Football Focus ranking: #47

Age: 29

Contract expectation: $9.8 million per year market value (Spotrac)

Tre Boston, Los Angeles Chargers

Pro Football Focus ranking: #22

Age: 25

Contract Expectation: $8.2 million per year market value (Spotrac)

Kenny Vaccaro, New Orleans

Pro Football Focus ranking: #30 (tied)

Age: 28

Contract Expectation: Earned $5.7 million last season

Tyvon Branch, Arizona

Pro Football Focus ranking: #6

Age: 31

Contract Expectation: $5 million per year market value (Spotrac)

Reggie Nelson, Oakland

Pro Football Focus ranking: #56

Age: 34

Contract Expectation: Earned $6 million last season

Bradley McDougald, Seattle

Pro Football Focus ranking: #47

Age: 27

Contract Expectation: Earned $2 million last season

[Dolphins feeling good about where they stand at cornerback–for now]

[Miami Dolphins players react to Parkland shooting]

[The Palm Beach Post‘s first 2018 NFL mock draft]

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Miami Dolphins’ defense fired up by return of T.J. McDonald

Dolphins safety T.J. McDonald (22) makes his season debut Monday. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

DAVIE—The Dolphins have yet to unleash powerful safety T.J. McDonald on the world, but his teammates know exactly the kind of weapon that will finally be in play.

McDonald has served his eight-game suspension and will return Monday at Carolina, almost certainly as a starter, and he gives Miami a menacing presence lurking in the secondary.

“From what I’ve seen, he’s a very smart, fierce, (expletive) hard-hitting person that you would want on your side of the ball,” linebacker Rey Maualuga said. “I’m just excited to have him back. He’ll intensify the defense that much more with his presence in the lineup.”

While they waited for him, the Dolphins played Nate Allen. That ended when Allen suffered a season-ending injury, leaving Michael Thomas and undrafted rookie Maurice Smith to fill the safety spot next to Reshad Jones.

McDonald, who played his first four seasons with the Rams, signed a one-year deal with the Dolphins in the offseason and turned that into a four-year extension by impressing them on the practice field. Including this season, he’s under contract for $25.4 million through 2021.

Miami loved what it saw from him in the offseason program and preseason, which was the last time he was allowed to practice or play. During his suspension, McDonald trained, went to meetings and studied film to stay up to date. He was not permitted to practice with the team until now.

Still, his teammates have seen enough to know he’s a significant asset.

“Man, I’m excited about T.J. coming back,” Ndamukong Suh said. “He’s gonna have fresh legs, so he should be running all over the field and having fun. He’s an elite DB that has the ability to play in the box, as well as in coverage.

“I think in preseason and really in camp when I had a chance to be on the field with him at the same time, he just finds the ball and makes plays. I’m excited for him to come out there and be able to do that.”

McDonald has not officially been added to the roster, but will be before Monday’s game. The Dolphins are at the 53-man limit and will need to cut someone to make room for him.

The defense could use a boost after the last three weeks. During that stretch, which included losses to the Ravens and Raiders, Miami allowed 95 points and 946 yards. Over the first five games, the defense gave up an average of 16.8 points and 295.4 yards.

The Dolphins have been particularly bad in pass coverage and are coming off a game in which Derek Carr completed 21 of 30 passes for 300 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

The Dolphins rank 31st in opponent completion percentage (69.9), 22nd in yards per attempt (7.5) and 14th in passing yards per game (221). They have the third-fewest interceptions (three) in the NFL.

Adding McDonald to the mix can only help.

“Tenacious football player, big hitter, smart,” linebacker Mike Hull said. “Great guy to be around. Having him in the locker room and being around him, he’s a great leader. He’s willing to take guys to the next level with him, which is cool to see.”

[One unmistakable example of why Miami loves Jarvis Landry]

[Tape Don’t Lie: Dolphins vs. Raiders]

[Damien Williams has some strong words on his incredible touchdown]

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A splendidly abnormal conversation with Miami Dolphins’ Walt Aikens on T-shirt mystery

Dolphins DB Walt Aikens (35) celebrates on his way to scoring a two-point conversion on a blocked extra point by the Cardinals’ Chandler Catanzaro last season. (Bill Ingram / The Palm Beach Post)

DAVIE — Something very abnormal is going on with these Dolphins.

OK, so that sentence probably could be written most weeks with this team, but still. After beating Atlanta 20-17 on Sunday, many players left the stadium sporting black T-shirts reading ‘We R Not Normal.’

Asked about them, some players feigned ignorance, while others grinned and said they’d never tell. After you’ve covered this team for a while, you know some players are more forthcoming than others, so I stopped by the locker of special teams ace Walt Aikens to get to the bottom of this.

What follows is a transcript of our conversation, which I can easily rank among the most abnormal of my career. You’re about to see why.


HH: What’s the deal with these T-shirts?

Aikens: What T-shirts?

HH: We R Not Normal.

Aikens: We’re not. We’re just not normal.

HH: How are you not normal?

Aikens: We’re football players.

HH: No. But there are a lot of football players in this league.

Aikens: That’s the only thing that means. We aren’t normal.

HH: Is the team not normal?

Aikens: Team ain’t normal. It’s a lot of people that’s not normal.

HH: How is the team different from 31 other teams?

Aikens: We’re just not normal.

HH: You’re not answering the question, you know.

Aikens: That’s it. We’re just not normal. (To Nate Allen) Tell him, Nate. Why we ain’t normal, Nate?

HH: Nate, are you normal?

Allen: Different minds. Different mindset.

Aikens: Just not normal.

Allen: You’ve got to be a little different to play football.

Aikens: You got to.

HH: I assume Gase gave you guys those shirts?

Aikens: Uh-huh.

HH: And how did he explain it to you guys?

Aikens: We’re just not normal. That’s what Gase said. We ain’t normal.

HH: And overcoming a 17-0 halftime deficit — is that normal?

Aikens: Hey. It’s a good game. A hard-fought game.

HH: But not a normal game?

Aikens: Not a normal game.

HH: Yeah, not a normal game.

Aikens: That adds to the point. We aren’t normal.

HH: OK. Are you going to have a normal game against the Jets?

Aikens: We are not normal.

HH: OK. Did you have a normal childhood? Have you been abnormal for a long time?

Aikens: Nah, nah, nah. Never been normal.

HH: Never?

Aikens: Never.

HH: Is normal bad?

Aikens: We are not normal. Normal is not necessarily bad. We’re just not normal.

HH: Would you rather be normal or abnormal?

Aikens: Abnormal. Definitely.

HH: Why?

Aikens: Because we are not normal.

HH: OK.

Aikens: Get it?

HH: I think I get it now.

Aikens: That’s it. That’s how it goes.

HH: I want to thank you for enlightening my readers.

(Note: Finally on Monday afternoon, Gase said the phrase came up one day when he was talking with Kaleb Thornhill, who heads player engagement for the Dolphins, and when Cameron Wake caught wind of it, he told Gase, “Sounds like a T-shirt.” So an idea was born. Gase said he figured this goofy past week was the perfect time to roll it out.)

[Highlights of what Adam Gase said Monday]

[Offensive line earns praise even minus its leader, Mike Pouncey]

[A meaningful moment between Adam Gase and Jarvis Landry after the Atlanta win]

[Rookie corner Cordrea Tankersley with some late heroics vs. Atlanta]

[Michael Thomas weighs in on bizarre botched punt]

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Suspended Miami Dolphins S T.J. McDonald ready to jump in

T.J. McDonald will almost certainly become the starter the second he returns.(Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

DAVIE—The Dolphins are counting down the days until T.J. McDonald steps in at safety once his NFL suspension concludes. He’s been out the first three games and will miss the next five before returning for Miami’s Nov. 13 game at Carolina.

During his suspension, McDonald is allowed to work out at the facility and attend meetings. He do pretty much everything except for practice. The Dolphins are intent on making this time worth something even if he can’t play, and would theoretically keep him ready to get to work right away once he’s cleared.

“He’s limited in some of the things he can do and he has some other things he has to resolve as he’s going through this process,” defensive coordinator Matt Burke said today. “He’s around in meetings—he’s allowed to do that—so when he’s in meetings, we’ve tried to involve him in terms of being an extra set of eyes for us and saying, ‘Hey, look at this cut-up or look at this play or maybe help some of the other safeties out with your evaluation,’ which keeps him involved in what we’re doing and game plan stuff week-to-week.

“It gives him a way to contribute. When he’s available, he’s been around in meetings and just been another set of eyes and a veteran player that’s seen a lot of football that can help some of the other safeties.”

McDonald, 26, and Reshad Jones are the Dolphins’ safeties of the future. While waiting for McDonald, they’ve been starting Nate Allen next to Jones.

Miami signed McDonald to a one-year deal last offseason with the eight-game suspension hanging over him. That made him a bargain acquisition.

Without him ever playing a game, the Dolphins were impressed enough to give him an extension. After this season, he’ll get $24 million through 2021. Jones recently re-upped for five years, $60 million.

[Adam Gase’s wake-up call to Jay Cutler: You’re not 25 anymore]

[A complicated cornerback situation with Byron Maxwell, Cordrea Tankersley and Xavien Howard]

[Column: Dolphins coach Adam Gase sounds lost as offense sputters]

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Miami Dolphins hope Sunday’s game can offer ‘any type of relief’ to Irma victims

Dolphins defensive back Michael Thomas, shown during an appearance in Fort Pierce in 2016, hopes to organize a benefit for South Florida after doing the same for his hometown of Houston. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

OXNARD, Calif. — The Dolphins know that Sunday, there will be fans watching their game against the Los Angeles Chargers on whatever device that still has power.

Some will be listening on radio for the first time in ages.

And the unluckiest won’t be able to pay the slightest attention to the entertainment that is professional football because of Hurricane Irma.

And even though the players’ first concern has to be putting together a game plan for their season-opener, in the back of their minds is what’s happening back home.

“Oh, for sure,” defensive back Michael Thomas said. “If we can offer any type of relief, just to get somebody’s mind off what they just went through — what the whole state is going through by playing in the game, we would try to offer that.”

Thomas, in fact, is planning more than just a boost in spirits with a good performance on the field. He’s from Houston and helped organize a drive to aid victims of Hurricane Harvey. He said he has begun planning a benefit drive for his second home, South Florida.

Dolphins safety Nate Allen. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Safety Nate Allen is from Fort Myers, so it’s easy to imagine his tension as forecasters’ cone kept shifting closer and closer to his hometown. In the end, even though the hurricane swept through the southwest portion of the state, his property suffered virtually no damage.

“We had some panels on our screened patio by the pool knocked out and that was about it,” Allen said. “We got lucky. And we kept power the whole time, our neighborhood. We live in a gated community and we didn’t lose power at all. The lord was watching out for sure. He had His hand around us.”

He knows many were nowhere near as fortunate. It wasn’t that long ago that Katrina-stricken New Orleans rallied around the Saints, who eventually won a Super Bowl. This season, Houston received a lift from J.J. Watt’s multimillion campaign for donations. Now, South Florida’s NFL team is in that spotlight.

“It just puts everything in perspective,” Allen said. “We’re blessed to play a game for a living, yeah. Whatever joy we can bring to somebody who’s going through some stuff right now with the hurricane, it’ll be big for us.”

Safety Walt Aikens half-jokingly said the team hopes to carry fans Sunday — but this Sunday won’t be any different from others.

“That’s every Sunday!” Aikens said. “We play for South Florida every Sunday. We got that ‘Miami’ going across the jersey, man, for sure.”

Left tackle Laremy Tunsil is from Lake City in upstate Florida, “so I’m used to these hurricanes,” he said. “It’s nothing new to me.”

Still, when Tunsil turned his attention to fans back home, he said, “Whatever we can do by giving back, I’ll do it. We’ll do it.”

When Thomas considers what is happening in Houston and South Florida, he sees a lot of destruction in a little amount of time.

“Obviously, we feel blessed to be able to play a game,” he said. “And this is some real-life stuff that people are going through where it’s life-altering. Some people I grew up with in Houston who are very dear to me are starting over. Lost everything — house, car, no clothes, nothing.”

Position groups of concern for Miami Dolphins in third preseason game

Nate Allen’s got something to prove tonight. (Getty Images)

PHILADELPHIA–The Dolphins have some decisions to make, and tonight’s preseason game against the Eagles will go a long way toward solidifying their depth chart.

It’s hard to know exactly how they’ll treat next week’s preseason finale given the lack of continuity they’ve had so far–some first-stringers might still need to get more game reps with each other–but this should be the most extended look at how Miami intends to go into the season.

With that said, here’s a look at three position groups of concern tonight:

Interior offensive line
The o-line concern isn’t just about the left guard spot, which remains undetermined. Jesse Davis is the leading candidate there, but still needs to hold off Jake Brendel, Anthony Steen and possibly Isaac Asiata if he makes a late jump. Beyond that, though, Miami needs to establish clear contingencies for center Mike Pouncey and right guard Jermon Bushrod. Bushrod played all 16 games last year, but he’s 33 and going into his 11th season. This will be Pouncey’s first game action since last November, and the Dolphins can’t bank on him going all 16. Brendel and Steen need to prove they’re viable backups.

Safety
This is the weirdest situation on the team. Nate Allen has been the projected starter all along, but T.J. McDonald is having a strong preseason and looks like he’ll be taking over that spot when he comes off suspension in the middle of the season. This will be Allen’s preseason debut after missing extended time with a groin injury. He had health issues the last couple seasons and hasn’t been a full-time starter since 2014.

Tight end
Julius Thomas doesn’t have to get all the way back to the way he played with Denver, where he made the Pro Bowl twice, but if he gets somewhere in that neighborhood the Dolphins’ offense will be loaded. Thomas had two strong days of practice in Philadelphia, creating some optimism after what looked like a slow start in training camp (Adam Gase disputes that, of course).

[Adam Gase on why he gets along with Jay Cutler: “We’re both smartasses”]

[No regrets: Jay Cutler feels right at home in first Dolphins practice]

[Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry says he did nothing wrong as legal investigation continues]

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T.J. McDonald fitting Miami Dolphins plans short- and long-term

T.J. McDonald (22) looks like he’ll be a huge help to the Dolphins when he joins them mid-season. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

PHILADELPHIA–The Dolphins have found a quality safety in T.J. McDonald, and despite him having to miss the first eight games because of an NFL suspension, he might be a big part of their future plans.

McDonald, 26, is with Miami on a one-year deal and is already making a big impression. The idea of pairing Reshad Jones (6-foot-1, 223 pounds) and McDonald (6-2, 223) in the back of the secondary is one reason Adam Gase is optimistic about his defense this season.

“That’s a big man roaming around at free safety,” Gase said. “He’ll come downhill and reacts fast, and he has no regard for his body. He’s got good ball skills. He knows what to do. With him back there, guys know that he’s roaming around.”

McDonald played somewhat of a safety-linebacker hybrid role for the Rams last year, so he comes in with a solid run-stopping foundation, which is something the Dolphins need. Pro Football Focus rated him the No. 58 safety in the league last year.

Nate Allen is in line to start with Jones as of now, but it seems inevitable that McDonald will take over as the starter once he’s cleared to return. If his season goes well, there should be mutual interest in him staying with the Dolphins, who met with him fully knowing he’d be suspended.

Part of McDonald’s agreement to join Miami was, in his words, “no wiggle room” in any aspect of his performance or off-field activities. So far, he’s held up his end of that deal.

“The biggest conversation we had was I just told him to do right,” Gase said. “Just do what you’re supposed to do, be where you’re supposed to be and you’ll be in good shape. When you get on the field, that’s the easy part for you.

“He’s done everything that we’ve needed him to do. He’s been a guy that’s come in here and has fit in well with our locker room. I’ve really enjoyed being around him… Getting him here and being able to do whatever we can to help him get better, it’s been a good experience for us.”

[Kenny Stills won’t kneel for national anthem in 2017, but has some thoughts on those who do]

[Mike Pouncey makes his 2017 debut Thursday night]

[Fact or fiction: Which Dolphins offseason assertions have proven true?]

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Miami Dolphins S Reshad Jones is “straight go” in return from injury

Reshad Jones is back, and the Dolphins need him. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

DAVIE— Restraint doesn’t come easily to Reshad Jones, and the Dolphins knew it’d be extremely difficult to get to ease his way back into football once his calf injury healed. They were extra cautious for that reason, and when they turned him loose on the field this morning, he returned with a frenzy.

“It was straight go,” he said. “It feels good for me. It’s been seven, eight months since I’ve had pads on.”

This wasn’t a fully padded session for Miami, which dressed in helmets and shoulder pads, but it was the closest Jones has been to practice since injuring his shoulder last season. He exited in Week 6 and underwent surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff.

That injury is fine, actually, and Jones looked good during Organized Team Activities and minicamp. The recent problem was a calf strain Jones suffered while training on his own during the offseason, and he missed the first five practices of training camp because of it.

“It just felt good to come back out, sweat a little bit, get my feet wet,” he said. “I feel comfortable.”

The delayed start wasn’t ideal for a guy who just signed a five-year, $60 million extension, but he’s back now and there’s little doubt he’ll be ready to roll when Miami opens the preseason next week. Any concern on the Dolphins’ part is more about the overall cohesiveness of their defense and new players like projected starter Nate Allen acclimating to Jones’ playing style.

There are other chess pieces involved beyond Allen. While he and Jones are the likely starters for the opener, which is still more than a month away, the Dolphins are also repping T.J. McDonald. He’ll miss the first eight games because of an NFL suspension, but he’s playing in the preseason and is a contender for the starting job once he’s eligible.

Miami is also working rookie cornerback Cordrea Tankersley into the mix and wants to concentrate on getting safety Michael Thomas more reps at the slot corner spot. The linebacker corps has been revamped as well, with rookie Raekwon McMillan and Lawrence Timmons joining the team after a decade with the Steelers.

“It’s nice to get him out there so those guys can get used to playing with each other,” coach Adam Gase said. “Any time that we can get–whoever that 11 is going to be on the field–as many reps as possible together, the communication factor, getting used to hearing everybody’s voice, especially at safety because you’re making certain kind of calls.

“Everybody kind of knows what our strengths or weaknesses are, how we can kind of either compensate or cheat it a little bit, so any time we can get those guys playing together, its value.”

Jones’ calf injury was classified as a non-football injury because NFL rules require that for anything that happens away from the facility, but it took place during his private workouts to prepare for camp. During the first week or so, he did agility and conditioning drills on the side and looked like he’d be back quickly.

His return helped offset Miami’s disappointment over losing running back Jay Ajayi. He suffered a concussion from a hit by McDonald on Monday and will not be allowed to do anything until he passes every step of the league’s protocol.

[Dolphins lose one of their 2018 NFL Draft picks]

[Dolphins rookie Cordrea Tankersley learns a hard lesson about South Florida]

[Hype swirls (again) around Dolphins WR DeVante Parker]

Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook

Why Reshad Jones’ return in training camp is huge for Miami Dolphins

Reshad Jones made his training camp debut today. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

DAVIE–Few players are as vital to the Dolphins, even in practices, than Pro Bowl safety Reshad Jones.

Miami welcomed Jones for his training camp debut today after missing the first five sessions because of a calf injury. While the team classified it as a non-football injury because it took place away from the facility, a source said he hurt himself while training. He never looked like he was in particularly bad shape, doing agility drills on the sideline during practices, and the Dolphins held him out as a precaution.

When he hit the field this morning, Jones looked as good as ever and there was no easing his way back into work. He was full speed in individual and team drills as Miami practiced in helmets and shoulder pads. Barring another setback, this eliminates any concern that he might miss preseason games.

Jones’ return might be more important for the rest of the rebuilt defense than for himself. While he did miss most of last season with a shoulder injury, he’s an eight-year veteran who was good enough to merit a $60 million extension this offseason. The Dolphins aren’t worried about him being ready.

Instead, they need newcomers like Nate Allen and T.J. McDonald to get accustomed to playing with Jones. Allen is the expected starter, but McDonald will be a threat to replace him once he comes off an eight-game NFL suspension.

The Dolphins also have two new linebackers in Lawrence Timmons and 20-year-old rookie Raekwon McMillan, plus they’re shifting safety Michael Thomas into slot corner and working in third-round pick Cordrea Tankersley. All of them need to be familiar with Jones’ voice and playing style heading into the upcoming season.

They got a taste of that in the spring with Jones healthy enough to practice, but there’s no simulating training camp. The Dolphins went full contact Monday and are considering doing that again in Saturday’s scrimmage at Hard Rock Stadium.

Jones’ return is also big on a day when the Dolphins found out running back Jay Ajayi will be missing time with a concussion. He took several big hits Monday and is in the league protocol.

Jones, 29, was a Pro Bowl pick in his last healthy season (2015) and was arguably the team’s best defensive player before exiting in Week 6. The Dolphins put him on Injured Reserve and he underwent surgery for a torn rotator cuff.

[Dolphins lose one of their 2018 NFL Draft picks]

[Dolphins rookie Cordrea Tankersley learns a hard lesson about South Florida]

[Hype swirls (again) around Dolphins WR DeVante Parker]

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Miami Dolphins S T.J. McDonald aiming for big free agency in 2018

T.J. McDonald has big incentive to play well this year. (Getty Images)

DAVIE—The Dolphins had a lot of reasons to go after safety T.J. McDonald in free agency, despite knowing all along he’d be suspended for the first eight games of the season.

They needed more depth at the position, even if they’d have to wait until at least Week 9 to get it. McDonald is still a starting-caliber safety, and the team just lost one in Isa Abdul-Quddus. And they got him at the negligible price of $1.3 million for one season.

But here’s the strongest basis for Miami’s belief in McDonald: He wants to cash in next year. At 26, he would’ve been a coveted free agent if the DUI-related suspension wasn’t hanging over his head, and this is his chance to put himself in position for a big payday next spring.

“I’ve been a four-year starter in this league and going into my fifth year, this is unfortunate, but for me I’m confident in my ability on the football field,” McDonald said after today’s Organized Team Activity practice. “That’s something I have to reestablish. I understand that. I’m willing to put that confidence in myself to go out there and do what I do for this year and see where it takes me from there.”

In four seasons with the Rams, he totaled four interceptions, 18 pass break-ups and 281 tackles in 53 starts.

McDonald has been with the team throughout OTAs and is allowed to practice and play during the preseason. His eight-game suspension takes effect the Saturday before the opener and lasts through Miami’s Week 8 game at Baltimore. That’s a Thursday night kickoff, which would give him a few extra days to transition back to the active roster before he’s eligible to play the following week.

The way he uses the time between now and then will be a big factor in asserting himself as a desirable free agent. The Dolphins plan to get him a full slate of reps in the offseason and preseason, according to coach Adam Gase.

Once the suspension kicks in, McDonald is not allowed to practice, travel with the team or talk to the media. He can, however, use the facility for training purposes and any team attend meetings and film sessions.

“I still will be able to work out and stay in good shape and stay on top of the film and make sure I don’t fall off in that aspect,” McDonald said. “All the fine details, we’ll see how all that goes. I’ve got a little bit more time to figure all that out. I’m figuring that out now, talking with the coaches, talking with Coach Gase, and we’ll definitely have a plan in place for me to make sure I stay on top of the game mentally and physically.”

While McDonald is viewed as one of the better safeties in the league, he could be way behind by the time he’s cleared to come back. Veteran Nate Allen is the likely starter going into the season and has a chance to impress the staff over the first eight games.

[Charles Harris, Cameron Wake navigate complicated dynamics of their situation]

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