MIAMI DOLPHINS

Miami Dolphins sign cornerback Cortland Finnegan, lineman Shelley Smith

 

Miami fortified its secondary and offensive line, respectively, by adding Cortland Finnegan and Shelley Smith – who will both vie for starting spots.

abeasley@miamiherald.com

Cortland Finnegan and Shelley Smith: The once and future teammates.

Both were members of the St. Louis Rams in 2013.

And on Friday, both agreed to become Dolphins in 2014.

The Dolphins locked the free agents down with multiyear deals Friday, bolstering their offensive line and secondary.

Finnegan was once one of the league’s premier corners. If he’s nearly that good at 30, the Dolphins will be ecstatic. NFL Network reported the deal was for two years and roughly $11 million.

Smith, meanwhile, is an under-the-radar talent who came relatively cheap. He signed a two-year, $5.5 million contract with $1.5 million guaranteed, the Miami Herald learned. The Dolphins will make Smith available to the media sometime next week.

He is likely to start at guard on an offensive line that added left tackle Branden Albert on Tuesday. The Dolphins are trying to bolster a unit that surrendered a franchise-record 58 sacks a year ago.

As for Finnegan, a one-time Pro Bowl selection who struggled in recent years, he intends to push Jamar Taylor for a starting spot this fall.

“First and foremost, I have to earn the trust of these men, not by the past, but by what I’m doing now,” said Finnegan, who has 18 career interceptions. “Nothing’s ever been given to me.”

He added: “May the best man win. I want to compete for a starting job.”

Quipped Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey: “[He’s been] a tough playmaker over his career with veteran presence, leadership and a love and passion for the game that we’re all about.”

Finnegan, a native of Daytona Beach, was an NFL All-Pro in 2008 with the Titans and one of the league’s feistiest players.

His battles with Texans receiver Andre Johnson are legendary. But sometimes, his passion crossed the line. He has been fined for excessive play several times, including once in 2010 for a brawl with Johnson in which helmets were yanked off and punches were thrown.

Finnegan signed a five-year, $50 million contract with St. Louis before the 2012 season but was cut after two years following a steep decline in performance. He allowed 76.5 percent of passes thrown in his coverage area to be completed last season, with quarterbacks managing a 136.0 passer rating against him.

“I can make no excuses for my play last year on the field,” Finnegan added. “At times I played well, at times I didn’t. Now it's a clean slate.”

Finnegan offered up one theory for his drop-off in performance: perhaps he has been missing that “spunk” that characterized his time in Tennessee.

Another reason for his struggles: a series of injuries that limited him to seven games in 2013. The Rams put him on injured reserve last November with a fractured orbital bone. He also battled hamstring issues. Finnegan said he expects to be near 100 percent for the start of organized team activities.

The Dolphins were his first and only visit, although he said he had interest from other teams.

Smith, who was considering offers from other teams, thought it important to meet with the Dolphins coaching staff before making a decision. He must have liked what he heard.

Smith, 26, was a sixth-round draft pick of the Texans in 2010. His athletic build would seem to fit in Miami, where the offensive scheme calls for guards to get to the second level. Smith appeared in 14 games with St. Louis last season, starting two.

Smith was the league’s fourth-best run-blocking guard a year ago, according to the scouting service Pro Football Focus.

Read more Miami Dolphins stories from the Miami Herald

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