The Dolphins added veteran cornerback Dimitri Patterson to their patchwork secondary Tuesday, a move apparently made with one eye on the present — with playoff hopes alive but faint — and the other on the future.
With Nolan Carroll’s availability in doubt because of a knee injury, Patterson — a 5-11, 196-pound cover corner out of Tuskegee — might play this weekend.
If so, Patterson will have left a team officially eliminated from the postseason race (Cleveland, which cut him Monday) and helped another that’s fighting for survival (Miami) — all within the course of a week.
At 6-8, the Dolphins are the ultimate playoff long shot. The website MakeNFLPlayoffs.com puts their chances of playing on Wild Card Weekend at just more than 2 percent. They need to win out — at home against Buffalo on Sunday, and then at New England in Week 17 — to have any chance. And even if they do, their odds are still tiny.
To make next Sunday’s finale in Foxborough matter, the Dolphins must beat the Bills, and the Steelers have to down the Bengals. The good news: Miami and Pittsburgh are playing at home and opened as four-point favorites.
“Go Pittsburgh,” linebacker Karlos Dansby said, after appearing at the weekly Dolphins Touchdown Club luncheon at the Miramar Bokamper’s.
Added cornerback Sean Smith: “I texted some of my friends there, make sure they’re ready, get them prepared for the game, just like myself, and hopefully things work out for us.”
Smith spoke just before he, teammates, their wives and Dolphins cheerleaders took 30 underprivileged kids from Camillus House and the Broward-based foster-care program HANDY on a shopping spree at Dick’s Sporting Goods on Tuesday afternoon.
So Smith had no idea at the time that he would have a new face in the defensive backs’ meeting room come Wednesday.
But Patterson might be more than just a short-term rental.
By claiming the eighth-year veteran who was born in Miami, the Dolphins also assumed his existing contract, which runs through 2014. Should the organization choose to keep him for the long haul, it would have to pay him $4.5 million next year and $5.3 million in 2014.
Miami will be Patterson’s sixth team since breaking into the league as an undrafted rookie in 2005. He started nine games for Philadelphia in 2010 and signed a three-year, $16 million deal with Cleveland last March.
But he has started just five games in the past two years. Pro Football Focus ranks Patterson 47th out of 112 corners on the field for at least 25 percent of their team’s defensive snaps this year. Opposing quarterbacks have completed 66.7 percent of their passes thrown against him, good for three touchdowns.
He was limited with a hurt ankle for much of this season and told reporters a few weeks ago that he wouldn’t return to action until he could play at a high level.
Patterson takes tight end Charles Clay’s spot on the roster. The Dolphins placed Clay on injured reserve after he tore a knee ligament in Sunday’s win over Jacksonville. Clay will need surgery.
However, those were the team’s lone roster moves Tuesday, an encouraging sign for Carroll and running back Daniel Thomas, both of whom left Sunday’s game with knee injuries.
The Dolphins will need all hands on deck to steal the AFC’s sixth seed, a scenario that seemed far-fetched to their own quarterback just last week. Before the Jacksonville game, Ryan Tannehill told reporters, “We realize we’re out of the playoff race.”
But losses by the Jets, Bills, Browns, and Steelers in Week 15, bizarrely, helped clear a path — albeit a narrow one. And on Tuesday, glimmers of hope broke through for Dolphins players, even if their coach — Joe Philbin — chooses not to make the playoffs a point of emphasis.
“ESPN does enough for us,” Dansby said. “All I’ve got to do is turn the TV on and there it is. You see the logo, Dolphins, still in the hunt.
“Your hair has got to be on fire,” he added. “You can still get to get your goals. You might not get all of them, but you get in that dance, you’ve got a chance to get your big one.”