Miami Dolphins defense in safe hands with Chris Clemons

Chris Clemons is turning out to be one of the top safeties in the league this season, which means his value will rise when it comes time for the Dolphins to negotiate his next contract.

10/24/2013 12:01 AM

09/08/2014 6:55 PM

Reshad Jones got the lucrative, multiyear deal.

But Chris Clemons, in his second consecutive contract year, is the Dolphins safety who’s playing like a Pro Bowler.

While Jones has struggled to cover backs and tight ends through the first six games, Clemons is arguably having the finest season of his career.

“He’s very solid,” Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said of Clemons. “Sometimes, there may be flashier players around, but he consistently does his job well.

“He’s a good tackler,” Philbin continued. “He understands his role in the defense. He’s a dependable guy. He’s an available player who practices every day. He always shows up. He’s doing well.”

And, when given the opportunity, he can make the big play. In Miami’s 23-21 loss to Buffalo on Sunday, Clemons picked off a wounded duck offered up by Thad Lewis in Bills’ territory.

It’s just one reason that Pro Football Focus rates Clemons as the sixth-best coverage safety in football.

Quarterbacks have completed just 3 of 8 passes thrown in his coverage area this year, and he hasn’t been tested once the past two games.

Furthermore, just one of the eight passing touchdowns surrendered by the Dolphins’ defense this year was on Clemons’ watch.

“That’s how you stay in the league,” Clemons said. “You’ve got to make plays.”

And how you get the security of a multiyear deal. Clemons had a strong 2012, teaming up with Jones to form one of the best safety tandems in football.

Yet when Clemons hit the open market in March, the Dolphins were able to bring him back on a one-year deal worth $2.75 million.

Meaning: Clemons is a great value for the Dolphins. But if they want him back in 2014, they’ll probably have to pay up — and not just for one season.

“Everybody wants that,” Clemons said of a long-term commitment from the Dolphins. However, Clemons said Tuesday that he has not yet heard from the front office with such an offer.

“It’s a one-year deal; I’ve got to go out there and play,” Clemons added.

Clemons’ outperforming his contract contrasts noticeably with Jones, who is slogging through an up-and-down season.

Only four of the 25 passes thrown in his direction haven’t been completed, according to Pro Football Focus, and in five of six games, quarterbacks have a rating higher than 95 against him. Jones readily admits he needs to make more plays.

But even with Jones’ four-year, $30 million extension, the Dolphins have plenty of cap space to lock up Clemons moving forward, should they choose.

They are roughly $18 million under the salary cap this year. Assuming they don’t make any other major moves, that will all roll over into 2014, again making them one of the league’s most cap-rich teams in next year’s free agency.

None of this much interests Clemons, who is far more focused this week on stopping the Patriots and Rob Gronkowski. Finally back from offseason back and arm surgeries, Gronkowski is a matchup nightmare for teams.

Yet the Dolphins have done a better job than most against the burly tight end, holding him to 22 catches for 312 yards and three touchdowns in five career meetings.

Clemons and Jones have had a lot to do with that.

“You don’t want him to catch the big balls down the field,” defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said. “If you can kind of keep him contained where he’s catching shallow balls that is a good thing.”

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