The cash-flush Dolphins are so primed to again make a splash in free agency, they got started a day early.
Safety Louis Delmas on Monday signed a one-year contract with a maximum value of $3.5 million. Delmas is expected to start alongside Reshad Jones in the Dolphins secondary
Delmas, recently cut by the Lions, grew up in South Florida. He visited the Dolphins late last month and entered into contract negotiations over the weekend.
When asked to describe his hard-hitting style of play (which has led to injury in the past), Delmas responded: “Turn on the TV and watch the car race and see a guy who breaks through that brick wall.”
Added Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey: “He plays with great passion, love for the game. We feel like he’s going to bring a lot of things to the table to the Miami Dolphins.”
Delmas insisted that he can stay healthy for an entire season. The Dolphins need him to, as he effectively replaces Chris Clemons, one of 12 Miami free agents set to hit the market Tuesday.
Cornerback Dimitri Patterson is also looking for work. The effective but oft-injured cover man was released Monday, taking his $5.4 million contract off the books.
But don’t expect the Dolphins to chase Aqib Talib, likely the best corner set to hit the market. Instead, they probably will go with the young talent they have. Miami drafted Jamar Taylor and Will Davis in the first three rounds a year ago and is excited to see them produce.
The roster moves give the Dolphins more than $35 million in available salary cap space — among the most in the league. They plan to use it.
By all indications, left tackle Branden Albert will be a Dolphin by the close of business Tuesday. But that’s just the beginning of Hickey’s plans.
A source close to the situation said the team will make significant plays for additional offensive linemen and a top defensive tackle in the days to come.
The Dolphins can officially put owner Stephen Ross’ money to use at 4 p.m. Tuesday. Barring an unforeseen reversal, Albert will put pen to paper sometime shortly thereafter. He’s expected to sign a multiyear contract paying him, on average, between $8 million and $10 million.
Albert, 29, lives in South Florida in the offseason and could be at the team’s headquarters whenever the Dolphins ask. The Chiefs left tackle is considered one of the best pass protectors in the game.
But the Dolphins will need to fill up to three other vacancies on the offensive line. Versatile Rams lineman Rodger Saffold was high on Hickey’s wish list, but he probably will cost too much. The Raiders are reportedly prepared to pay Saffold as a tackle; the Dolphins prefer him as a guard.
Instead, the Dolphins will likely focus on Jets tackle Austin Howard and possibly Saints lineman Zach Strief, assuming both shake free. Strief was the highest-graded right tackle in football in 2013, according to the scouting service Pro Football Focus. He allowed just three sacks in 1,062 snaps. Howard, meanwhile, allowed just two sacks in 1,017 plays.
But that’s just the beginning of the Dolphins’ plans. They will need a defensive tackle to replace Paul Soliai and Randy Starks, neither of whom are expected to return. Top options include Henry Melton (Bears), Jason Hatcher (Cowboys), Earl Mitchell (Texans) and Linval Joseph (Giants).
Melton is six months removed from a torn ACL. Hatcher will be 32 when the season begins. But Mitchell and Joseph are young, healthy and productive. Mitchell played nose tackle in Houston, taking on many of the double teams that allowed J.J. Watt to make plays. All four are expected to command expensive contracts.