Stop us if you’ve heard this before:
Miami Dolphins have a need. Free agent visits. Free agent leaves without signing a contract.
It happened again Monday, as defensive end Chris Clemons met with the Dolphins, but didn’t put pen to paper.
A popular theory why: The organization is in a holding pattern until the close of NFL business Tuesday.
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That’s the deadline for the Denver Broncos to either match the four-year, $18 million contract the Dolphins offered C.J. Anderson, or let Anderson leave for Miami. As of late Monday, there was no word if the Broncos would keep Anderson, who has rushed for 1,607 yards and 13 touchdowns in three NFL seasons.
The Broncos control the process between now and 4 p.m. Tuesday; the Dolphins are as curious as the rest of us what they will do.
Still, it’s a little peculiar that five players — all non-running backs — have met with the team in recent days, and none signed with the Dolphins.
What is not up for debate: the Dolphins are holding the line on spending this year, and unwilling to overpay for second- and third-tier free agents.
The latest example: cornerback Josh Robinson, who signed with the Buccaneers on Monday after visiting the Dolphins over the weekend. It’s unclear what the Dolphins offered Robinson — if anything. But it probably wasn’t much; Robinson only signed for one year in Tampa Bay.
Some are curious about the abundance of caution. The Dolphins have a problem at the position. Byron Maxwell, acquired from Philadelphia via trade last week, is right now their No. 1 corner.
That might not be a good thing. There’s a reason the Eagles were willing to part with him; Maxwell didn’t come close to justifying the six-year, $63 million contract he signed last offseason.
The Dolphins aren’t expecting him to come in and be elite. But they want him to be physical and solid. What else do the Dolphins have at corner? Occasional starters Jamar Taylor, Tony Lippett, Bobby McCain and a handful of camp bodies. The Dolphins have high hopes for all three.
So why haven’t they made a play for popular free agents such as Sean Smith and Patrick Robinson? They simply didn’t value them as much as others; Smith scored an eight-year, $40 million contract with the Raiders. But the Dolphins decided not to pay A-minus money for players that they didn’t view as A-minus talent.
The Dolphins do have interest in bringing back Nolan Carroll, who played four seasons in Miami, but a true real upgrade probably won’t come until the draft. Even after moving back from eighth overall to 13th in the trade with the Eagles, plenty of good options could remain, including Ohio State’s Eli Apple and Clemson’s Mackensie Alexander.
As for defensive end, the Dolphins have now met with two veterans in recent days — Clemons and ex-Lion Jason Jones.
Clemons, 34, was once dominant, but saw a steep dropoff in performance last year. He had just three sacks and 14 tackles for the Jaguars. Jones, meanwhile, would be substantially younger (he’s 29), plus a prior relationship with Ndamukong Suh. They were teammates in Detroit in 2013 and 2014, along with new Dolphins safety Isa Abdul-Quddus.
Jones met with the Dolphins on Saturday and, according to ESPN, has also sat down with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
And as was the case with Robinson, had the Dolphins made a substantial enough offer to Jones or Clemons, they likely wouldn’t have left town without a contract.
Perhaps that changes at 4 p.m. Tuesday.