Armando Salguero

Dolphins trade deadline plans shifted dramatically

Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor (5) is sacked by Miami Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake (91) in the fourth quarter as the Miami Dolphins host the Buffalo Bills at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday, October 23, 2016.
Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor (5) is sacked by Miami Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake (91) in the fourth quarter as the Miami Dolphins host the Buffalo Bills at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday, October 23, 2016.

Had the course of this Miami Dolphins season not turned two weeks ago, today’s NFL trade deadline might be different.

Had things not changed ...

Mario Williams would have been trade bait.

Byron Maxwell would have been trade bait.

Andre Branch might have been trade bait.

Possibly Cameron Wake.

The Dolphins would have been trying to sell. I was told to not be surprised by anything that was about to happen.

But something happened on the way to the fire sale: The Dolphins not only started winning -- they beat Pittsburgh and Buffalo back to back -- but they seemed to find their identity in the process. They seemed to unearth a formula that might actually have some sustainability the remainder of the season, barring significant injuries.

And so now it is hard to think of the Dolphins as sellers. It’s much more logical to consider them buyers.

That’s because this team, hot as it may be despite the cooling off period of the just-completed bye week, could still use a talent influx. This team still could use significant help in significant areas.

And this is where I tell you cornerback needs help. Still.

The Dolphins don’t necessarily feel that way. They are confident Chris Culliver will add team drills to his practice regimen this week, perhaps as early as today, and he will be ready to play either against the Jets on Sunday or at San Diego the following Sunday, barring a setback.

They will tell you they expect rookie second-round pick Xavien Howard back eventually. (Yeah, they may say that but eventually looks to be the middle of November).

The Dolphins will also tell you Byron Maxwell has improved his game. Fine. Great. So he’s better now. That doesn’t mean he’s, you know, good yet.

And so the name you’ll hear for the next few hours until the trade deadline passes is Joe Haden of the Cleveland Browns. Yes, the Browns are open to moving Haden for the right price. Yes, Haden is a good cornerback, a legitimate starting caliber guy.

And, yes, the Dolphins can use another one of those.

But this is where it gets cloudy.

Would the Dolphins really do this?

I am told they are open to any possibility. That seems to be a theme around this team. Open to anything.

But does it make sense?

Haden is in the third year of a six-year deal so there is financial certainty involved. But as with all things, this is about the tape and the price. If the Browns want a second round pick for Haden, I have a hard time thinking that gets done. If the Browns want a third-round pick for Haden, well, the Dolphins gave up a third- and fourth-round pick in 2017 to Minnesota for the Vikings third-rounder in 2016. So that kind of detours that idea.

Remember I said this is also about tape. Haden has been solid in 2016. But ProFootballFocus, for example, ranks him the 29th overall cornerback in the NFL. Solid. Good. Not amazing.

The Browns have managed to go winless with Haden. I suppose they could do no worse without him.

I know fans would like this move. I’m not so sure the Dolphins would move the necessary resources to make it happen.

Cornerback, they the way, is not the only issue the Dolphins are juggling now.

The safety situation is uncertain since the injury to Reshad Jones.

The running back room is uncertain beyond Jay Ajayi because Arian Foster didn’t have it anymore so he retired, Kenyan Drake is a rookie still trying to find his niche, and Damien Williams is the only other viable option right now.

(Have I mentioned I really like Karlos Williams)?

Linebacker needs upgrading because Koa Misi went down and his future is uncertain.

The Dolphins are expecting Earl Mitchell to come back from the calf injury that has kept him on injured reserve since the first game of the regular-season. But Mitchell returning is not necessarily a longterm proposition. He’s not proven this year he can stay healthy. And Mitchell is in the final year of his contract. So perhaps if a defensive tackle is available ... well, you know where I’m going.

It should be noted that players that are available now are there for a reason.

Sure, the Patriots dealt Jamie Collins but that was after they recognized he wanted to be paid as if he is the best linebacker in the NFL. And he’s not. So off he went in the final year of his deal ... The Patriots are worse today than they were before they dealt Collins but sometimes team-building isn’t all about acquiring and keeping the most talent.

One thing to note: For years the trade deadline has approached and Salguero has asked for more offensive line help. The offensive line has been an area the Dolphins never seemed to get quite right. Not the case right now.


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