Armando Salguero

Add cornerback to the list of needs Miami Dolphins say they must address

Bryon Maxwell, who came to the Dolphins in a big trade last season, is a good player to have for 2016 but the team needs to add younger corners because Maxwell is not a longterm answer.
Bryon Maxwell, who came to the Dolphins in a big trade last season, is a good player to have for 2016 but the team needs to add younger corners because Maxwell is not a longterm answer. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

There was a week during training camp last year when Adam Gase kept looking at me sideways and in one press conference referred to me as “Captain Negative.”

And the reason he said all the world’s enlisted Negatives salute me as their captain is because I kept saying, writing, harping on the idea that the Dolphins had troubles at cornerback. And I wouldn’t let up because I’m a bulldog and the need for cornerbacks was a meaty bone.

Eventually the Dolphins sorta, kinda figured out their cornerback situation.

(Not really).

There were a lot of snaps survived with smoke and mirrors.

Big-time addition Byron Maxwell played poorly early and was benched. Eventually, he got back in the lineup and played better but he also got hurt at the end of the season and missed two games due to injuries. He also missed the playoff game at Pittsburgh.

Rookie second-round pick Xavien Howard suffered a knee injury during the spring that required surgery and cost him all but a couple of weeks of training camp. He started right away in the regular-season opener but eventually injured the same knee again, required a second surgery, and finished having played only seven games all season.

The good thing about Howard is coaches liked what they saw of him when he played and practiced. They believe he’s the real deal if he can stay healthy. The bad thing about Howard is no one can have any assurance he can stay healthy based on his rookie season.

(This is going great so far, right? I was obviously way out of line to worry about cornerbacks).

Tony Lippett was the most surprising of the Big Three because after a terrible training camp in which I thought he would never and should never get on the field in the regular season, Lippett was thrust into the lineup and was ... not awful.

He actually had four interceptions and 10 passes defensed and generally showed improvement the latter part of the season until he turned in a terrible playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

(I’m going to say I was wrong about Lippett. No, he wasn’t a star. But he showed enough to suggest he can continue to improve and I didn’t see that coming).

Anyway, we are now in 2017 and on the surface it seems the Dolphins are more or less set at cornerback. Maxwell, Howard and Lippett are three long corners and that’s a good thing to have.

Except that’s not completely true.

cornerbacks remains a thing for the Dolphins as they set into free agency next week and the draft in April.

That’s not me saying that. That’s Adam Gase, trying to snatch my Captain Negative mantle from me, saying cornerback is a need for the Dolphins.

“I think our secondary will take whatever help they can get right now,” Gase told reporters Thursday. “As many corners as you can get, and safeties. I I think the way the league’s going right now, you better have guys that can play both post safety and come down and tackle.

“And at corner you need as many as you can. You saw last year, it felt like somebody was out every week. The more corners we can get, the better. I like the guys we have right now. I love how they work. I love the way they’ve been trying to get better, but at the end of the day we just need more bodies.”

And then Gase added, “Armando was right as he usually is and I was totally wrong and I should listen to him more and I apologize to him with all respect.”

Ok, so Gase did not really utter that last quote.

But I think I heard it in my head. And even though he actually didn’t say it, he should have!

I digress.

Look, the reason the Dolphins need more cornerbacks is because they really cannot commit to Maxwell beyond this season. Maxwell will cost the Dolphins $8.5 million against the cap in 2017 but the figure rises to $10 million next year and 2019 when Maxwell hits 31 years old. In 2020 the figure bloats to $11 million when Maxwell is 32 years old.

The thing is you want Maxwell on the team and playing well this year. But next year when the team can save all $10 million of that cap hit by cutting him? The Dolphins should want to be in a position where they can cut him.

That leaves Howard and Lippett as long-term answers.

Well, two guys, as we saw last year, as we’ve seen for many years while Cortland Finnegan, Dimitri Patterson, Jamar Taylor, R.J. Stanford, Jimmy Wilson, and Brice McCain have started games at cornerback, is not enough.

You don’t want to be in a position where you’re in the same division with Tom Brady and you’re rolling out your No. 3 and No. 4 schleps at cornerback to try and stop him.

You need players. Contributors.

You always need good corners. And that means the Dolphins need to add at least one good young one that will be cheap and comes with promises of developing into a starter.

That settled, we come to the hard part because, well, there’s always a hard part. We’ve established the Dolphins need at least another cornerback coming out of this talent acquisition period -- again, preferably a young guy coming out of the draft.

But that comes at a time when they also need to add two defensive ends. And two linebackers. And a safety because Isa-Abdul Quddus is no certainty. And, yes, two guards.

The Dolphins, by my count, need to add six starters between now and May. I didn’t say six players.

Six starters.

That’s a lot. That’s a lot to do.

And that doesn’t even count a cornerback because I don’t expect that second- or third-round draft pick (I hope) to be a starter right away. But I do expect him to be on the roster and start to develop right away...

...Because you can never have enough cornerback ready to play.

Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter @ArmandoSalguero

Miami Dolphins coach Adam Gase speaks with reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine.

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