Armando Salguero

The Miami Dolphins plan at DB heading into the final preseason game and roster cuts

Dolphins Reshad Jones (20) -- here playing in the preseason game against Baltimore -- will be one of two University of Georgia safeties on the Dolphins to start the regular season.
Dolphins Reshad Jones (20) -- here playing in the preseason game against Baltimore -- will be one of two University of Georgia safeties on the Dolphins to start the regular season. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

Sixth of a series

The Miami Dolphins will begin the regular-season with a tall, rangy safety from the University of Georgia on their roster.

Oh, and they’ll have Reshad Jones on the team, too.

Yeah, that Bulldog that is joining the Dolphins is one of the most under-the-radar dark horse players who will make the roster when it is set Saturday at 4 p.m.

That player is rookie Maurice Smith. Thursday night when the Dolphins play at the Vikings, Smith will wear No. 2. By next week, barring injuries, he’ll be wearing a different number more fitting his status as an NFL player.

That’s quite a jump for a player signed as an undrafted free agent. But, of course, if you know Jones is on the team you know the Dolphins have apparently developed a knack for finding Georgia safeties late in the draft or as undrafted free agents. Recall that Jones was a fifth-round pick in 2010.

So that’s two defensive backs on the team.

The rest of the defensive backfield?

It won’t include Joe Haden. He signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers on Wednesday and that quickly ended a shortlived attempt to add the former Cleveland Browns cornerback to the Dolphins. The Dolphins thought they had a chance. Obviously, they could not offer Haden the opportunity to play his former team twice a year. Revenge is a powerful inducement for some people.

But here’s the thing: The Dolphins were extremely sensitive about this one. They didn’t wish to speak on this topic publicly or privately -- well, most people didn’t. They didn’t want local agent Drew Rosenhaus, who represented Haden, to speak on it.

My guess for the classified status of this matter is because if the Dolphins were chasing Haden (and they were), they were willing to part with veteran Byron Maxwell. Again, the second part of that is a guess. No one has confirmed this to me.

But the salary cap implications of signing Haden almost automatically required the jettisoning of Maxwell’s contract to reap the $5.5 million savings needed to make the new acquisition fit within the cap.

Obviously, the Dolphins don’t want Maxwell getting a clue he might have been cut a week before training camp if Haden had picked Miami. Without Haden on the team, the Dolphins need Maxwell to be in a good place. Whether he beats out Alterraun Verner for a starting cornerback job or not, Miami wouldn’t want to upset Maxwell’s psyche.

With Haden in the rear view mirror, we now see both Maxwell and Verner are on the team.

Xavien Howard, vying to be the team’s most impressive defensive back in 2017, is on the team. Bobby McCain is the starting slot cornerback so he is on the team. Michael Thomas is on the team because he is a backup at either slot or safety and is a prized special teams contributor.

Rookie Cordrea Tankersley is not ready to factor in regular-season games on defense yet. But he can be available for emergency duty and is valued as a special teams contributor because of his speed. So he’s on the team.

Walt Aikens, who is trying to transition back to cornerback from safety, is also a special teams core player. So he’s on the team.

Nate Allen is the starting safety next to Jones. He will have a competition for playing time with T.J. McDonald when the latter’s NFL mandated suspension is over after eight games. But until then, Allen is your starter and McDonald does not count toward the 53-man roster limit.

So that’s 10 defensive backs.

Undrafted rookie Tory McTyer feels like a practice squad possibility.

Refresh often or set your alerts because I’ll be filing more schtuff today, rounding out the roster series and perhaps some news I’m trying to flush out.

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