Barry Jackson

Why the Dolphins would be fine with a Reshad Jones trade

The Dolphins ideally would prefer to trade safety Reshad Jones if they get an offer to their liking, according to a league source who has been in touch with Miami’s front office.

Jones has skipped the team’s voluntary offseason program, but coach Brian Flores said last month that he expects Jones to attend this week’s mandatory minicamp, which begins Tuesday and runs three days.

Jones’ agent, Joel Segal, declined to answer when asked, via text message, if Jones would like to be traded.

The source in touch with the Dolphins said Miami hasn’t publicly made an issue of Jones skipping OTAs because the Dolphins don’t want to damage his trade value.

Jones – who has a $17.2 million cap hit if he’s on the team - is not expected to be part of the Dolphins’ longterm future, but he still could remain on the team this season if the Dolphins can’t find a trade partner.

From all indications, the Dolphins aren’t of the mindset to simply give him away if they don’t get a draft pick or if the other team isn’t willing to pay at least part of his salary.

Releasing Jones would be pointless, because Miami would have a $17.1 million dead money hit in that scenario and just $100,000 in cap savings. Additionally, $11 million of his $13.1 million base salary this season is guaranteed.

But if the Dolphins traded him, Miami would have just $4 million in dead money and $13 million in cap savings. The Dolphins could be willing to pay part of his salary in a trade – as they did with Ryan Tannehill and Robert Quinn – if they can get a decent draft pick in return.

Jones – coming off shoulder surgery - is under contract through 2021, but it’s difficult to envision him remaining with the Dolphins that long even if Miami is unable to trade him this offseason. He has an $11.5 million base salary and a $15.6 million cap number in 2020, but by cutting him next spring, the Dolphins would carry only $4 million in dead money on his deal and have $11.6 million in cap savings.

So why are the Dolphins willing to trade him? Because of age (31) and salary and the determination he’s likely not a longterm piece. And though they would never admit this publicly, the Dolphins have told people that the new regime was very unhappy that Jones refused to go back in the Jets game last November after being told earlier in the week that he would not be playing every snap but instead used in a rotation.

That type of behavior would be unacceptable to new coach Brian Flores, who values putting the team well above anything else. Jones’ decision to stay away from the team’s voluntary offseason practices also runs counter to Flores’ team-first approach. Jones is the only player who isn’t attending OTAs.

But Flores will make the best of this if Miami cannot find a palatable trade scenario. Jones had three interceptions in 14 games last season.

So if the Dolphins move on from Jones,they would have two options at the safety spot opposite starter T.J. McDonald: moving Minkah Fitzpatrick there permanently or playing cornerback Bobby McCain there. McCain has been working at free safety throughout May practices.

Though the Dolphins previously conveyed to Fitzpatrick that they see him as a safety longterm, there’s a convincing argument to be made to play him at slot cornerback when Miami uses one and play him at boundary cornerback at other times.

Here’s why: Per Pro Football Focus, Fitzpatrick last season was fist in completion percentage allowed (51.3) and first in passer rating allowed (53.4) among 34 players who logged at least 200 snaps in the slot. In three years at Alabama, he played 66.3 percent of his snaps at slot cornerback and his 90.5 coverage grade in the slot is the highest ever recorded, since 2014, among the 93 Power 5 defenders with 400 or more slot coverage snaps.

As a result, PFF’s Austin Gayle wrote that “Miami’s interest in moving Fitzpatrick to safety or a hybrid role is unwarranted. Safety isn’t nearly as valuable as cornerback – outside or slot – and he’s already on track to be one of the best slot cornerbacks in the NFL.”

But if Jones isn’t on the team, using Fitzpatrick primary at slot or boundary cornerback would work only if McCain thrives at safety or if Miami finds another starting-caliber free safety.