The Dolphins traded for Byron Maxwell earlier this offseason just two days after releasing Brent Grimes, and given Maxwell’s disappointing 2015 campaign in Philadelphia–combined with Miami’s largely inexperienced cornerback corps–one would think that the Fins might be one of the primary suitors for veteran corners Antonio Cromartie and Leon Hall. As Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald writes, however, that is not the case. Jackson says that both Hall and Cromartie are on the Dolphins’ radar should the team suffer injuries at the cornerback position or if its young corners do not develop as expected, but so far, the Dolphins are pleased with their young guns and want them to continue taking as many meaningful reps as possible.
Hall, the longtime Bengal, is currently rated as PFR’s second-best defensive player still on the market, while Cromartie received an honorable mention (Brandon Boykin and Chris Culliver, two other veteran corners that the Dolphins could theoretically bring in, rated as the fifth- and seventh-best free agent defenders, respectively). Hall is not the the boundary defender he used to be, but the 31-year-old still figures to be productive in the slot, and his veteran presence and high football IQ would surely be welcome in South Beach. Indeed, the Cowboys, Cardinals, Giants, and Falcons have all expressed varying levels of interest in Hall, suggesting that his services are at least somewhat in demand.
However, he has been plagued by health issues throughout his career, and an offseason back procedure will not alleviate clubs’ concerns about his injury history. Plus, the Dolphins think highly of second-year player Bobby McCain and would like to see him start in the slot (which would also help explain Miami’s apparent lack of interest in Boykin).
Cromartie, meanwhile, has not garnered much, if any, interest from other teams after he was released by the Jets back in February. He had earned three consecutive Pro Bowl nods from 2012 to 2014, earning him a four-year, $32MM deal with the Jets last March, but he was not as effective as usual during his first season back in New York after a one-year stint in Arizona (Pro Football Focus ranked him 86th out of 111 qualified cornerbacks). He has frequently struggled with getting burned by opposing receivers, but he has largely been able to compensate for those problems with a high level of playmaking ability. As he gets older, though, the interceptions will likely diminish while his coverage deficiencies will be further exploited, so if the Dolphins were to pursue a veteran corner, Cromartie is probably not the best option.
Miami’s present stance on free agent corners may also be influenced by Maxwell’s performance in the early stages of the offseason. As James Walker of ESPN.com wrote several days ago, Maxwell has been one of the most impressive players in the Dolphins’ early workouts, and this morning Walker tabbed Maxwell as one of the team’s two standout players in OTAs (Twitter link). If Miami can get a bounceback year from Maxwell, and if players like McCain, Xavien Howard, and Tony Lippett progress as hoped, the club could have a strong stable of defensive backs.
Nonetheless, that is a lot of “ifs,” and given the importance of strong cornerback play in the NFL, it would not be surprising to see Miami change course and sign a veteran CB or two in the near future (the Dolphins did bring in Greg Toler for a workout several months ago, though that was before they selected Howard in this year’s draft). But for the time being, the team’s young corners will apparently get ample opportunity to prove their worth.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images