Brandon Jones

Brandon Jones, DeShon Elliott To Vie For Dolphins S Job

In Jevon Holland, the Dolphins have a locked-in safety starter. The 2021 second-round pick has become one of the NFL’s better back-line defenders. As Vic Fangio prepares for his first training camp as Miami’s defensive coordinator, a key question will involve the other safety position.

The Dolphins did not operate aggressively in free agency here, likely for multiple reasons. One of them: a belief in Brandon Jones. The fourth-year safety is coming off a torn ACL, but the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson notes the team is high enough on the returning starter it did not pursue a high- or mid-level contract with a veteran safety.

A 2020 third-round pick, Jones has started 24 career games — including 20 over the past two seasons — and formed a promising tandem with Holland. But the Dolphins did not stand down entirely in free agency. The team did not make a notable offer to Jordan Poyer, per Jackson, despite the Bills safety being intrigued by a warm-weather city with a friendlier tax code. (Poyer re-signed with the Bills.) But Miami did sign former Baltimore and Detroit safety DeShon Elliott, adding the fifth-year veteran for just $1.77MM.

These two will vie for the position alongside Holland, per Jackson. Both players are coming off injuries. Jones’ ACL tear occurred in Week 7, while Elliott played through a shoulder injury to close his 2022 Lions run. The shoulder problem limited Elliott this offseason as well, but the former sixth-round pick is expected to be fine for the start of Miami’s regular season. As such, he poses a threat to Jones’ job in the latter’s contract year.

Jones, 25, and Elliott, 26, were teammates at Texas in the late 2010s. The latter has started 35 career games, earning a job alongside Chuck Clark. Elliott started 16 games for the Ravens in 2020 and six in 2021; the Lions gave Elliott 13 starts last season. Of course, Detroit struggled on defense for much of the season and has since overhauled its secondary. This will lead Elliott — Pro Football Focus’ No. 45 overall safety last season — into Fangio’s scheme.

PFF rated Jones 64th overall in 2022, though his coverage stats revealed improvement in that area. Prior to the knee injury, the plus blitzer (five sacks in 2021) held a 62.5% completion rate allowed as the closest defender and allowed a 78.0 passer rating. Both marks were significantly better than Jones’ 2021 coverage performance, though Fangio’s zone-based system will mark a change from a Josh Boyer scheme that capitalized on Jones’ blitzing skill.

The Dolphins have Holland signed to his rookie deal through the 2024 season. With two big-ticket cornerback contracts on their books (for Xavien Howard and trade acquisition Jalen Ramsey), that will prove important. The team also used its top draft choice (No. 51 overall) on former South Carolina nickel Cam Smith. With big investments at four of their five DB spots, the Dolphins will count on low-cost production from the other post. The loser of the ex-Longhorns’ competition will represent quality depth.

Dolphins S Brandon Jones Tears ACL

OCTOBER 26: McDaniel is now ruling Jones out for the season. Miami’s first-year HC said Jones suffered an ACL tear. The former third-round pick will not return until 2023, the final year of his rookie contract.

OCTOBER 24: It’s looking like the Dolphins will be without starting safety Brandon Jones for an extended period of time as he heads to the injured reserve list, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. Jones suffered a knee injury in the third quarter of the team’s win over the Steelers Sunday night, and the prognosis is not encouraging.

Jones took over the starting strong safety job last season and has been a reliable presence in the Miami secondary ever since. He provides a versatility that has become very popular for safeties in today’s game. As a starter last season, Jones was able to accumulate 5.0 sacks, 6.0 tackles for loss, and 10 quarterback hits. He’s shown more physical ability than coverage ability over his first three years in the league with only one interception but three forced fumbles so far in his career, but he showed an improvement in coverage so far this year racking up a career-high three passes defensed through only seven games.

Jones heading to IR means he’ll miss at least four games, but head coach Mike McDaniel‘s comments make it seem like the Dolphins will be without Jones for longer than that. When asked about the issue, McDaniel explained, “There is some lingering college stuff that is complicating the issue. I’m not excited about it.” McDaniel went on to say that he was “hesitant to rule (Jones) out for the year” until they were able to get more information, but the fact that a season-ending injury is on the table is a scary prospect for Miami.

Jones going down just adds to the list of injuries the Dolphins have been dealing with this season on both sides of the ball but in the secondary, particularly. Obviously, the injury to quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has been receiving most of the conversation this year, but the secondary in Miami has been dealing with several bumps and bruises.

While the Dolphins are happy to have Xavien Howard and Noah Igbinoghene leading the cornerback group, the team’s depth at the position has suffered. Byron Jones has been on the reserve/physically unable to perform list all year and Nik Needham is set to miss the rest of the season after tearing his Achilles tendon last week. Keion Crossen and undrafted rookie Kader Kohou have also missed a couple of games lately.

In Jones’ absence last night, the Dolphins split safety snaps between backups Eric Rowe and Clayton Fejedelem and practice squad callup Verone McKinley. The team will search for a long-term solution to replace Jones this week, but, if the team isn’t impressed with what Rowe, Fejedelem, or McKinley have to offer, they may be forced to make a last-second move before the trade deadline.

NFL COVID-19 List Updates: 1/1/22

Here are the New Year’s Day activations from and placements on the reserve/COVID-19 lists:

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Carolina Panthers

Cincinnati Bengals

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

  • Activated from reserve/COVID-19 list: G Oli Udoh

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

  • Activated from reserve/COVID-19 list: CB Bryce Hall

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

NFL Draft Pick Signings: 5/12/20

We’ll keep track of today’s later-round signings here:

  • The Colts announced the signing of offensive lineman Danny Pinter, a fifth-round choice who became the first pick on Indy’s board for a completed deal. Pinter, a 6’4″, 306-pound lineman out of Ball State, saw time at both right tackle and tight end during his time in college. As a pro, he figures to spend most of his time on the interior. “I love Danny, I’m not going to lie to y’all,’’ general manager Chris Ballard said after the draft (via Mike Chappell of FOX 59). “Actually we were trying to move up to get him. I probably won’t ever give y’all this much insight, but for like 30 minutes we were trying to move up and just couldn’t get up to get him.’’
  • The Dolphins, meanwhile, have third-round safety Brandon Jones officially in the fold. Per the terms of his slot, the No. 70 overall choice will receive a four-year deal worth $4.87MM, including a $1.1MM signing bonus.

Chiefs Release Nine Players, Place Commings On IR

Teams still have about 31 hours to trim their rosters to 75 players, and the Chiefs are getting an early start on the process by releasing nine players this morning, the team announced in a press release. Kansas City also placed second-year safety Sanders Commings on injured reserve, ending his season.

The Chiefs’ roster count sits at 78, meaning they need to make three more transactions before tomorrow’s 3pm deadline.

AFC Links: Chiefs, Bengals, Bills

Former Jets running back Mike Goodson was a no-show at his scheduled court appearance on Thursday. Goodson was set to appear at Morris County Superior Court in New Jersey on drug and weapon charges.

As Darryl Slater of The Star-Ledger reports, the player’s attorney, Alfred Gellene, said that Smart was unable to land a flight from Texas because of financial difficulties. ESPNNewYork.com’s Jane McManus adds that Goodson faces up to ten years in prison if found guilty on the weapon charges and could also be arrested if he fails to attend his July 24th hearing.

About a week ago, some of Goodson’s former Jets teammates expressed their concern for the player’s well-being. No one in the organization had heard from the 27-year-old throughout minicamp.

Let’s see what else is going on around the AFC…

Chargers Sign Brandon Flowers

WEDNESDAY, 3:30pm: The Chargers have waived cornerback Brandon Jones in order to clear a spot on the roster for Flowers, the team announced today (Twitter link).

TUESDAY, 6:24pm: Field Yates of ESPN.com (Twitter link) has the exact breakdown of Flowers’ deal. The veteran gets $1.5MM to sign, $1.5MM in base salary, and up to $2MM in incentives. In order to earn that full $2MM in incentives, Flowers needs to play in 92.5% of the Chargers defensive snaps and the team must advance to the AFC Championship (link).

5:53pm: Flowers’ deal can earn him up to $5MM, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. The cornerback will now have the opportunity to prove himself this season and cash in next offseason at the age of 29.

4:01pm: The Chargers have reached an agreement on a contract with free agent cornerback Brandon Flowers, reports Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (via Twitter). According to Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports (Twitter link), it’ll be a one-year pact for Flowers in San Diego.NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Philadelphia Eagles

After being cut by the Chiefs earlier in the month, Flowers paid a free agent visit to the Chargers last week, and later met with the 49ers as well, according to Garafolo (Twitter link). By joining the Chargers, Flowers will remain in the AFC West and face his old team twice in the 2014 season, and will also be signing with the team that topped last week’s PFR poll asking where the cornerback would land.

Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics (subscription required) suggest 2013 was a down year for Flowers as he struggled to fit in new Kansas City defensive coordinator Bob Sutton’s scheme, ranking as just the 87th-best CB in the league among 110 qualified players. However, PFF rated Flowers as a top-seven corner in both 2011 and 2012, and the former Chief is still only 28 years old. That makes him an intriguing option for a Chargers team whose corners all had even worse PFF grades than Flowers in ’13.

By signing a one-year contract with San Diego, Flowers will have the opportunity to show that 2013 was an aberration, and will be eligible to hit the open market again at age 29. Considering the kind of deals we saw this year’s group of top cornerbacks sign in free agency, a bounce-back year from the former Virginia Tech standout could result in another nice payday next March. It would also go a long way toward solidifying a Chargers secondary that also added first-round cornerback Jason Verrett.

The Vikings, Ravens, Falcons, and Lions were among the other clubs who reportedly had some level of interest in Flowers, who received inquiries from about 10 teams when he first became available. However, if those teams – and others – are still on the lookout for veteran cornerback help, they’ll have to turn to a group of free agents that looks significantly less appealing without Flowers heading it up. Chris Houston, Terrell Thomas, and Drayton Florence are among the players still available, as our list of FAs shows.

The Chargers filled the 90th and final spot on their roster last week by claiming Chas Alecxih off waivers, so they’ll have to make a corresponding move in order to officially add Flowers.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.