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With the start of the new league year approaching, dolphins.com continues a series of free agency previews with the defensive back position.
As the 2018 offseason began, there might not have been a spot on the Dolphins roster with more depth and quality young talent than cornerback after the great strides made last season by recent draft picks Xavien Howard and Bobby McCain. Additionally, 2017 third-round pick Cordrea Tankersley showed promise while starting 11 games as a rookie and Torry McTyer also showed potential after making the team as a rookie free agent. The Dolphins also have Tony Lippett, who is looking for a strong comeback from an Achilles injury after starting 13 games in 2016 and leading the team in interceptions with four.
At safety, the Dolphins have two proven veterans as starters with two-time Pro Bowl selection Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald, although depth might become an issue because the offseason began with Michael Thomas, Nate Allen and Walt Aikens all scheduled to become unrestricted free agents.
THE TOP THREE FREE AGENTS AT THE POSITION
CB E.J. Gaines, Buffalo – A sixth-round pick of the Rams in the 2014 draft, Gaines spent last season with the Bills after being acquired in the trade that sent wide receiver Sammy Watkins to Los Angeles. Gaines has started 36 of the 37 games he has played in the NFL and he’s got very good coverage skills, though his interception total (three career picks) doesn’t stand out.
CB Malcolm Butler, New England – Butler had quite the ride during his time with the Patriots after he went from little-used rookie to Super Bowl hero to full-time, quality starter to a mysterious benching in the Super Bowl last month. Whatever prompted the decision to sit Butler against the Philadelphia Eagles remains a mystery, but there is no denying the coverage skills possessed by Butler, who has eight interceptions in four NFL seasons.
S Lamarcus Joyner, L.A. Rams – A standout at St. Thomas Aquinas High in Fort Lauderdale and at Florida State, Joyner blossomed into a playmaking safety during his four seasons with the Rams. Joyner is coming off an impressive 2017 season during which he had three interceptions, including one he returned for a touchdown. Joyner has experience at cornerback and brings impressive coverage skills.
BEST OF THE REST
o CB Kyle Fuller, Chicago – Fuller had a great rebound season after missing all of 2016 because of a knee injury, finishing with two interceptions and 22 passes defensed. He’s a former first-round pick out of Virginia Tech.
o CB Aaron Colvin, Jacksonville – Colvin played the nickel spot for the Jaguars alongside arguably the best cornerback tandem in the NFL (Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye). He does not have an interception in 48 NFL games but has very good cover skills.
o S Morgan Burnett, Green Bay – Burnett started all 102 games he played for the Packers over the past eight seasons and has nine career interceptions.
o CB Rashaan Melvin, Indianapolis – If the name looks familiar, it’s because Melvin had two different stints with the Dolphins (on the practice squad in 2014, in training camp in 2016). He blossomed with the Colts last season, recording three interceptions while starting 10 games.
o S Kenny Vaccaro, New Orleans – A five-year starter for the Saints after being the 15th overall pick in the 2013 draft, Vaccaro had three interceptions in 2017 before his season was cut short by injuries after 12 games.
o S Eric Reid, San Francisco – A first-round pick in 2013, Reid started 69 of 70 games for the 49ers and has 10 career interceptions.
o CB Trumaine Johnson, L.A. Rams – Johnson was designated as a franchise player each of the last two years after recording a career-high seven interceptions in 2015. He has three career touchdowns on interception returns, including one last season.
o CB Patrick Robinson, Philadelphia – The former Miami Gulliver Prep and Florida State standout resurrected his career last season with the Eagles, capping his season with a pick-six in the NFC Championship Game against the Minnesota Vikings. The former Saints first-round pick tied his career high with four interceptions during the regular season.