The Dolphins released cornerback Byron Maxwell on Tuesday, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, and placed an intriguing veteran option on the market with a little more than half of the NFL’s regular season left to play.
The warning signs for any interested team are obvious: He was benched earlier in the season—the Miami Herald reported that he was not running the correct defenses. He hasn’t played in four weeks thanks to a foot injury, though was listed as a limited participant in practice on Monday. Through 107 snaps this year, Pro Football Focus has Maxwell rated as the Dolphins’ worst cornerback overall and second-worst in coverage. The former Legion of Boom castaway is also 29, and has not played 16 games in a season since 2013.
But … the NFL rarely allows potential talent to sit on the sidelines, especially at the cornerback position. Maxwell should make at least some noise on the open market. With that in mind, here’s a few teams who could kick the tires:
1. Oakland Raiders: Former Seahawks assistants will populate this list for a simple reason: Maxwell has a unique skill set and seems to be motivated in spurts. The coaches who have gotten the most out of him have either been from the Pete Carroll tree or Vance Joseph, whose single season as the Dolphins’ defensive coordinator in 2016 was so good that he earned a head coaching job in Denver. The Raiders, whose defensive coordinator, Ken Norton, coached in Seattle for four years, entered Week 6 ranked 28th in football outsiders’ DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) rankings and are 23rd in passing yards allowed (246.7 yards/game). Based on moves he’s made this offseason already, general manager Reggie McKenzie seems to understand the urgency around this roster. Wouldn’t it be nice, in theory, to have a motivated veteran come in and play situationally physical coverage against top-tier receivers, allowing the overworked Khalil Mack a little extra time to reach the quarterback?
2. Seattle Seahawks: Rookie cornerback Shaquill Griffin doesn’t need any help. Alongside Richard Sherman, this may still be one of the most formidable cornerback tandems in football. The Seahawks are allowing just 190.8 passing yards per game. Depth, though, is always a fine thing to have. When the Dolphins released Maxwell Tuesday, I was taken back to this Pete Carroll quote to ESPN.com from 2016 before Maxwell’s first season with the Dolphins:
“He’s an on the line of scrimmage guy,” Carroll said, in what seemed to be a defense of Maxwell's play in Philadelphia. “I think he needs to be played that way, supported that way and coached that way. That’s how he was raised, and he’s got the right mentality for it. He’s got a very aggressive nature. He’s a physical player. He’s long and has the kind of length that allows him to play with his hands on guys. I think he needs to be supported that way. When you coach him that way, he can be as good as anybody in the game.”
That hasn’t changed in a year. Maybe Carroll’s affection for Maxwell hasn’t either—especially at the right price.
3. Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles traded away Maxwell before the 2016 draft as part of a deal that helped the team ultimately get in position to select Carson Wentz. So wouldn’t acquiring Maxwell now be a move synonymous with the kind of starlit run general manager Howie Roseman has been on of late? Chip Kelly is gone, and Jim Schwartz’s defense, which can feature some very physical man coverage, could use some help while Ronald Darby recovers from his dislocated ankle.
4. Los Angeles Chargers: Right down to rookie Desmond King, the team’s third-most utilized cornerback, the Chargers have had some good luck at the position this year. Pro Football Focus ranks both Casey Hayward and Trevor Williams among the top 11 corners in football this season. Like Seattle, though, depth at the right price can be attractive. Los Angeles has won three straight games and still has dates with the receiver-heavy Patriots, Cowboys, Chiefs and Raiders to finish the season. Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, another former Seattle coach, knows Maxwell well.
5. Atlanta Falcons: Another obvious connection here, with Falcons head coach Dan Quinn having been Maxwell’s coordinator for his final two seasons in Seattle. Maxwell could push Robert Alford on the outside for snaps and inject some competition into a secondary that is allowing a collective opposing QB rating of 91.2—11th worst in the NFL.