By Chris Burke
March 10, 2014

Louis Delmas Delmas was an effective player for the Lions, but struggled to stay on the field. (Mark Cunningham/Getty Images)

The Miami Dolphins got a jump on free agency, signing Louis Delmas to a one-year deal worth a reported $3.5 million on Monday. Delmas was free to join a team prior to Tuesday's official start of free agency because he previously had been released by the Lions.

The Dolphins previously had been linked heavily to Jairus Byrd, who is thought to be the top available safety -- and one of the better free agents period. This move no doubt eliminates Miami from contention there, with Reshad Jones locked into one starting spot and now Delmas grabbing the other.

Delmas' $3.5 million deal could have lasting implications for Byrd's own contract search behind Miami, too. After dodging a second straight franchise tag in Buffalo, Byrd was rumored to be seeking somewhere between $8-$10 million. He may still get it, but one clear suitor no longer appears to be in the mix, and the relatively cheap Delmas contract could imply that the safety market will not be as heated as once anticipated. Though Delmas is not in Byrd's class as an all-around defender, he did play well for the Lions last season while starting all 16 games for the first time in his injury-plagued career.

Miami opted not to attempt to re-sign former starting safety Chris Clemons, one year after he earned a $2.75 million contract of his own. Clemons, 29 in September, was a 16-game starter for the Dolphins in 2013.

Delmas, 27 next month, needed extra care from the Lions to make it through the entire year. After taking part in early training-camp workouts, Delmas essentially was shut down for the entirety of the preseason in hopes of having him as close to 100 percent as possible for Week 1. That plan plus a staggered practice scheduled during the regular season paid off as Delmas and Glover Quin teamed up as a steady duo at safety for Detroit.

In addition to the safety position, the Dolphins have a clear need on the offensive line. It appears that they'll strike quickly there as well, with OT Branden Albert reportedly ready to sign a contract Tuesday worth around $10 million per year to step in as a starter. Once Albert joins Delmas on the roster, Miami will have addressed two of its depth chart's more gaping holes.

Keeping Delmas on the field from here will be the trick. But he heard from numerous teams upon his release from Detroit, including the Saints and Falcons, a clear indication that teams believe he's capable of maintaining his 2013 level of play. Scoring him at a very reasonable price tag makes Delmas worth any risk for Miami.

Grade: B-plus.  T.J. Ward

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