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Dolphins Set to Re-sign Cornerback Nik Needham

Retaining Nik Needham provides the Dolphins a veteran cornerback who has started 27 of the 51 games he's played in his first five seasons
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The Miami Dolphins have retained one of the team's homegrown talents, re-signing cornerback Nik Needham, one of the team's best undrafted rookie finds in recent history.

Needham, who was re-signed last year to one-year deal worth $1.8 million despite being in the midst of recovering from an Achilles tendon injury he suffered in October, should add depth to a cornerback position that has been depleted by free agency, and the impending release of Xavien Howard.

Even though Needham sparingly played last season - limited to 71 snaps on defense in the 10 games he played once he returned from the PUP list - he's started 27 of the 51 games he's played for the Dolphins the past five seasons, ever since making the team as an undrafted rookie from UTEP and becoming a starter in his first season.

Needham could push to regain starting role

As the roster presently stands, Needham will likely complete with Cam Smith, a 2023 second-round pick who sparingly played last season, and Kader Kohou, another undrafted gem who happened to struggle in his second season, for playing time in a secondary that will feature Pro Bowl cornerback Jalen Ramsey.

Before the 2023 season, Needham was primarily used as Miami's nickel cornerback, but it seems as if Kohou has solidified himself in that role, despite his struggles in 2023 because Miami's coaches never gave Needham an opportunity to compete for the nickel role, which defends the slot receiver.

While the details of Needham's deal, which was first reported by the Miami Herald, were not disclosed, it's unlikely that Miami signed Needham to a substantial deal because of his limited contributions last year. 

Collectively, Needham played 102 snaps on defense and special teams, which was 400 or so snaps lower than what he'd contributed in each of his first three seasons on defense and special teams.

Needham, who has contributed 199 tackles, six interceptions, three sacks, and broken up 25 passes during his five seasons in Miami, has the versatility to play both cornerback and safety, and has been called on to fill both roles at times the past three seasons.

Needham becomes the sixth player added, or re-signed by the Dolphins this week.

Miami signing tight end Jonnu Smith to a two-year, $10 million deal, making the run-after-catch specialist the biggest offseason addition so far. The Dolphins also re-signed punter Jake Bailey and safety Elijah Campbell.

And Miami added two defensive tackles (Isaiah Mack and Daviyon Nixon) who should be viewed as training camp bodies. But there's plenty of work left to rebuild, replenish or renovate last year's roster, which produced a 11-6 record.

However, Miami has little cap space to do it with at the present moment.

Dolphins have cap space to clear

The Dolphins need to clear roughly $30 million in cap space to become cap-compliant by the March 13 deadline, which is the start of the new league year.

To become cap-compliant, the Dolphins need to spend the next four days extending players (receiver Tyreek Hill and cornerback Jalen Ramsey are prime candidates for extensions that would create about $14 million in cap space each), likely releasing players (tailback Jeff Wilson's release would clear $2.9 million in cap space), and shaking down players with bloated salaries.

And that $30 million doesn't include the cap space the Dolphins would need to re-sign some of the team's own top free agents, starters like defensive tackles Christian Wilkins and Raekwon Davis, linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel and Jerome Baker, who was released this week to create cap space, offensive linemen Robert Hunt, Isaiah Wynn and Kendall Lamm, and safeties DeShon Elliott and Brandon Jones.