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Making the Case for the Dolphins Chasing Bradberry

The Miami Dolphins have invested a lot of money in their secondary, but they still should consider making a move for new free agent cornerback James Bradberry

Veteran cornerback James Bradberry has just hit the open market, and Miami Dolphins GM Chris Grier should be looking very hard at the possibility of bringing him to South Florida.

Bradberry being released is largely a result of the New York Giants' challenging salary cap situation and their inability to find a trade partner.

Regardless, this isn’t about the Giants. It’s about why the Dolphins should throw even more money at their secondary, a unit that’s considered one of the NFL’s best and already accounts for about 20 percent of their total cap.

The short answer? Because it’s elite.

It would be the type of move that fans and analysts award with the latest form of high praise: “He’s playing chess while everyone else is playing checkers”.

Sure, it probably would get the initial eyebrow raise. It would be tough to justify for most teams. The Dolphins, however, are in a position not at all familiar to them. For the first time maybe this millennium, the team doesn’t really have any glaring needs.

The team seems to be confident moving forward with their offensive line. Drafting (third-round pick) Channing Tindall filled a need at linebacker. The running back room seemed a bit light until the signing of former Patriots first-round pick Sony Michel.

Now, the Dolphins seem to be afforded a bit of a luxury with how they choose to spend the $18 million or so they have left in cap space.

It’s not unheard of in the NFL for the rich to get richer. The Los Angeles Rams added Von Miller and Odell Beckham Jr. in the middle of last season to an already talent-loaded roster. Unsurprisingly, their impact helped lead to L.A. winning the Super Bowl.

That’s not to say the Dolphins are on the precipice of championship football, but they’re certainly all in on a playoff push. The team made it crystal clear in their self-evaluation that they feel “they’re right there,” that despite firing Head Coach Brian Flores there was not going to be another rebuild in Miami.

The offseason additions of Tyreek Hill and Terron Armstead, two elite-level veterans, were prime examples of their commitment to winning now.

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Why the Dolphins Might Need Someone Like Bradberry

It’s not like adding James Bradberry is adding talent just for the sake of being crowned the offseason champs (a title no one should really want). Bradberry can be a high-impact addition to a defense that may need him more than one may think.

New head coach Mike McDaniel retained defensive coordinator Josh Boyer to continue leading Miami’s better half. Of course, Flores deserves the bulk of the credit for designing one of the most unique defensive schemes in the NFL.

The success of the Dolphins' high-frequency blitz/disguise scheme actually is very dependent on the secondary — so much so that losing just one of Byron Jones or Xavien Howard completely compromises the team’s ability to even run that scheme.

It’s been evident every time one goes down. Last season, the Dolphins lost both, forcing second-year project Noah Igbinoghene and Nik Needham to try to step up. The result was Miami playing zone coverage; and abandoning their “zero-blitz” packages.

In order for the defense be successful, the secondary has to be void of coverage liabilities. With Howard and Jones, that’s obviously not an issue. However, both are closing in on 30 and both have some injury concerns.

Jones is recovering from offseason surgery on his leg and Howard, while remaining relatively injury-free the past two seasons, has a long history of knee issues. That’s not to assume either will have issues in 2022, but the lack of options to fill their roles behind them is too much risk for the Dolphins to gamble with.

Dolphins Short on Proven Depth at Cornerback

Igbinoghene, a former first-round pick, is entering his third season, but has been slow to develop and likely is entering a make-or-break training camp. Miami also has second-year cornerback Trill Williams, who they signed as undrafted free agent. Williams earned a roster spot after an impressive rookie camp, but he appeared in only one game.

Miami doesn’t even have a true backup nickel behind Nik Needham, who will be playing on a restricted-tender, after veteran Justin Coleman signed with Seattle as a free agent.

In a high-volume passing league, with a defensive scheme that requires big, physical press-man corners, it makes all the sense for Miami to pursue Bradberry. Injuries are a part of the game, and no team goes without. In the Dolphins' case, this is one position group that isn’t expendable. The “next-man up” philosophy is nothing more than a fun phrase when determining the talent requirement for starting cornerbacks on their roster.

At 28 years old, the 6-1, 212-pound corner is still in his prime, fits the physical prototype, and is only one year removed from being a Pro Bowl selection.

Surely teams will be competing for Bradberry’s services, and some likely will offer a larger role, and maybe a larger dollar amount. However, it shouldn’t be unreasonable to envision him agreeing to a one-year deal, as many veterans in similar situations do. Helping Miami’s chances, other team’s have seen their spending power wane this late into the offseason.

Would an offer of one-year, $8-9 million contract with the opportunity to be a part of a top-tier secondary, for a team with real playoff potential, move the needle enough for a player of Bradberry’s caliber?

That’s a question to which Grier should try to find the answer.