We're getting close to being finished with our in-depth look at the Dolphins' offseason needs. I've addressed nose tackle, wide receiver, and the offensive line. Nicky did a great job breaking down the outside linebacker position. The same goes for GatorPhan and his breakdown of the inside linebacker position.
So now we move to the outside. It's time to talk about one of my favorite positions - the cornerbacks.
2008 Key Contributors: Will Allen (50 tackles, 3 Ints, 1 sack, 15 PDs), Andre Goodman (39-5-0-19), Jason Allen (36-1-0-4), Nate Jones (23-1-3-1), Joey Thomas (4-0-0-0)
Key Dolphin Free Agents: Andre Goodman
The 2008 season was really like a tale of two halves for the Dolphin cornerbacks. During the first half of the season, there were some times where they looked downright awful. But as the season went on, the Dolphins got better and better play from their corners - especially their top 2 guys, Will Allen and Andre Goodman.
Both Allen and Goodman finished in the top 40 in yards allowed per attempt in 2008. Allen's metrics look like this. He was targeted 80 times, had a 32.5% forced incompletion rate, and allowed 7.64 yards per attempt, surrendering 1 touchdown while intercepting 3 passes. And we saw Allen really shed that "hands of stone" label - especially with his crucial interception in the endzone against Buffalo, making an acrobatic pick.
But Andre Goodman was the real story of 2008 among Dolphin cornerbacks. Consider his numbers. Goodman was thrown at 94 times, forced incompletions 35% of the time, allowed just 1 touchdown, picked off 5 passes, and allowed just 6.96 yards per attempt. And that's after getting off to a very rocky start. Over his final 5 regular season games, Goodman didn't allow a touchdown and surrendered just 3.58 yards per attempt.
While I'm well aware that Goodman will be 31 by the start of next season, the Dolphins have got to re-sign this guy. Both parties - the Dolphins and Goodman - will be better off if Andre returns to Miami. While I hope to see at least one good addition to this cornerback group, re-signing Goodman has to be one of the front office's priorities.
But beyond those 2 corners, there isn't really much for Dolphin fans to be excited about. Jason Allen continues to prove he's nothing more than a nickelback - and even that is a reach. Nathan Jones showed the ability to blitz from the slot position and get to the QB. But he's nothing more than a nickel or dime back. Clearly, upgrades are needed.
Potential Unrestricted Free Agent Targets
Nnamdi Asomugha - It's unlikely that the Raiders will let Asomugha hit free agency without at least the franchise. But if they somehow did, I'd give up my left arm and my future first born child for the Dolphins to sign this guy. He's simply the game's best corner. And if you want stats to back this up, his man was only targeted on 29 pass attempts in 2008 - which is amazing when you consider he usually defended the opposing team's #1 receiver. And he allowed under 5 yards per pass attempt. I know it's not going to happen, but a guy can dream. Please, oh please, let Asomugha hit free agency.
Dunta Robinson - Robinson only played in 11 games this season due to a torn ACL that held up the start of his season. But by the end of the year, Dunta was back to his old self, making plays and playing terrific man coverage. He's only 26 and still has a ton of upside. But reports indicate Dunta loves playing in Houston and hopes to remain a Texan.
Bryant McFadden - If you're a Florida State fanm you know McFadden well. If you aren't, then pay attention to him on Sunday in the Super Bowl. He's a terrific cornerback who, at 27 years of age, is just now entering the prime of his career. He's got good measurables, at 6'0, 200 pounds, and plays the ball well. He played in just 10 games this year, but played well. He was targeted 45 times and allowed just 5.6 yards per attempt. If my pipe-dream of Asomugha doesn't happen, McFadden is next up on my wish list.
Phillip Buchanon - A former first round pick, Buchanon has been an NFL disappointment thus far. He's been on 3 teams in 7 years. And it's clear that he struggles in man coverage. He's a far better fit for a team that runs a similar defense to Tampa's Cover 2. I'll pass on him.
Jabari Greer - Yes, he's a Buffalo Bill. But this kid is young and can play. He'll be 27 next month and is just now really coming into his own. Greer is expected to garner a lot of attention on the open market. Greer allowed 5.81 yards per attempt in 2008 and had a forced incompletion rate of 42.5%. The Dolphins could very well be interested in a player like Greer.
Potential "Day One" Draft Picks
Assuming Malcolm Jenkins and Vontae Davis are gone by the time the Dolphins pick in the first round, there are still a number of ways the Dolphins can improve their cornerbacks.
Vanderbilt's D.J. Moore is a player who figures to come off the board somewhere between the late first and early second rounds. He's a lighting quick, athletic corner who might even run a sub 4.4 40 at the Combine next month. He's only a junior but played in every game since his freshman season, including 9 starts as a freshman. He's dynamic and can even be a major factor in the return game.
Alphonso Smith is another player who is expected to come off the board right around when the Dolphins pick in round 1. He's only 5'9, but has terrific ball skills and was a hit during Senior Bowl week, further increasing his draft stock. But I just don't think this regime will have him graded as high as other teams will, mainly because of his lack of ideal height.
Darius Butler of UCONN is another player whose stock is on the rise. He's got great speed and terrific ball skills. But he isn't real physical and that's going to limit his draft stock. Butler is probably a 2nd round pick at this point. But with his raw talent and great speed, he'd make a very good player to develop into a starting cornerback.
Macho Harris and Sean Smith are 2 other possible 2nd round corners that intrigue me. Harris we've talked about a lot already. But some reports from the Senior Bowl weren't exactly positive - and that could hurt his stock. Smith, a junior out of Utah, has terrific size (6'3) and is one of my favorite sleeper corners. And I don't mean "sleeper" as in a late-round pick - but rather as a player who nobody seems to be talking about. He's tall but possesses 4.4 speed and has great ball skills. And I think his stock is going to rise once we hit the Combine. If he was around in round 2 for the Dolphins, he'd look mighty good in aqua.
No doubt, the Dolphins have to address the cornerback spot. And outside of my "I'd do anything for the Dolphins to sign Nnamdo Asomugha" philosophy, here's what I hope to see the Fins do. First, re-sign Andre Goodman. Then sign Bryant McFadden and draft a player like Harris, Butler, or Smith in round 2. Remember, Will Allen is a free agent following the '09 season. So by doing what I just outlined, the Dolphins could let Allen walk after the season and still be set at corner, with a top 3 of Goodman, McFadden, and the draft pick.
So what would you do? Tell us your thoughts below...