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The Future at Cornerback in Miami

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If the recent draft selections at cornerback live up to their expectations, Miami may turn to youth in the secondary to lead the way moving forward

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Cincinnati Bengals Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

The writing was on the wall for former Miami Dolphins running back Reggie Bush when Miami used a fourth-round pick on Lamar Miller in the 2012 NFL Draft. A very similar situation occurred just three years later as the Dolphins selected Jay Ajayi out of Boise State in the fifth round just a year before Miller’s contract was set to expire.

We may be in the midst of a very similar situation once again in Miami, this time at cornerback, as the Dolphins selected Cordrea Tankersley out of Clemson in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

With a bump in salary to $10 million scheduled for the 2018 season, this year could be the last for Byron Maxwell in Miami as the Dolphins seem to be planning for the future with the selection of Tankersley combined with last year’s second-round pick of Baylor’s Xavien Howard.

Yes, Miami needed depth at cornerback for the 2017 season since Maxwell, Howard and Tony Lippett are the only options currently on the roster with decent experience playing outside on the boundary; but the selection of Tankersley may also be seen as a move to get another cornerback some experience in the NFL before moving on from the team’s most experienced defensive back in Maxwell.

The position of cornerback, if Howard and Tankersley live up to their expectations, has the opportunity to become a strength for Miami in the near future since the last two year’s cornerback selections are joined by Lippett and Bobby McCain who both have two years left on their rookie deals as they aren’t scheduled to become free agents until 2019.

It’s likely McCain will serve as the nickel cornerback while Maxwell, Howard, Lippett and Tankersley serve as boundary corners; but there are also reports that Howard could get some work in the slot as well, which could potentially lead to more playing time for both Tankersley and Lippett who could see a dramatic bump in playing time in 2018 if Miami cut ties with Maxwell following the upcoming season.

While Maxwell is clearly the Dolphins best option at cornerback this season, there are plenty of reasons to believe the Dolphins’ front office is going to need to see more from the 2016 acquisition if they plan on paying him $10 million in 2017.

Once known as an up-and-coming cornerback in Seattle’s Legion of Boom, Maxwell cashed in after becoming a free agent in 2015 by signing a six-year, $63 million deal with the Philadelphia Eagles before being traded to Miami just one year into the deal.

Since his departure from Seattle when he was surrounded by the likes of Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas, Maxwell’s performance hasn’t lived up to his free-agent contract in his one disappointing season in Philadelphia and what could be considered an up-and-down first season in Miami.

If Maxwell flips the switch and becomes a lockdown cornerback in 2017 the Dolphins may see enough value in him to pay the $10 million salary, or at least try to re-work his contract. However, if Maxwell doesn’t perform as one of the elite defensive backs in the league, the future of the cornerback position in Miami may end up in the hands of those the Dolphins recently drafted with the intentions of getting them some quality reps before cutting ties with Maxwell.