Miami Dolphins cornerback Nik Needham will begin the year on the physically unable to perform list, according to a release from the team. Needham sustained an Achilles tendon tear in Week 6 of the 2022 season, ending his year. Rehab from the injury will continue at least into the start of training camp when the team’s veterans report next week.
Needham was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Dolphins in 2019, beginning his rookie season on the team’s practice squad. He was promoted during the season, appearing in 12 games, starting 11 of those contests, recording 54 tackles, 11 passes defensed, two interceptions, one forced fumble, and one sack. In 2020 and 2021, he served as a depth option at cornerback, appearing in every game over the two years with a combined 11 starts. Last year, as the Dolphins were reeling from injuries throughout the defensive secondary, Needham was once again thrust into the starting lineup, appearing in six games with five of them starts. He had 21 tackles and two passes defensed before his injury.
Miami’s cornerbacks are headlined by the duo of Xavien Howard and Jalen Ramsey. The Dolphins are expected to see a competition for the nickel cornerback and depth positions, a battle which will include Kader Kohou, Justin Bethel, Noah Igbinoghene, Trill Williams, Tino Ellis, Bryce Thompson, and rookie Cam Smith. Needham could join that battle, and may immediately move into the lead, when he is medically cleared.
The Dolphins can remove the PUP designation from Needham at any time during training camp and the preseason. If the cornerback is not cleared before the regular season starts, Miami could move Needham to the reserve/PUP list, a move that would sideline him for at least the first four weeks of the season.