The weekend bought one of the most surprising pieces of news surrounding the Miami Dolphins as it pertains to free agency.
On Sunday, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network tweeted out the news that the Dolphins are expressing “real interest” in former Buffalo Bills free safety Jarius Byrd.
If the Dolphins can sign Byrd, it would be an expensive proposition, as Byrd is expected to be one of the highest-paid safeties in the NFL this offseason. Despite the cost, would Byrd be a massive upgrade over Miami’s other options?
The better question right now would be who are Miami’s other options? So far I only have three possible options not counting Byrd available in free agency: impending Dolphin free agent Chris Clemons, former Detroit Lion Louis Delmas, and former New Orleans Saint Malcolm Jenkins.
Jenkins is the only one who hasn’t been linked to the Dolphins via any rumors, so we will start with him. If I were to grade him out, he’d be well below Byrd, yet a tier higher than either Chris Clemons or Louis Delmas.
At 26, Jenkins still has time to make good on the potential he has flashed in his first five seasons in the league, but his inconsistency has dogged him throughout his career and is the primary reason why he shouldn’t expect to see a Jarius Byrd-type pay day.
He would be a better play-maker than Clemons, but does that make him a better player? What Clemons has had going for him throughout his career has been his consistency despite not being the play-making safety that the Dolphins want.
Jenkins is also versatile, being able to play both safety positions (which he has done in New Orleans).
If you believe that Jenkins will finally start to consistently live up to his potential than this is a sure-fire upgrade; however it’s an upgrade that comes with caution.
The same thing can easily for Louis Delmas, who has battled injuries throughout his career.
Delmas, like Jenkins, is 26, and has played for five seasons. However, it wasn’t until 2013 that Delmas played in all 16 games as he has battled various injuries throughout his short career.
Pro Football Focus (subscription required) also has Delmas ranked 26th, well below Clemons, who was ranked 19th. If you go based off of PFF’s rankings, Delmas is far from an upgrade.
Delmas can provide play-making ability that Clemons lacks, but with the injury concerns he would be a major risk.
The only player that we can feel safe in saying is an upgrade over Clemons would be Jarius Byrd. Byrd has been one of the best safeties in the NFL since he made his debut with the Bills in 2009, and is ranked eighth among safeties in PFF’s rankings.
We know about his play-making abilities (thus far in his career he has amassed 22 interceptions, 11 forced fumbles and 356 tackles), and he knows the AFC East very well.
The only thing about Byrd that should scare you is the price, but that’s up to Dawn Aponte and Dennis Hickey to figure out.
The only warning on Byrd is that there is nothing other than Rapport’s tweet that indicates that Byrd will sign with the Dolphins. Plenty of other teams are interested in his services, and the Dolphins have been used before in order to drive up the price on players.
If that happens, it looks like Miami has its backup plan, and it’s not Chris Clemons, but rather Louis Delmas. According to Adam Beasley and Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, not only has Delmas already visited the Dolphins, but “the two sides have begun contract negotiations, although a deal isn’t considered imminent.”
Clemons is the more consistent player, but he doesn’t offer the same play-making abilities that the other possible Dolphins safeties do. That’s why he’s not a priority to the Dolphins, nor is he even considered a backup plan at this point in time.
Who will be Miami’s free safety in 2014? Only time will tell who that will be, but we shall find out sometime during the free agency silly season that begins on Tuesday.
Thomas Galicia covers the Miami Dolphins on Cover 32. Follow him on Twitter, @ThomasGalicia