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May 12 means Miami Dolphins free agency options on table

Do you know today's date?

It is May 12, in the year of our Lord 2016. And while the year is not important and I just threw it in there for the sake of completeness, the date is meaningful to NFL teams.

Today is the day after which, by NFL rules, unrestricted free agents signed do not figure in the formula for determining 2017 compensatory draft picks. And as you've read in this space previously, the Dolphins are very much about collecting compensatory picks for 2017.

Although it is easier breaking down the genome of mankind than reading the formula for being awarded such picks, I was told by a highly placed Dolphins source the team is hoping it is awarded a third-, fourth- and seventh-round pick next year after losing Olivier Vernon to the New York Giants, Lamar Miller to the Houston Texans and Rishard Matthews to the Tennessee Titans.

Those picks are figured by weighing the unrestricted free agents a team loses versus the ones it signs. And now you understand why today is important -- because the Dolphins didn't want to add UFAs that potentially could upset the balance between players lost and players signed.

After today, that no longer matters.

So ...

Who are we signing, Miami Dolphins?

The Dolphins have $18,506,331 of salary cap space -- the most of any team in the AFC East by far, with the Buffalo Bills coming in at $14,200,567.

(OK, for the curious among you, I might as well share that the New England Patriots have $9,789,989 and the New York Jets have $4,043,923).

These numbers, per the NFL Players Association.

Anyway, ask the Dolphins who's getting signed and ... silence. Ask what the plan is and you get the courtesy "We're always looking to upgrade our roster anywhere we can and any way we can."

Great. We're going to have to do this ourselves.

The team showed significant interest in running back Arian Foster in late March and early April. Foster was not completely healthy at the time, which is not surprising because, throughout his career he has not been completely healthy.

Arian's visit was before Dolphins coaches got a load of Jay Ajayi in the voluntary minicamp. Coach Adam Gase came out of the minicamp praising Ajayi for showing shiftiness he didn't think he had.

That was also before the Dolphins added Kenyan Drake in the third round of the NFL draft. Drake now factors in as a third-down back complement to Ajayi.

The Dolphins also added Daniel Thomas and Isaiah Pead to the roster. Why, don't ask me, but they did.

So the questions that must be asked have multiple layers. Is Foster, still unemployed, healthy now? And recognizing he's not exactly a priority guy anymore, would he be willing to sign for relatively little money because he may or may not even make this team if Ajayi and Drake are what the Dolphins hope they are in training camp?

Another layer: Would the Dolphins be willing to add a player who is potentially a progress stopper for either or both Ajayi and Drake?

And another layer: Is it possible Foster, if healthy, is better than all those guys?

That last question is important because, after all, the point of this exercise is to improve the team, no?

The Dolphins recently addressed the much-discussed offensive guard spot when they drafted Laremy Tunsil in the first round. Yes, he's destined to be an offensive tackle some day, but not the first day he steps on the field for Miami, based on what I'm told and who said it. He's going to slide in as a starting guard, probably a left guard.

And that means the Dolphins have 2,582 players vying for the right guard spot. So it is hard to fathom the team adding another guard during this period. Indeed, Matt Slauson, who football czar Mike Tannenbaum drafted and Gase coached last season, was briefly available in free agency and phfffftt.

Miami didn't show much interest and he ended up in San Diego.

I got no problem with that as, again, the Dolphins have Billy Turner, Dallas Thomas, Jamil Douglas, Jermon Bushrod, Keith Sims, Larry Little, Bob Kuechenberg and others wanting to play right guard. Adding a back-of-free-agency option isn't going to really add a player any better than any of those guys, barring a significant surprise.

Cornerback is another story.

Yeah, it's always about cornerbacks with me. When you don't have enough good ones, it should be always about cornerbacks because it is a prime position and they're hard to come by.

The Dolphins added two cornerbacks in the draft. They picked Xavien Howard in the second round and Jordan Lucas in the sixth round. And logic says Howard has a very good chance to be a starter some day. Logic says the Dolphins hope he can be a starter as soon as possible because they need him for the start of the regular season.

But what if logic screws up?

Unlike many first-round picks, second round picks are often not starters right away. And if you're talking good, effective starters, the number is even smaller.

Do I have to give you the list? Do I?

Fine. Jamar Taylor, Jonathan Martin, Daniel Thomas, Pat White, Chad Henne, John Beck, Phillip Merling, Eddie Moore, J.J. Johnson, Andrew Greene, Aubrey Beavers. All those guys were picked in the second round. Not one of them was a good NFL player. Some started. But none were good at it.

And even second rounders who were really, really good, didn't start right away. Pat Surtain did not. Jarvis Landry didn't. And both those guys were or are excellent players. Both Pro Bowl players who couldn't get on the field immediately.

The Dolphins need a cornerback immediately.

And so does this team look into, say, Antonio Cromartie?

Cro was not good for the New York Jets last season, despite starting 15 games. The Jets cut him this offseason as a cap savings move. So did the guy who played very, very well in Arizona in 2014 but stepped back for the Jets, show that he's falling off the table at age 32 (now)? Or was it simply a down season?

Look, he's 6-2, which is what the Dolphins love. He can still run when healthy. And he could probably use the money because he and his wife just had their third and fourth child together and Cromartie otherwise has a total of 12 kids with eight different women, according to the New York Daily News.

So, child support.

Could he be a training camp insurance policy in that the Dolphins sign him for around the veteran minimum -- which is $985,000 for a player with 10 years experience -- bring him to camp and make a decision before the final cut? If he's won the starting job, he stays. If he did indeed lose it last year or Howard wins the starting job, Cromartie's gone and the team is none the worse.

(Of course, that assumes Cromartie would take a deal with little or no guaranteed money).

There is another cornerback option. Slot cornerback Leon Hall, who interested the Dolphins earlier this offseason, is still on the market.

I explained to you the reasons Hall was not yet signed here so we won't repeat. But suffice to say the team's slot cornerback situation right now is Bobby McCain as the starter and ... equally unproven folks behind him.

Hall is 31. He's solid. He has a history with defensive coordinator Vance Joseph.

So if he is healthy (he had back surgery this offseason) and his price has come down (obviously it hasn't so far) he might also be an option. By the way, Hall has also visited Atlanta, the New York Giants and Oakland Raiders so there is some interest in him.

Just not at his price so far.

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