Determined to upgrade at guard, the Dolphins are in conversations with a few veterans, including 49ers free agent Alex Boone.
Boone would be a significant upgrade over either Dallas Thomas or Billy Turner, based on career resume and 2015 performance.
Pro Football Focus rated him the 33rd among 81 guards last season. Turner was 69th and Thomas 81st.
The 6-8 Boone played for new Dolphins offensive line coach Chris Foerster in San Francisco last season, and they have a good relationship.
Boone has played all six years of his career with San Francisco, including the past four as a starter at guard. He started 13 games last season before missing the final three with a knee injury that wasn't considered major. He is a two-time Pro Bowl alternate.
He also can played tackle and shifted there in 2012 to become a starter at guard.
Boone has several suitors, with Arizona reportedly among others who have shown interest.
The Dolphins also have reached out to Seahawks veteran guard JR Sweezy and had a preliminary conversation expressing some interest in Geoff Schwartz. Other guard options include Jeff Allen, Ramon Foster, Brandon Brooks, Zane Beadles, Jahri Evans, Michael Harris and Chris Chester.
### ESPN's Adam Schefter reported today that the Dolphins "continue to look like the team to beat for Mario Williams. They're talking.... to see if they can get a deal worked out."
### Per Fox's Alex Marvez, Jordan Cameron's pay cut ended up being $1.5 million --- from $7.5 million to $6 million. The team wanted the additional cap space.
8 p.m. update: After agreeing on a deal to bring Byron Maxwell to Miami, the Dolphins aren't close to being done at cornerback. The Dolphins are among teams in the mix for Bengals free agent cornerback Pacman Jones, a source with knowledge of the discussions said today.
Businessman and former rapper Luther Campbell, the defensive coordinator at Miami Jackson High, tweeted that Jones "will be coming to Miami Dolphins." The source declined to go that far but said Miami certainly has a chance to land him.
As we noted in January, we expected the Dolphins to be interested in Jones because he excelled playing under new Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph the past two years, with Joseph serving as the Bengals' defensive backs coach.
But the Dolphins have competition; the Ravens, Browns, Raiders, Cowboys and Vikings also reportedly have interest. And Cincinnati wants to keep him.
Jones, 32, was rated the 15th best cornerback by Pro Football Focus last season (among 111 qualifiers) and 13th in coverage.
He had three picks, 62 tackles and a sack in 14 appearances, all starts. Jones has three interceptions each of the last three years.
Pro Football Focus rates him the third best cornerback in free agency, behind Kansas City's Sean Smith and Green Bay's Casey Heyward.
Here's what PFW said: "Jones has been a solid player in the Bengals’ secondary since signing with the team in 2011. He has never finished with a below-average coverage grade in the PFF-era. He’s coming off his second-highest coverage grade over that time, and allowed a passer rating of 60.0 when targeted by opposing quarterbacks. One weakness for Jones, though, is his propensity for missed tackles, with 35 over the last three seasons. Jones turns 33 years old in September, and would really only be a short-term solution, but he could certainly help tighten up a secondary as an outside corner."
The Dolphins have made preliminary inquiries on other cornerbacks, including Patrick Robinson.
If Jones signs, he would join Maxwell as likely starters. Another corner also would be added, with UF's Vernon Hargreaves in the mix for Miami's pick at No. 8. The Dolphins also plan to develop Tony Lippett and Bobby McCain, and Jamar Taylor remains under contract.
In acquiring inside linebacker Kiko Alonso and cornerback Byron Maxwell (the deal is being finalized as we speak), the Dolphins obviously hope they will be getting the productive, ascending players who excelled for the Bills and Seahawks previously, not the ones who underperformed last year in Philadelphia.
Alonso, 25, was outstanding as a rookie for the Bills in 2013, finishing with 87 tackles, four picks and two sacks in 16 starts. He was named Defensive Rookie of the Year by the Pro Football Writers Association.
But he tore the ACL in his left knee working out in Oregon the following offseason and missed the entire 2014 season.
The Bills then traded him to Philadelphia last March for running back LeSean McCoy. But in the Eagles’ Week 2 game, he suffered a partial tear to that same left ACL. He missed five weeks before returning for the final nine games of the season.
But he started only one of those nine games and had modest stats for the season (43 tackles, no sacks, one INT). The interception was an impressive one-handed grab against Atlanta in the season opener.
“I need to make more plays. It’s just frustrating, because I want to make more plays,” he told Eagles reporters at the end of the season.
Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis said at the end of the season: “I think he'll make a big leap [in 2016]. I really do. I think having last year off with no football, this year starting with the injury and coming off and always thinking about it, [playing] in a new system — and there are no excuses here for Kiko. Everyone has got to play better and do better.”
He's a bargain at $991,418 next season.
As for the 28-year-old Maxwell, he did not justify the six-year, $63 million contract that the Eagles gave him the previous offseason. He had two picks and 10 passes defended in 14 games, all starts.
Maxwell, who seems better suited to a zone system than Philadelphia’s scheme, had seen his stock rise after two very good seasons in Seattle, including one featuring four interceptions in 16 games (five starts) in 2013, and two picks (13 games, 12 starts) in 2014. That led to the big contract in free agency.
Here’s how CSN-Philadelphia Eagles insider Andrew Kulp assessed Maxwell:
“It would be fair to characterize Maxwell’s season as up and down. It began at a low point with Julio Jones’ big game [against him] – nine catches for 141 yards and two touchdowns – then the following week, Maxwell appeared to give less than full effort on a 42-yard Terrence Williams catch-and-run during the fourth quarter of a loss to the Cowboys.
“Maxwell would turn it around in the weeks that followed. According to Pro Football Focus, from Weeks 3 to 13, the fifth-year corner was targeted 45 times in coverage, allowing 28 completions for 365 yards – a meager 8.1 average per attempt – and zero touchdowns. That works out to 45 yards per game, minus Week 4 against Washington, when he exited early with an injury. Yards per catch were kept to a minimum as well at just 92 total, and he only surrendered one reception over 23 yards during that span.
“But Maxwell would go on to end the season poorly, giving up big plays in back-to-back games against Buffalo and Arizona before going out with an injury. That’s the last thing people remember, which coupled with an ugly first impression, has many people down on his play overall.
“Maxwell,” Kulp went on to write, “is not a shutdown cornerback, which is what might be expected for the cost. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t a good addition to the Eagles roster. At the very least, he was certainly an improvement over what they had. The reality is Maxwell is not a bad player, he’s merely overpaid… Essentially, it was a two-year gamble on Maxwell developing into an elite cornerback. He has the size, talent and pedigree. Based on his body of work in Seattle, you couldn’t blame anybody for thinking he might make that leap.”
Pro Football Focus rated Maxwell 75th among 111 corners last season. Brent Grimes, expected to be cut, was rated 41st.
The Orange Bowl has either started or finished at night every year since 1965. And that won’t change this upcoming college football season, despite original plans otherwise.
The College Football Playoff announced Monday that the Capital One Orange Bowl has been moved from a scheduled early afternoon start on Saturday, Dec. 31, to a prime-time game on Friday, Dec. 30.
The exact kickoff time hasn’t been determined.
The OB’s date shift was part of a domino effect of moving kickoff times an hour earlier for the two national semifinal games next season.
Viewership plunged by more than 40 percent for the two semifinal games last season, and many blamed that drop on the fact that the games were played at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, compared with Jan. 1 the previous season.
As a result, the CFP on Monday moved up the start time of next season’s Dec. 31 national semifinal games at the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz., and Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta. The games will start at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., an hour earlier than this past season’s semifinals, with the sequence of the games to be determined on Dec. 4, shortly after the pairings are announced.
“We… are confident that this change will make it easier for more fans to watch the games on television and also will benefit fans who will attend the games in person,” CFP executive director Bill Hancock said.
The CFP and the Orange Bowl decided it would be make more sense to shift the OB to Dec. 30 at night instead of playing it at 11 a.m. or 11:30 a.m. on Dec. 31, which would have been required with the semifinal games moving up an hour.
“With New Year’s Eve falling on a Saturday and other bowl games planned for the early afternoon window, this schedule enables our game to stand alone and kick off the holiday weekend as the only bowl game staged on Friday night,” OB president Michael B. Chavies said.
As originally scheduled, the Cotton, Rose and Sugar Bowls will be played on Monday, Jan. 2, to avoid a conflict with NFL games on Jan. 1.