Thursday, March 15, 2012

Dolphins add cornerback Richard Marshall, re-sign Paul Soliai

The Miami Dolphins remain in wait-and-see mode in the Peyton Manning derby, but they did add two key pieces to the defense Wednesday with the re-signing of nose tackle Paul Soliai and the addition of free agent cornerback Richard Marshall.

Soliai returns on a two-year, $12 million contract with a third-year option after playing under the franchise tag in 2011 and earning just under $12.5 million last season. According to Ben Volin, Soliai's cap hit in 2012 will be just over $4 million.

Meanwhile, Marshall received a three-year, $16 million contract with $6 million in guaranteed money. He reportedly gave his former team—the Arizona Cardinals—a chance to match the offer, but they apparently declined.

The Dolphins, who have also re-signed exclusive-rights free agents Jeron Mastrud and Austin Spitler as well as restricted free agents Phillip Merling and Lydon Murtha, now have 57 players on the 80-man offseason roster.


Richard Marshall

Before entering the 2006 NFL Draft following his junior season, Marshall started 28 of 37 games at Fresno State and was a two-time All-WAC selection. He finished his collegiate career with nine interceptions and became the 11th player in NCAA Division I history to total more than 300 interception return yards.

Selected by the Panthers in the second round, Marshall started 14 of 32 games over his first two seasons and recorded three interceptions in each of those years. He was relegated to a reserve role in 2008, starting none of the 16 games in which he played and recording just one interception.

Marshall started all 32 games for the Panthers from 2009-10 and set a career-high with four interceptions in 2009. However, Marshall graded out poorly in 2010 by allowing passes thrown his way to be caught 75.3 percent of the time—fourth-worst in the NFL among qualifying cornerbacks.

As a free agent in 2011, Marshall signed a one-year deal with the Arizona Cardinals and started nine of 16 games opposite rookie first-rounder Patrick Peterson. On the season, Marshall totaled three interceptions to lead the team and tied a career-high with 11 pass deflections. He also significantly improved his catch-against rate to 51.9 percent and was anointed the defense's MVP by coordinator Ray Horton.


Analysis

Addressing the Soliai re-signing first, I have to say that I'm very shocked that he's back in Miami after all the talk of a scheme change, and I'm surprised he wasn't able to get more money and years on the open market.While Soliai can absolutely play in a 4-3 scheme, his rare size is more valuable as a 3-4 nose tackle so I expected a pure 3-4 team to break the bank for him.

The Dolphins did well to get Soliai for a very manageable amount of money and it makes the defense tackle spot (in the 4-3) extremely deep with Randy Starks and Jared Odrick still under contract. I've also been told that free agent Kendall Langford's market is pretty soft and that he could be back in Miami on the cheap. (Langford is, however, visiting the Bengals today.)

The Marshall addition might not address one of the more obvious needs like quarterback, right tackle, or pass rusher, but it's a nice depth and insurance signing. He's coming off a strong year and gives the Dolphins a legitimate third cornerback in a league that's as pass-happy as ever.

There is some talk that Marshall worked at safety some in 2011 with the Cardinals, and that's obviously an area need with the slow development of Chris Clemons and Reshad Jones. However, Marshall is not a great tackler and corner remains a need as well.

Sean Smith is entering the final year of his rookie contract and has been inconsistent to say the least. He had a strong 2010 campaign (minus the dropped interceptions) but struggled as a rookie as well as in 2011. If his contract demands are too high, he could be on the block this offseason or allowed to walk in 2013, at which time Marshall would be the perfect guy to start opposite Vontae Davis at corner.

The reality is that Marshall could beat out Smith for the starting job in 2011, and at the very least provides an adequate third corner. The signing is a good one for the Dolphins as it beefs up the secondary a bit more, which is always good considering the Dolphins' lack of pass rush or long-term safeties in place.

As always, check out the updated projected depth chart reflecting these transactions here.


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