NFL Nation: Louis Delmas

DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins are putting up some astounding statistics in the first half of the season throughout their 4-3 start.

One impressive but overlooked stat is Miami's NFL-best 259 yards on interception returns. The Dolphins are on pace to break their franchise mark of 522 yards for interception returns set in 1966. Miami's 43.2 return yards per interception also would be a new NFL record for a single season.

[+] EnlargeLouis Delmas
Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP PhotoDolphins free safety Louis Delmas returns an intercepted pass 81 yards for a touchdown past Jaguars wide receiver Cecil Shorts.
The Dolphins have interception returns of 81, 50, 43, 32, 31 and 22 yards this season. Two interceptions from safety Louis Delmas and cornerback Brent Grimes went for touchdowns in Sunday's 27-13 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Miami's lengthy interception returns are not an accident. Dolphins' defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said he's making a conscious effort to practice interception returns more than any time in his three seasons with Miami. His focus is quickly getting all 11 players in sync after a turnover and in position to advance.

"We've done drills in the past, but we came up with a new one this year that I think is getting everybody on the same page as to where to go, how to set the blocks up and how to return the ball," Coyle explained. "It's been effective for us and hopefully we'll see it continue as the year goes on. We've just got to keep getting interceptions and see how much it works."

Miami's drills on interception returns are detailed. According to Dolphins' coaches, players practice specific blocking assignments after turnovers each week, similar to what you may see on a long kickoff or punt return. One of the best examples was two weeks ago against the Chicago Bears when Dolphins safety Reshad Jones picked off quarterback Jay Cutler and benefited from several clean blocks downfield during a 50-yard return.

"There's semi-art to it, if you will. ...It's something we like to teach a lot and they take pride in it," Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said.

The Dolphins' defense excels at changing field position after turnovers and providing the offense a boost with hidden yards. In addition to the 259 yards on interception returns, Miami cornerback Cortland Finnegan also has a 50-yard fumble return for a touchdown in Week 4 against the Oakland Raiders. The Dolphins are tied with the Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers with three defensive touchdowns this season.

Miami's defense certainly knows what to do with the ball in its hands, and its third-rated pass defense will get a stern test Sunday against MVP candidate and San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers.

"As a defensive player, our mindset is to go against the best," Delmas said. "We have a [Hall of Fame] yellow-jacket quarterback coming in that we know has some interest in making every DB look bad."
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – On a day when the Miami Dolphins finally won two games in a row and took a step in the right direction, their offense continued its season-long trend of inconsistent play.

Miami’s offense was outscored by its defense in Sunday’s 27-13 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-7). The Dolphins (4-3) rode the momentum of two defensive touchdowns, while the offense settled for one touchdown and two field goals. This came one week after the Dolphins and quarterback Ryan Tannehill lit up the Chicago Bears in Week 7.

Tannehill
The Dolphins were outgained by the Jaguars 377-326. But perhaps the ugliest stat was Miami had just 56 yards and three first downs in the first half.

“We have to play better. We have to perform better,” Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said of the offense. “I don’t have the halftime stats in front of me. But let’s face it – offensively, we didn’t do a whole lot in the first half.”

The Dolphins also continued their trend of inconsistent quarterback play. Ryan Tannehill started last Sunday's game against Chicago with 14 consecutive completions. This week he only completed 5-of-12 passes in the first half and finished with 196 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

In typical Tannehill fashion, his passer rating went from 123.6 in Chicago to 73.3 in Jacksonville. Most of his production came in the second half, when the defense scored two touchdowns and gave Miami the lead. Tannehill was sacked three times.

"We're not happy about how we played offensively," Tannehill said. "We have to be better. We have to get this corrected Monday, Tuesday. But I'm proud of the way the defense played. They made big plays, scored 14 points for us and I don't know how often that happens."

Miami's defense scored two touchdowns for just the fifth time in team history. The last time the Dolphins had two interception returns for touchdowns in a game was during the 1998 season.

“That what teams are for,” said Dolphins safety Louis Delmas, who had one of the two pick-sixes. “One day the defense is going to play bad and the offense has to pull us out the hole, or special teams sometimes. That’s the definition of team.”

The Dolphins were good enough to beat Jacksonville comfortably with just one side of the football playing well. But that won’t be the case going forward.

Miami’s upcoming schedule in November includes games against four teams currently with winning records. The Dolphins will play the San Diego Chargers (5-3), Detroit Lions (6-2), Buffalo Bills (5-3) and Denver Broncos (6-1).
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Miami Dolphins' 27-13 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars:
  • Grimes
    Grimes
    Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes knows it's rare for a defensive player to get into the end zone. Therefore, he savored every moment of his pick-six Sunday off Jacksonville rookie quarterback Blake Bortles. Grimes had a 22-yard interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter and gave the football to his wife, Miko Grimes, as a keepsake. It was Grimes’ second career touchdown in eight seasons. "You know, I always do that," Grimes said, laughing.
  • Defensive lineman Jared Odrick said he was cheering the whole way for his teammates to get in the end zone during Miami’s interception returns. Grimes’ 22-yard return was of the shorter variety. But safety Louis Delmas had an 81-yard return in the second quarter that opened the scoring. "It's an awesome thing," Odrick said after the game.
  • Delmas said he was gassed after his 81-yard return. "Dead tired," Delmas said, laughing. "I never thought I'd be out of shape. But I definitely have to go back to Miami and rush a couple gassers."
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Remember the final four minutes of Sunday's 27-24 loss to the Green Bay Packers, Miami Dolphins fans. This might be remembered as the moment when the season veered in the wrong direction.

After a Green Bay field goal, host Miami led the streaking Packers by four points with 4:09 left. Good teams close those games out at home. The Dolphins didn't, allowing a masterful game-winning touchdown drive by Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

"It was a lot of four-letter words," defensive end Cameron Wake said of the postgame mood.

Miami (2-3) has lost three of its past four games and will play five of its next seven on the road. That stretch includes tough opponents, such as Detroit (4-2), San Diego (5-1) and Denver (4-1). Miami also will play Buffalo (3-3) during that span; the Dolphins have lost three straight to the Bills and four of the past five.

The Dolphins, who haven't won consecutive games since December, certainly won't survive this stretch if they continue to be this inconsistent.

During Sunday's decisive drive -- which ended on Andrew Quarless' touchdown catch with three seconds to play -- Rodgers converted on a fourth-and-10 and even executed a fake spike and completion near the goal line. That move, of course, was made famous by former Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino, who was in attendance.

And with that, the blame game began -- as in, the Dolphins blaming themselves.

Dolphins linemen Daryn Collegde and Ja'Wuan James said the Miami offense was at fault for not getting late first downs and keeping the ball out of Rodgers' hands.

Miami linebacker Philip Wheeler, who gave up the game-winning touchdown, also seemed to point the finger at his coaching staff. Rodgers clearly saw a weakness on the right side of the defense on the final drive. According to ESPN Stats ∓ Information research, Rodgers completed 4 of 5 passes on the right side in the final two minutes, including the touchdown to Quarless over Wheeler.

"It was 50 percent bad play call and 50 percent bad coverage," Wheeler said about the decisive touchdown.

[+] EnlargeAaron Rodgers
AP Photo/Wilfredo LeeNo matter the culprit, the Dolphins allowed Packers QB Aaron Rodgers to figure them out toward the end.
Asked to clarify, Wheeler added, "I feel like [Rodgers] figured us out toward the end. He knew we were in man-to-man and that I would have single coverage on the tight end."

Dolphins coach Joe Philbin also was a culprit. He called a late timeout on fourth-and-10, allowing the Packers' offense to regroup. Philbin said after the game their strategy is called "Kodaking," where they let the offense line up to see the formation and the play before calling a timeout.

It didn't work. Rodgers came out of the timeout and threw an 18-yard pass to Packers receiver Jordy Nelson to set up the game-winning touchdown.

Throughout his tenure, Philbin has struggled with clock management and late-game decisions such as these. It is part of the reason why he is 17-20 in three years as Miami's head coach. Those final four minutes essentially summed up Philbin's tenure as head coach -- close but not good enough.

Philbin and defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle also reportedly were caught on the Fox television cameras having a brief-but-animated exchange in the first half. Philbin didn't have much to say about it.

"That was in the heat of the game," Philbin said.

This is the kind of game the Dolphins will look back on in December as a missed opportunity, especially if they fail to make the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season.

"Individually, we got to look ourselves in the mirror and tell yourself first and foremost that 'I can't be beaten. I'm not going to allow myself to win one rep and lose one rep,'" Dolphins veteran safety Louis Delmas said. "If the total defense has that mindset and the total offense and total special teams have that mindset each and every rep, we won't have that excuse at the end to come out to play one good series or play one good game and lose another game.

"It's not coaching. It's not scheme or anything. It's all players. We're the ones that go out and play."

Miami Dolphins injury report

September, 17, 2014
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DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins (1-1) completed their second practice of the week in preparation for the Kansas City Chiefs (0-2).

Here is an update of Miami’s latest injuries:

Did not participate: LB Koa Misi (ankle), DL Terrence Fede (knee), RB Knowshon Moreno (elbow), G Shelley Smith (knee)

Limited participation: LT Branden Albert (shoulder), TE Charles Clay (knee), S Louis Delmas (calf), LB Jelani Jenkins, C Mike Pouncey (hip), LB Jordan Tripp (chest), G Billy Turner (foot), LB Philip Wheeler (thumb)

Full participation: WR Brian Hartline (back), S Walt Aikens (hand), DT Randy Starks (toe)

Analysis: The Dolphins added several new injuries following their Week 2 loss to the Buffalo Bills. Albert, Delmas and Jenkins are among the starters who were banged up in that game. Pouncey practiced for the second day in a row and appears to be making progress. If he doesn’t return Sunday, Miami’s following game on Sept. 28 against the Oakland Raiders looks like a possibility. Moreno will not play and Misi’s chances aren’t looking good. For Kansas City, star running back Jamaal Charles (ankle) and safety Eric Berry (ankle) did not practice Wednesday.
Maybe the Detroit Lions should think about forgoing second-round picks for the immediate future.

Van Noy
This is not a serious statement, of course, but considering the lack of immediate success -- or any success at all -- the team’s second-round picks have had recently, it is at the very least a very odd, very random coincidence.

The team’s latest second-round pick, linebacker Kyle Van Noy, was tabbed during May’s draft as a player who could be an immediate starter for the team at SAM linebacker. Then he missed part of spring workouts due to injury. After coming back for the first part of the preseason, he injured his abdominal muscle, resulting in surgery Thursday and a chance he’ll be out for a while.

And now you can add him to the list of players who at the very least did not do much during their first years.

Here are the second-round picks under current general manager Martin Mayhew:
  • Last season’s second-round pick, cornerback Darius Slay, started the first two games of the season before being benched in favor of Rashean Mathis.
  • The team’s 2012 second-round pick, Ryan Broyles, was coming off an ACL injury his last year at Oklahoma. Then he tore an ACL his rookie year, returned and ruptured his Achilles midway through last season. He is playing Thursday night fighting for a roster spot.
  • Detroit’s two second-rounders in 2011 have both been disappointments. Receiver Titus Young had stability issues and was released by the Lions after two seasons. He is currently in jail awaiting his latest court case in California. Running back Mikel Leshoure is the team’s No. 4 running back and not guaranteed of being on the roster by the end of the weekend.
  • Perhaps the team’s best second-round pick of recent memory was Louis Delmas, who was released this offseason and now is with Miami. But he was at least productive.

That list is not an inspiring group, to be sure, but the team still has high hopes for Van Noy and it is way, way too early to judge anything about his career based off its start. But considering the team’s past, there should at least be some concern of how much -- if at all -- they’ll be able to use their linebacker prospect during his first season.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- It started in Houston, shortly after James Ihedigbo signed with the Detroit Lions during free agency. His new safety-mate, Glover Quin, also lived in town during the offseason. So the idea was hatched.

Quin and Ihedigbo decided as a way to learn about each other and to start to build the chemistry needed between safeties before they arrived in Michigan, they would work out together. So each day this offseason, Quin and Ihedigbo showed up at Nine Innovations, a gym in Houston, to train together.

[+] EnlargeJames Ihedigbo
AP Photo/Carlos OsorioThe Lions say that safety James Ihedigbo has used his communication skills to help boost the secondary.
This lessened the getting-to-know-you period and also put both players in a habitat they were innately comfortable with: Where they actually live. Immediately, the players saw a significant bond. They both have children. They both have similar approaches to how they study the game.

And through that, the bond began to grow.

“It helps a lot because I get to see how he works, he gets to see how I work, we get to encourage each other, push each other,” Quin said. “We get to work together and you can build chemistry doing that just by learning how he works, him learning how I work. Learning what he likes to do, him learning what I like to do.

“Just little things like that. You can get a lot done just hanging out with each other every single day.”

Quin learned Ihedigbo likes to cook, although he said he hasn’t had one of Ihedigbo’s meals just yet. He also would ask the occasional football question, not about new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, but about the scheme they were going to end up running.

Austin wasn’t calling the defensive schemes in Baltimore, but he was Ihedigbo’s position coach so he had more understanding of what Detroit might run than other players. And part of the reason Iheidgbo ended up with the Lions at all was the trust Austin has in him. Knowing him and how he would likely mesh with Quin was a big factor in Austin’s pursuit of Ihedigbo.

“You have two high-character veterans, so they know for us to play well, they have to play well,” Austin said. “They have to communicate and they have to be problem-solvers in the back. They’ve done that with the young guys and it helps.

“What that’ll do is cut down on big plays, cut down on breakout runs, all those different things.”

They are able to do that with the chemistry they’ve built -- and a similarity between them their teammates have seen. Last season, Quin and Louis Delmas were exceedingly different, both in personality and in style of play.

Delmas was the extremely aggressive playmaker who relied heavily on instinct and would be prone to sometimes pushing too hard. He was also loud and boisterous -- in many ways the emotional heart of the defense. Quin was the more studious player who offered a consistency and always appeared to be in the correct place at the correct time.

Ihedigbo, in many ways, is like Quin. Having two players who are similar could offer more flexibility -- something paramount at almost every position in Austin’s defense. Both Ihedigbo and Quin can play closer to the line of scrimmage if necessary, giving the Lions options both in disguising defensive backfield coverage, safety blitzes and run support.

“They work great because it’s a bond, more of a sense,” cornerback Darius Slay said. “They’ve been there just communicating before practice, working with each other. They are more likely to get a bond with each other outside of football.

“…You could tell when [Ihedigbo] came into meetings. He came in and said things like, you know, we’re young here and we’ve got to communicate [with] film study and everything.”

It’s an influence Austin and the safeties hope percolates throughout the defensive backfield. The Lions' secondary has been one of the bigger questions of the offseason and other than Ihedigbo, the Lions did not add much to bolster it.

So a lot should be expected of the safety pairing in both making plays and educating the rest of the secondary.

“We fit great,” Ihedigbo said. “We think alike. We can play off each other. Really have that good chemistry.”

Detroit is counting on it.

Miami Dolphins' projected roster

July, 18, 2014
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Examining the Miami Dolphins’ roster:

QUARTERBACKS (3)


The only question here is whether Devlin can hold off undrafted rookie Brock Jensen for the No. 3 quarterback job. Neither quarterback stood out in the offseason, but Devlin has the slight edge because of experience.

RUNNING BACKS (3)

The Dolphins would like to have someone step up and challenge Thomas. Undrafted rookie Damien Williams from Oklahoma could be a sleeper to watch. But it's too premature to put Williams on the 53-man roster over the veteran Thomas before the pads come on.

RECEIVERS (6)

This is a deep group with a lot of competition. Williams will be pushed for the final spot by Armon Binns and rookie Matt Hazel, who is practice-squad-eligible.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

New Dolphins offensive coordinator Bill Lazor uses some two-tight-end sets. So there might be room for a fourth player such as Dion Sims. But we are sticking with three for now.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (10)
Pouncey’s hip injury puts a major dent in this much-maligned group to start the season. Miami will have five new starters in Week 1.

DEFENSIVE LINE (8)

This is the strongest area of the team. The Dolphins can come at opponents in waves in the trenches.

LINEBACKERS (7)

This group must improve its play from 2013. The Misi experiment at middle linebacker is particularly important to watch.

CORNERBACKS (6)

This is a solid mix of youth and experience. As long as second-year players Taylor and Davis come of age and Finnegan stays healthy, the depth will be improved from a year ago.

SAFETIES (4)

This group is all about position flexibility. All four players must be able to play back in coverage and closer to the line of scrimmage in defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle’s scheme.

SPECIALISTS (3)

This trio will remain the same for the second straight year.
DAVIE, Fla. -- Miami Dolphins second-year cornerback Jamar Taylor looks quicker and more explosive than he did a year ago. For the first time in his NFL career, he enters offseason workouts 100 percent healthy.

The Dolphins drafted Taylor in the second round last year despite a pre-draft kidney ailment and subsequent sports hernia that kept him out for most of the offseason. Taylor spent the regular season fighting off injuries and trying to earn playing time. He finished with just 40 snaps on defense.

[+] EnlargeJamar Taylor
Kevin Hoffman/USA TODAY SportsJamar Taylor is looking to bounce back from an injury-marred rookie season.
But Taylor enters his second year with the Dolphins a more confident player. Taylor has a chance to earn a role on the defense and is out to prove he can live up to his pre-draft billing.

“It's getting there. He's definitely coming back out,” Taylor said recently during organized team activities (OTAs). “That person ya'll seen talk a lot, it's getting there. But I got to learn. I got to crawl before I can walk. I'm out here trying to pick these older guys' brain.”

Taylor is surrounded by veterans in the secondary such as safety Louis Delmas and cornerbacks Brent Grimes and Cortland Finnegan. Finnegan happens to be Taylor's biggest competition for a starting job this summer. The Dolphins are having a three-way battle between Taylor, Finnegan and Will Davis for the right to start at cornerback opposite Grimes.

If Taylor can win a starting job -- or even the nickel cornerback role -- it will be a sizable turnaround from last season.

“I think it's more motivation for myself. I have high expectations of myself,” Taylor said. “I can't really worry about what everyone else thinks, as long as I get the respect of my teammates, my coaches and myself.”

Last year wasn't just a poor start for Taylor. The entire 2013 Dolphins draft class had little production. Miami had the third-fewest snaps (1,126) by a rookie class in the NFL last year. Only the AFC champion Denver Broncos (1,066 snaps) and Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks (1,111 snaps) had less production from their rookies.

The Dolphins are hoping players such as Taylor, Davis, defensive end Dion Jordan and guard Dallas Thomas all can make the jump in Year 2 and find significant roles on the team this season.

“I think it was a learning experience for all of us,” Taylor said. “We all came here on our high horse and we got humbled real quick. I think we got to keep working. I expect all of us to do good, keep learning, play fast and compete.”

Dolphins offseason wrap-up

May, 23, 2014
May 23
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» NFC Wrap: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South » Grades

With free agency and the draft in the rearview mirror and training camp just a couple of months away, we assess the Miami Dolphins' offseason moves.

[+] EnlargeBranden Albert
Peter G. Aiken/Getty ImagesThe Dolphins are counting on Branden Albert to help solidify their offensive line.
Best move: The Dolphins made their first offseason move their best one. On the first day of free agency, Miami signed Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert to a $47 million contract. It was a hefty price to pay, but the Dolphins were forced to do something dramatic to improve their offensive line. Miami allowed a franchise-record 58 sacks last season. Albert is one of the best tackles in the NFL and will immediately solidify protection on quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s blind side. Miami is expected to have four new starters on its offensive line this season.

Riskiest move: The Dolphins took on a pair of major medical risks in their secondary. Miami signed projected starting safety Louis Delmas and potential starting cornerback Cortland Finnegan, who both come with durability issues. Delmas and Finnegan have missed a combined 17 games the past two seasons with various injuries. Yet, the Dolphins are counting on both to stay healthy and provide a veteran presence in the secondary. The good news is Miami signed Delmas and Finnegan to one-year, “show-me” contracts to see if both players can stay healthy. Delmas and Finnegan will be motivated to prove critics wrong during contract years.

Most surprising move: First-year general manager Dennis Hickey was expected to make a big splash. However, Hickey had a low-key draft that surprisingly included five of eight players from non-BCS schools. The Dolphins drafted players from North Dakota State, Montana, Liberty, Coastal Carolina and Marist. Prospects such as offensive lineman Billy Turner, cornerback Walt Aikens, linebacker Jordan Tripp, receiver Matt Hazel and defensive end Terrence Fede all come to Miami with a lot to prove. Hickey proved that he is more focused on “traits” than big names. Whether that works for the Dolphins remains to be seen.

Competition is rising: The AFC East got stronger due to the offseason aggressiveness from Miami's division rivals. The New England Patriots made a pair of bold moves to sign cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner. The New York Jets signed former Pro Bowl tailback Chris Johnson and wide receiver Eric Decker. The Buffalo Bills were aggressive in trading up to draft dynamic wide receiver Sammy Watkins and trading for veteran receiver Mike Williams. The Dolphins have struggled within the division. They are just 4-8 against the AFC East the past two years.
On the eve of free agency two weeks ago, our four NFC North reporters -- Rob Demovsky (Green Bay Packers), Ben Goessling (Minnesota Vikings), Michael Rothstein (Detroit Lions) and Michael C. Wright (Chicago Bears) -- compiled a list of the top-15 free agents in the division.

Only three of the original 15 remain unsigned as free agency enters its third week. One of them, former Packers tight end Jermichael Finley, could remain that way for a while because of his neck injury.

Perhaps the biggest-name free agent from the NFC North, former Bears defensive end Julius Peppers, did not make the original list because he was not a free agent until he was released shortly after free agency opened. He signed with the Packers on March 15.

You can follow all of the NFL free-agent moves in Bill Polian's free-agent tracker, but let's revisit the NFC North top 15 and see what has changed in the last week:

1. Sam Shields, Packers CB: Signed a four-year, $39 million contract just a few hours into the open negotiating period on March 8. His $9.75 million per year average made him the fourth-highest paid cornerback in the league behind Darrelle Revis ($16 million), Brandon Carr ($10 million) and Aqib Talib ($9.8 million).

2. Brandon Pettigrew, Lions TE: Re-signed with the Lions for four years and $16 million, including a $4 million signing bonus.

3. Jermichael Finley, Packers TE: Trying to come back from neck fusion surgery, Finley remained unsigned after a visit to the Seattle Seahawks during free-agency's first week. According a report in the Green Bay Press-Gazette over the weekend, the Seahawks failed Finley on his physical during the visit, leaving his status in doubt.

4. Charles Tillman, Bears CB: Signed a one-year contract to return to Chicago after missing half of last season because of a torn triceps. The deal is worth about $3.5 million.

5. B.J. Raji, Packers DT: Less than a year after reportedly turning down a multi-year offer that averaged $8 million per season, he returned to the Packers for a one-year, $4 million contract.

6. Matt Cassel, Vikings QB: Opted out of his 2014 contract after the Super Bowl but signed a new two-year, $10.5 million deal with the Vikings on March 7, just before teams could start contacting his agent and will likely head into training camp with the inside track on the starting job.

7. Willie Young, Lions DL: Signed a three-year, $9 million contract with the Bears. Former seventh-round pick received his first extensive playing time with the Lions in 2013, becoming a full-time starter after Jason Jones was injured for the season in Week 3.

8. James Jones, Packers WR: After going unsigned during the first week of free agency, Jones signed a three-year, $10 million contract with the Oakland Raiders. The deal was similar to the three-year, $9.6 million deal he signed with the Packers three years ago.

9. Jared Allen, Vikings DE: Was weighing an offer from Seattle, where he has visited twice since the start of free agency. After three All-Pro selections in six years, Allen's time in Minnesota is over.

10. Josh McCown, Bears QB: Signed a two-year, $10 million contract to rejoin his old coach, Lovie Smith, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

11. Henry Melton, Bears DL: Coming off a torn ACL, Melton signed a one-year contract with the Dallas Cowboys that could become a four-year deal if the team exercises an option after the first year.

12. Devin Hester, Bears KR: Signed a three-year, $9 million with the Atlanta Falcons after the Bears decided not to pursue an extension with the kick return specialist.

13. Rashean Mathis, Lions CB: Remained unsigned after playing in 15 games and taking over as a starter early in the season last year.

14. Everson Griffen, Vikings DE: Cashed in on March 9th by signing a five-year, $42.5 million deal that included $20 million guaranteed to return to Minnesota.

15. Louis Delmas, Lions S: Signed a one-year, $2.25 million contract with the Miami Dolphins after the Lions released him with one year remaining on his contract in February, in part because of a cap number of $6.5 million in 2014.

Free-agency review: Lions

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
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A week in, here's a quick review of the free-agency period for the Detroit Lions:

Tate
Tate
Most significant signing: Considering that Detroit has mostly signed depth or re-signed its own free agents, the obvious choice is receiver Golden Tate. The former Seattle Seahawk will complement Calvin Johnson and should take pressure and attention off of the Lions' top receiver. He can also spread the field, has elite hands and can block extremely well for a 5-foot-10 receiver. He plays taller than he is and should be a good addition to Detroit.

Most significant loss: Defensive end Willie Young was a productive player who often became overlooked because of the star power in the middle (Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley) and the emergence of Ziggy Ansah at the other end. But Young is a long, rangy end who was good against the run and showed improvement. That he went to one of Detroit's top rivals, Chicago, adds to the significance because the Lions will see him at least twice a year.

Biggest surprise: That the Lions didn't make a bigger play earlier in the safety market. Like receiver on offense, safety is Detroit's biggest need on defense after the release of Louis Delmas. The team looked like it was interested in Chris Clemons and had reportedly expressed interest in T.J. Ward, but so far the only safety the team has brought in is James Ihedigbo. While Ihedigbo could fill a need if he signs, Detroit could have tried to make a bigger play here considering the market and the need. Unless the Lions draft one.

What's next: Solving the backup quarterback issue. The Lions need to have a veteran behind Matthew Stafford, and Kellen Moore just is not going to be a viable option there right now. Detroit, be it through re-signing Shaun Hill or signing someone like Luke McCown or Ryan Fitzpatrick, has to have a player with some experience ready to come in if Stafford were to get hurt. Detroit has too many other pieces to let that be an actual issue.
Cortland Finnegan admits he had a down year with the St. Louis Rams in 2013. The veteran cornerback battled through injuries and inconsistent play that limited him to just seven games and one interception.

Finnegan
The poor year eventually led to Finnegan getting released by the Rams this offseason. However, he quickly found a home Friday with the Miami Dolphins, who were searching for a veteran presence to add to their secondary.

Finnegan, 30, is the early favorite to start opposite Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes. It could be a formidable duo if Finnegan can return to the old form that he had with the Tennessee Titans. Somewhere, that got lost during his stint in St. Louis.

“I play with an edge, and I’ve learned to control that throughout the years with the fines going down,” Finnegan explained during his teleconference Friday with the Miami media. “At the same time I want to bring that same tenacity and spunk that I had that maybe I was missing. I know a lot of people said maybe something was missing. Maybe that’s what it was.”

Finnegan, at his best, was one of the most physical cornerbacks in the NFL. He was an aggressor who often got in the heads of receivers.

A starting cornerback job is wide open in Miami. Finnegan will compete with 2013 draft picks Jamar Taylor and Will Davis in training camp. Taylor and Davis had injury-plagued seasons and will be hungry to earn bigger roles with the team in 2014.

Finnegan has a lot to prove with his new Dolphins team, as well.

“I’m going to work,” Finnegan said. “Nothing was ever given to me, and I don’t want it. I want to come in and compete for any job of that magnitude. I hope the younger guys are coming in to compete.”

Finnegan said he’s out to prove he has something left in the tank. His inconsistent play last season has many wondering if he’s hit a wall. The Dolphins signing Finnegan to a two-year contract shows the coaching staff believes last season was an aberration.

Finnegan said he expects to be “110 percent” by organized team activities in the spring.

“Now it’s a clean slate,” Finnegan said. “I’m on a new team with great coaches. I have to let my play do the talking.”
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- James Ihedigbo left the Detroit Lions facility Thursday without a contract, but told reporters he would like to sign with the team soon.

Ihedigbo
"That's the plan in hand," Ihedigbo told the Detroit News as he was leaving the building Thursday.

The Detroit Free Press is reporting part of the issue for Ihedigbo is his representation.

Ihedigbo, who would come into Detroit as a strong candidate to start at safety opposite Glover Quin, had 99 tackles and three interceptions last season. He is the first safety the Lions have targeted for a visit in free agency, although they have expressed interest in former Miami safety Chris Clemons and were reportedly interested in T.J. Ward, who signed with Denver.

Ihedigbo played the past two seasons in Baltimore under new Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin.

The Lions are searching for a replacement for Louis Delmas, whom the team released in February. Delmas then signed with Miami earlier this week.
It only took a few minutes on a conference call to know what type of player the Miami Dolphins were getting when they signed free-agent safety Louis Delmas.

I asked Delmas Monday night to describe his game. His response was intriguing.

Delmas
"It's like turning on the TV and watching a car race, and that one dude who leads the race goes ahead and runs into that brick wall full speed and actually breaks that brick wall," Delmas responded. "That's what I'm here for."

Delmas is a big hitter. He's an enforcer. In his words, "I like to bang."

In other words, Delmas is just what the Dolphins need in their secondary.

The Dolphins were ranked 21st in total defense last season. They had talent, but the defense at times looked pedestrian and lacked the consistent fire and energy it takes to carry a team.

Delmas brings some of that passion and intimidation to Miami. He's one of the biggest hitters in the NFL and will replace outgoing free-agent starter Chris Clemons, who was up and down last season. Delmas has been on Miami's radar for at least a week following his release from the Detroit Lions. He recorded 64 tackles and three interceptions last season in Detriot.

"This is a player that plays with great passion and love for the game," Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey said. "He's a physical presence and has playmaking ability. We feel like he will bring a lot of things to the table as a Miami Dolphin."

Delmas, 26, is banking on himself in 2014. His physical style has resulted in injuries, which is why Miami signed Delmas to a one-year "show me" contract.

The Dolphins did the same thing with cornerback Brent Grimes last year following an Achilles injury. Grimes made the Pro Bowl following the 2013 season and Miami signed him to a four-year, $32 million extension last week. The Dolphins are hoping Delmas also has a big year.

"I have a lot to prove to myself," Delmas said. "I have a lot to prove to my fans, a lot to prove to my family in my backyard and a lot to prove to this organization. How will I do that? By coming here being myself."

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