Edwards bolsters Miami's secondary depth

In what might be the precursor to the long-discussed trade of Patrick Surtain, the Miami Dolphins have signed unrestricted free agent cornerback Mario Edwards.

A five-year veteran, who played for Tampa Bay in 2004 after spending the first four seasons of his career with the Dallas Cowboys, Edwards signed a one-year contract. The financial details of the deal were not available.

Securing a player of Edwards' caliber is certain to heighten speculation that the Dolphins are on the brink of sending Surtain, a two-time Pro Bowl performer, to the Kansas City Chiefs. There remain, though, significant hurdles to be navigated before such a trade could be completed.

While the Chiefs have reached agreement in principle with Surtain on an extension that would include an eight-figure signing bonus, the two teams have yet to settle on compensation in the proposed deal.

Miami has remained adamant that it must receive a high-round draft choice, likely a pick in the second round, before parting with its veteran cornerback. First-year coach Nick Saban reiterated that stance late last week. The Chiefs reportedly have offered a fourth-round pick and have not budged. The consensus is that someone will blink either before or during the draft in three weeks.

Edwards, 29, certainly offers the Miami coaches additional flexibility, whether Surtain is dealt away or not.

If Surtain is traded, Edwards probably would compete with Reggie Howard and Will Poole for the starting spot opposite Sam Madison. If the Dolphins keep Surtain, then Edwards could be the team's top option in nickel packages.

Edwards résumé includes 50 starts but the former Florida State standout also has performed well in a nickel role during his career. He fits the mold of the physical-style cornerback that Saban has said he prefers.

A sixth-round pick of the Cowboys in 2000, Edwards became a full-time starter in just his second season in Dallas and remained a fixture in the lineup through 2003. It was a bit of a surprise when the Cowboys made little effort to retain Edwards following the '03 season and that misjudgment was magnified when the team struggled to replace him.

Edwards signed with Tampa Bay for 2004, played in 15 games and started three of them. The Bucs released Edwards last month for salary cap considerations.

For his career, he has appeared in 73 games and has 174 tackles, four interceptions and 31 passes defensed. He returned two interceptions for touchdowns.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.