The Miami Dolphins' purge at cornerback continued with one of the players who was brought in to hopefully stop it.
Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com reported on Tuesday night that the Dolphins have released Richard Marshall, signed by the team to a three-year contract in 2012:
Marshall's stock has taken a huge hit since this time last year, when he was getting reps with the first unit in practices and looked primed to start in the base defense. The seven-year vet played four games for the Dolphins in 2012; he injured his back in Week 3 and did not play again following Week 4. He was placed on injured reserve with the back injury in November.
He was victimized even in that short period of time playing for the Dolphins. Colleague Chris Kouffman details the extent of his struggles:
According to Pro Football Focus, Marshall spent 145 snaps in coverage, allowing 14 of 23 passes to be completed on him for a total of 207 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Additionally, Marshall accumulated four penalties, though one was waived by the opposing team. Two of the penalties came in the end zone, which resulted in the opposing offense starting with a 1st-and-goal from the one-yard line. It would not be terribly inaccurate to say he was responsible for allowing four touchdowns in only four games.
His play on the field was less than stellar, but the Dolphins will still have to account for his presence on the depth chart, and several other questions that have risen as a result of the release.
So here are the answers to the test, in the order which fans are probably asking the questions.
Who Fills the Void on the Field?
Luckily, there isn't much of a void to fill, since Marshall played in only four games in 2012. That being said, based on his contract (three years, $16 million), the Dolphins probably had designs on him becoming one of the starters at some point, or at least locking down the top spot in the slot.
It seems like forever since the Dolphins had the "best [cornerback] tandem in the league" with Vontae Davis and Sean Smith, but both were on the roster just over a year ago. The Dolphins traded the former and allowed the latter to walk in free agency this offseason.
To help address their need, they signed cornerback Brent Grimes on a one-year contract this offseason. Grimes is the unbridled No. 1 corner on the roster, but beyond that, there are some questions.
Dimitri Patterson, Will Davis, Jamar Taylor and Nolan Carroll comprise the depth behind Grimes, but it remains to be seen what order those names will appear on the final depth chart and where those players will line up on the field.
Marshall was listed as the second starting cornerback on the most recent depth chart, with Carroll and Patterson the next man up.
The Dolphins wisely drafted Davis and Taylor in April to add to their thin cornerback depth. Taylor missed some time with injury and played just 12 snaps in the Dolphins' third preseason game against the Texans, Taylor's first game of the preseason.
Davis, on the other hand, has been one of the pleasant surprises of Dolphins camp, according to reports from the Palm Beach Post and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, and could compete for snaps as a nickel or dime cornerback. He has already played a whopping 88 snaps this preseason, the second-most for any cornerback on the team.
Like any rookie, he is making some mistakes—he didn't get off to a good start being called for pass interference in the end zone on his first snap, and he gave up a touchdown to Texans receiver Lestar Jean—but he is quickly learning from them.
"The first play, it had to come to me," Davis said of his pass interference against Dallas, according to the Palm Beach Post. "You just panic a little bit. ...All I had to do was just turn around, the ball’s right there."
As for the touchdown, he took to social media to offer the explanation.
Davis has already shown a great deal of professionalism in admitting his mistakes and committing to correcting them in the future.
By moving on from Marshall, the Dolphins are enacting a youth movement in their secondary, but they're also admitting a mistake and doing what they can to remedy the situation.
How Much Money Do the Dolphins Save?
While releasing Marshall doesn't help the team in the short-term on the football field, it certainly helps them with the salary cap now and in the future.
According to Spotrac, a website that tracks every contract for every player, the Dolphins are set to save a combined $9.9 million in salary and workout bonuses for the 2013 and 2014 seasons.
Despite a litany of high-priced signings this offseason, the salary cap is not a big concern for the Dolphins this year or next year. As of August 21, 2013, they have $20,426,606 in cap space for 2013 and roughly $15 million in cap space for 2014.
This move gives them a little more flexibility, but so do the new rules of the collective bargaining agreement, which allows teams to roll over their remaining cap space from this year into next year.
It seems that even with the spending spree of the 2013 offseason, the Dolphins will still have enough cap freedom to make whatever moves they deem necessary next offseason.
Is This Signing Another Indictment on GM Jeff Ireland?
There are fewer men in Miami who are the object of scorn on a more consistent basis than Jeff Ireland.
Marshall's performance did not match up with his salary, and the fact that he was even competing for a starting job after the contract he signed should tell you all you need to know about how the coaching staff felt about his performance overall.
Who knows if Marshall would have turned it around were it not for his back injury, but as it stands, the Dolphins paid him a supremely embarrassing $6.1 million for four games worth of his services.
That being said, this is far from the norm for Ireland's signings.
In fact, Ireland has typically been very successful with free-agent and trade acquisitions. Wide receiver Brandon Marshall had two productive seasons for Miami, logging 167 receptions for 2,228 yards (13.3 YPR) and nine touchdowns in 30 games. Running back Reggie Bush also had two solid seasons for the Dolphins, logging a combined 2,660 yards from scrimmage and 15 total touchdowns in 31 games.
Other notable signings and trade acquisitions for the Dolphins include guard Richie Incognito and linebackers Kevin Burnett and Karlos Dansby. While Burnett and Dansby are no longer with the team, they played well in their two years and were deemed replaceable this offseason.
The Dolphins will soon find out how replaceable Marshall really is.
Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Boston.com. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand or via team news releases.
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