Dolphins Sign Cortland Finnegan: Grading the Move and What It Means for Miami

Erik FrenzSenior Writer IMarch 14, 2014

USA Today

The Miami Dolphins are once again turning to the free-agent market to address areas of need.

On Thursday, free-agent cornerback Nolan Carroll signed with the Philadelphia Eagles. The very next day, Albert Breer of NFL Network reported that the Dolphins signed Cortland Finnegan away from the St. Louis Rams to fill the void:

Breer later reported that Finnegan's deal is worth about $11 million over the next two seasons. The Dolphins entered the day with roughly $35.7 million in salary-cap space.

The move creates a competition between Finnegan and second-year cornerbacks Jamar Taylor and Will Davis, with all three men vying for the starting spot opposite Brent Grimes

Finnegan, 30, has started 99 regular-season games in his eight-year career and his name carries a lot of weight around the NFLfor reasons both good and badbut his best days appear to be behind him.

He was voted a first-team All-Pro in 2008 with the Tennessee Titans, when he notched five interceptions and helped the Titans defense rank second in scoring and ninth against the pass. Pro Football Focus (subscription required) indicates that he allowed completions on 58.3 percent of throws into his coverage and a passer rating of 61.6 that year.

Since then, however, his play has dipped significantly. 

He has allowed over 63 percent completions and an 80 passer rating in each of the past four years, including a 136.0 passer rating in 2013. Doug Farrar of Sports Illustrated adds another note:

More than his level of play, Finnegan is known around the league for his style of play—he doesn't mind ruffling some feathers during a game.

His most recent and most public altercation came in his last year with the Titans, when he and Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson were both ejected from the game for ripping each other's helmets off and breaking into a full-blown fist fight.

Given his reputation, Finnegan is an interesting choice for a free-agent signing by a team trying to clean up its image after the incident with Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito. Much like Incognito, Finnegan has been recognized around the league as one of the dirtiest players in the NFL, ranking sixth on this Sports Illustrated player poll.

In this instance, it appears the Dolphins have decided that the potential backlash of signing a player with Finnegan's background is worth the potential reward of his contributions on the field. That being said, we'll have to wait and see exactly what those contributions will be.

For now, the move doesn't address a position of dire need and Finnegan does not appear to have much left in the tank.

Grade: D+


Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand or via team news releases.