Part 6 of a series: Examining the Miami Dolphins’ safeties and their futures

Barry Jackson
·5 min read

During a two-week period, we’re taking an in-depth look at every player on the Miami Dolphins roster, with metrics, how they compared to others in the league, their contract status and their future here.

In part 6 of an 8-part series, we examine the safeties:

BOBBY McCAIN

Contract status: Under contract for two more seasons and due $6.4 million and $7 million the next two seasons.

The metrics: In his 503 coverage snaps, McCain was second-best in the league in passer rating against (27.5).

Players in McCain’s coverage area caught only 5 of 10 passes for 56 yards, no touchdowns and an interception. Only Tampa Bay’s Mike Edwards had a lower passer rating against among all NFL safeties.

Overall, Pro Football Focus rated him 54th among 92 safeties. The fact McCain was ranked 60th as a run defender partly explained why he wasn’t graded higher. But because McCain often was deep downfield, he obviously wasn’t expected to stop the run near the line of scrimmage on those plays.

PFF ranked him 110th among safeties in tackling efficiency; his five missed tackles tied for 30th most, just ahead of Minkah Fitzpatrick, who had six.

The future: McCain had a good year at safety; he was outstanding when in coverage, very good in offering help as a deep safety and decent in the run game. By playing in all 16 games, he eased concerns about his durability.

The question is whether Miami wants to pay him more than $6 million next season, with a cap hit of $7.1 million. If the Dolphins release him, there would be $1.5 million in dead money and a $5.6 million cap savings.

If the Dolphins keep him on this contract for another season but part ways after 2021, he would carry only $740,000 in dead money in 2022, with $7 million in cap savings.

ERIC ROWE

Contract status: Has two years remaining on a three-year, $18 million deal. Due $2.5 million each of the next two seasons.

The metrics: Aside from struggling against Pro Bowl tight ends Travis Kelce (Kansas City) and Darren Waller (Las Vegas), Rowe played well in coverage.

Per Pro Football Focus, Rowe allowed just a 76.9 passer rating in his coverage area; players he covered caught 47 of 74 targets for 508 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions. That ranked 13th among players with at least 400 snaps in coverage.

But PFF ranked him 66th of 92 safeties primarily because he ranked just 87th against the run.

The future: No Dolphins defender over the past half decade has defended tight ends better than Rowe has over the past season-and-a-half, and he’s inexpensive and productive. But Miami has been evaluating whether to stick with the status quo at safety or try to upgrade. And while parting ways with Rowe would be surprising and a mistake (the view here), nothing should shock anybody after the release of Kyle Van Noy last week.

If Miami cuts Rowe, there would be $1 million in dead money and $4 million in cap savings.

BRANDON JONES

Contract status: Entering second season of four year, $4.9 million deal. Will earn $831,505 next season.

The metrics: The Dolphins valued Jones’ speed, tackling ability and understanding of the defense, which earned him regular playing time throughout his rookie season. He finished with 62 tackles, a forced fumble and a sack. He was a generally effective No. 3 safety.

Pro Football Focus ranked him 58th of 92 safeties and 53rd as a run defender. He missed six tackles and his pass coverage numbers ranked in the bottom half of safeties. He played 385 defensive snaps; McCain and Rowe each topped 900 defensive snaps.

The future: The question with Jones is whether his coverage skills will be good enough to be a starting safety eventually, a reasonable expectation for a third-round pick.

He allowed a 108.6 passer rating in his coverage area, permitting 23 completions in 28 targets for 202 yards and a touchdown. His coverage metrics were poor as a senior at Texas but the Dolphins overlooked that because of his other assets. Perhaps that improves over time. But it’s a question that should give Miami reservations about projecting him as a starter.

CLAYTON FEJEDELEM

Contract status: One year left at $2.25 million, which is not guaranteed.

The metrics: Played only 14 snaps on defense and allowed the only pass thrown against him to be caught for 44 yards and a touchdown.

The future: The Dolphins can eliminate Fejedelem’s cap hit ($2.5 million) and salary ($2.25 million) by cutting him. Because he makes a negligible impact on defense, the question is whether the special teams contributions are worth that allocation.

KAVON FRAZIER

Contract status: Unrestricted free agent.

The metrics: Played only 48 snaps on defense and allowed the one pass thrown against him to be caught for 8 yards (a 100 passer rating against).

The future: The limited impact suggests it’s not particularly likely that Frazier will return.

NATE HOLLEY

Contract status: Signed for 2021; will earn $780,000 if he makes the team.

The metrics: Was signed to the 53-man roster before the regular season finale.

The future: The Dolphins appear inclined to invest more time in a player who was the CFL’s Rookie of the Year in 2019. At the very least, he should compete for a job in training camp.

Here’s part 1 of this series on each of the Dolphins’ receivers.

Here’s part 2 of this series on each of the Dolphins’ tight ends.

Here’s part 3 of this series on each of the Dolphins’ defensive linemen.

Here’s part 4 of this series on all of the Dolphins’ linebackers.

Here’s part 5 of this series on all of the Dolphins’ running back.

Please check back for another Dolphins piece — unrelated to this series — in a few hours.