When the calendar turned to June, the Miami Dolphins suddenly found themselves with $17 million dollars in extra cap space to play with, thanks to the post-June 1st designated release of All-Pro defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.
As soon as the cash came in, Executive Vice President of Football Operations Mike Tannenbaum got to work, and it was soon announced that the team had signed their 2018 first-round pick Minkah Fitzpatrick to a four-year deal worth $16.4 million, which comes with a $10 million signing bonus.
As the 11th overall pick in the draft and receiving some of the highest praise ever given from Alabama head coach Nick Saban, Fitzpatrick will be expected to contribute right away in Miami's secondary. He joins veterans Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald in that group of safeties, and his skill set offers much-needed coverage support, as both Jones and McDonald are better suited as strong safeties.
Fitzpatrick, on the other hand, is well-known for his ability to roam the middle of the field and make plays in coverage, and Jones is excited to have someone like that on the roster.
“It’s about time." Jones said back in late May. "We haven’t drafted a safety in a while. I think it was about time for us to get another defensive back in the room. I didn’t really have a reaction. I think it was helpful. I think it was a good move.”
Early reports from organized team activities (OTAs) indicate that Fitzpatrick has already hit the ground running, and the team is going to bring him along at whatever pace Fitzpatrick shows he can handle.
“He’s a rookie. That’s what it is. He’s a rookie." said defensive backs coach Tony Oden. "He’s doing a good job. He’s smart. He’s all of the things that we thought he would be. We’ve just got to bring him along, just like he’s a rookie, and give him what he can handle. We’re not going to slow his progress up one way or the other. We’re just going to take it day by day.”
But given his reputation at Alabama, it shouldn't be long before Fitzpatrick starts making waves in the Dolphins secondary.
“I always start off with saying he’s a rookie." said Oden. "He’s definitely that; but you can tell he’s played in a lot of football games. He’s a very good communicator. He works hard. He wants extra study. So those things are kind of mature, or mature-r than most. He’s fallen in line with exactly what we thought he would be.”
The Dolphins also signed three other rookies: cornerback Cornell Armstrong, linebacker Quentin Poling, and kicker Jason Sanders. This leaves tight ends Mike Gesicki and Durham Smythe, linebacker Jerome Baker, and running back Kalen Ballage still unsigned, though that is likely to change very soon.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
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