“I think he’s a terrific football player. He played great football for us in the formula that we asked him to play in. He was very effective.”- Pete Carroll
It should come as no surprise that the shocking trade that sent Kiko Alonso and Byron Maxwell to the Miami Dolphins in exchange for swapped draft picks has come with well…. some strong backlash.
Executive vice president of football operations for the Eagles, Howie Roseman, set out to right the wrongs of former head coach Chip Kelly, moving Maxwell just one-year into his blockbuster six-year, $63 million deal. He also parted ways with two other crucial players from Kelly’s system, DeMarco Murray and Kiko Alonso.
Maxwell’s first and only season with the Eagles was massively underwhelming based on his former glory days with the “Legion of Boom” in Seattle. For the Eagles, wiping Maxwell’s $22 million guaranteed off the books is a burden lifted.
However, from the Dolphins perspective, adding the 28-year old corner provides stability to a rocky situation, and possible long-term stability at that. The trade also prompted the Dolphins to part ways with 34-year old cornerback Brent Grimes, freeing over $6 million in cap space.
While Maxwell and Grimes ranked in the top-20 highest paid cornerbacks in 2015, both had tough seasons, getting steamrolled in man coverage against large, physical receivers like Brandon Marshall and Sammy Watkins.
Byron Maxwell: 64 tackles, two interceptions, two forced fumbles, and 10 pass deflections.
Brent Grimes: 48 tackles, four interceptions, zero forced fumbles, and 14 pass deflections.
Sammy Watkins Vs. Dolphins: 8 receptions, 168 yards, 1TD
Sammy Watkins Vs. Eagles: 5 receptions, 81 yards 1TD
The Silver Lining?
“He’s a big, physical corner. He does a great job when he gets his hands on people, and he’s kind of what a prototypical corner is like.” – Chip Kelly
Unlike in Philadelphia, Maxwell will no longer shadow receivers in man coverage, an area where he struggled with penalties and foot speed. In Miami, Maxwell will get back to his bread and butter, seeing a strong mix of Cover 2, and Cover 4. According to Steve Palazzolo of Pro Football Focus, the Bengals played the second-highest percentage of Cover 2 last season, and Miami’s new defensive coordinator Vance Joseph was the defensive backs coach in Cincinnati during that time. He will not radically change a formula that worked for him in Cincy.
After Maxwell’s initial restructure, which places him at $8.5 million due in 2016 (17th-highest paid cornerback in the league), Miami fans should be at ease with their future cornerback. Maxwell is far from the star Brent Grimes was in Miami, but his large frame (6-foot-1, 207 pounds) and improvements with off-ball coverage should put Maxwell back on track to be a top-20 corner in the league. Meanwhile, Grimes ranked 38th among qualifying corners last year according to Pro Football Focus.
Maxwell has physicality and quickness that compliment his strong football IQ, and his jamming abilities at the line give the Dolphins a level of depth they did not have with Grimes. Having Reshad Jones shadow over-the-top much like Kam Chancellor did in Seattle, will eliminate the chances of Maxwell being burned like he was in man coverage last season.
Overall, Byron Maxwell is a clear-cut victim of circumstance. In a crowded 2015 free-agency in which Maxwell was easily the second best corner available behind Darrelle Revis, the Philadelphia Eagles paid the former Seahawk like an elite corner – which he is not!
If healthy, however, the former 6th round pick from Clemson is a solid acquisition for a team that believes it is a few pieces from completing the puzzle.