Dolphins add up to 7 starters with free agent spending spree

MIAMI (AP) — There won’t be any accusations of tanking this year by the Miami Dolphins, who added up to seven starters with a spending spree at the start of free agency.

The latest addition to the starting lineup: center Ted Karras, who agreed to a $4 million, one-year contract, a person familiar with the deal said Wednesday. The person confirmed the agreement on condition of anonymity because the Dolphins hadn’t announce any acquisitions.

Earlier the Dolphins made Byron Jones the NFL’s highest-paid cornerback, and bolstered a feeble pass rush by reaching agreements with linebacker Kyle Van Noy and defensive ends Shaq Lawson and Emmanuel Ogbah. On offense they upgraded by acquiring running back Jordan Howard and guard Ereck Flowers.

The seven deals were for a total of more than $222 million, including at least $133 million guaranteed. That’s big change – and a big change for a franchise that began stockpiling money and draft picks a year ago with a roster dismantling so drastic Miami used an NFL record 84 players and was accused of tanking.

The Dolphins instead went 5-11 and entered free agency with the most salary cap space of any team. With this week’s deals and five picks in the first two rounds of the April draft, they anticipate significant improvement in Year 2 under coach Brian Flores, especially with Tom Brady no longer an impediment in the AFC East.

Miami’s biggest improvement this week has been on defense after allowing an NFL-high 494 points. Jones agreed to a five-year contract worth $82.5 million, surpasssing the $76.5 million, five-year contract the Dolphins gave Xavien Howard last May when he signed the most lucrative deal ever for a cornerback. They’ll now form potentially the league’s best tandem, as well as its highest paid.

Van Noy and Lawson each had a career-high 6½ sacks last year, while Ogbah had 5½ for the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. Any of those sacks totals would have led the Dolphins.

Jordan Howard, who agreed to a $10 million, two-year deal, joins a team whose leading rusher last year was 37-year-old quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Howard made the Pro Bowl as a rookie with the Bears in 2016, when he rushed for 1,313 yards. Last season he averaged 4.4 yards per carry in 10 games with the Eagles despite being slowed by a shoulder injury.

The Dolphins are also expected to take a running back in the draft, when they’ll have 14 picks. They’ll be shopping in the first round for a franchise quarterback and left tackle.

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