Sean Smith is set to hit free agency, and he looks to be one of the big-name players this offseason. Rarely does a consistent four-year starter coming off a rookie contract manage to hit the open market, but the Miami Dolphins have made it clear that they do not intend to use the franchise tag on Smith.
It's up for debate as to why the Dolphins aren't going to use the tag on Smith. Perhaps they feel that he's not worth it, and that wouldn't be totally unfair as that the cornerback tag number is high, at just over $10 million.
That said, those numbers are actually close to what Smith is looking for in a long-term contract, by most accounts. Smith thinks that he's worth a deal that will pay him close to what Jason McCourty received last year (five-year extension, $43 million) or what Brandon Carr received from the Dallas Cowboys (five years, $50 million).
Smith is definitely one of the top cornerbacks on the market along with Aqib Talib, but his value is all over the place. On one hand, he received a massive vote of confidence after the Dolphins elected to trade fellow cornerback Vontae Davis, but Smith has generally underperformed in his four seasons in the NFL.
He tends to struggle against smaller, faster receivers, though he has done well against some bigger players such as Larry Fitzgerald and A.J. Green. Unfortunately, the ability to shut down top receivers at the expense of being exposed against lesser names isn't necessarily what will get Smith a big contract.
On top of that, he's lacking in some stats. He's only recorded five interceptions in four seasons, and in 2012, no other cornerback gave up more combined first downs and touchdowns, according to Pro Football Focus. In fact, they had him as the No. 76 cornerback in 2012, and ranked 105th out of 109 cornerbacks in 2011.
It's clear that the Dolphins want Smith to remain in Miami, and that might be the plan in the end. They might be confident that Smith won't bring near the big numbers that he's hoping for, and that Smith will come back to Miami with a reduced offer in the end.
If Smith gets the contract he wants (read as: earning around $50 million with $20 million or so in guaranteed money), it's unlikely he'll be with the Dolphins next year. Smith is a young, athletic corner who has made some big plays, but has been burned at least as much. That doesn't equate to a player paid among the elite at his position.
That said, it's likely Smith will have plenty of suitors once he hits the market. It's just that none of those suitors will be telling him what he wants to hear, more than likely.