DAVIE – Brian Flores was clearly grateful to avoid beginning the final week of offseason work with controversy surrounding the highest-paid player on the team.
Yes, Reshad Jones was in camp Tuesday and participated in the first of three days of the Dolphins’ mandatory minicamp.
The two-time Pro Bowl safety had opted to skip the previous three weeks of OTAs and earlier voluntary offseason sessions.
Consider that a dead issue. Jones, coming off shoulder surgery in February, said he opted to train away from the team to get himself healthy and physically ready for the rigors of his 10th NFL season.
Jones dispelled any question about whether he is on board with the rebuilding Dolphins under the Flores regime and said he is not worried about rumors that he may be traded.
“I’m in great shape. I’m still one of the best safeties in this league, and whatever happens, happens,” he said. “I’m here, I love the city, I love the fans, I love to be a part of the Dolphin organization.”
Where does Jones fit?
But intrigue remains concerning where the two-time Pro Bowl defender will fit into the scheme being concocted by the Dolphins’ first-year coach and defensive coordinator Patrick Graham.
And whether Jones will be fully invested in a role that may be different than he’s had in the past.
The memory remains from last season of Jones refusing to go back into the Jets game as part of a rotation plan rather than in his customary every-down routine.
Understandably, Flores said he isn’t concerning himself with what happened last year in Miami while he was directing a New England Patriots defense on the way to another Super Bowl title.
Indications are Flores wants to run much the same system with the Dolphins, and it will utilize a lot of different looks and players in multiple roles.
That likely explains why there are 18 defensive backs on the current roster, the largest of any position group.
The glut of safeties include J.J. McDonald and Minkah Fitzpatrick, as well as Bobby McCain, primarily a slot cornerback who worked at free safety in place of Jones during OTAs.
So does Jones return as the presumptive starter?
A week ago Flores made a point of saying, “I think everybody’s got to work to be a starter in this league, and on this team. … I would say there’s no sacred cow, not in this game.”
Flores downplayed that Tuesday, saying, “That wasn’t part of the conversation” he had with Jones.
“That’s not really a talking point when I’m one on one with a player,” he said. “The conversation was about coming in, learning the playbook, having good communication, working on your fundamentals and technique. Really, a conversation I have with every player.”
Where that conversation will lead with Jones won’t become clear this week. Before the team took the field Tuesday, Flores made a point of letting media members know that Jones wouldn’t be working exclusively with the first unit because they were running some exotic packages that he had needed to learn.
It is apparent that this defensive scheme will be more exotic than standard.
Plenty of DBs needed
In New England, Flores’ defense commonly utilized six defensive backs on the field in passing situations.
“It’s just a lot of movement, a lot of packages, guys paying different roles. Fast paced. It looks exciting,” Jones said. “I’m excited to be a part of it.”
Whether Jones is part of it when games start to count in September is uncertain.
There have been media reports that the Dolphins would prefer to trade Jones for a draft pick. That would make sense if the team is writing off this season and stockpiling future assets.
Jones is 31 and past the stage of being a long-term core player to build around.
He has a guaranteed salary of $13 million for 2019 with a cap hit of $17.3 million, which wouldn’t make him easy to trade.
But make no mistake, Reshad Jones remains a valuable asset that would enhance what Flores aims to accomplish defensively this season.
“I earned my respect in this league. I’ve done everything possible. I’ve been a two-time Pro Bowl safety, everything you can possibly imagine,” he said.
“I put the work in year in and year out and I’m here to help this team win football games.”
As far as finding his way into the exotic packages of Flores’ defense:
“I’m catching up pretty fast.”
Craig Davis has covered South Florida sports and teams, including the Dolphins, for four decades. Follow him on Twitter @CraigDavisRuns