MIAMI GARDENS — Veteran cornerback and rookie negotiator Cortland Finnegan sealed a deal Friday with the Miami Dolphins. Representing himself in contract talks, the eight-year veteran found a new home after an injury-plagued 2013 with the St. Louis Rams.
Finnegan, who has no agent, said he spoke with a lot of general managers and head coaches but his only free-agent visit was to Miami.
“It was a great experience,” he said. “If I was, like, four years in the league, it would be cool to have an agent. The older you get, you can understand where your market value is.”
The Dolphins also signed another ex-Ram, guard Shelley Smith. He agreed to a $5.5 million, two-year deal, with $1.5 million guaranteed, then left town headed for his wedding.
Smith reinforces a troubled offensive line that gave up a franchise-record 58 sacks last year. Four of the five starters have departed, including tackle Jonathan Martin and guard Richie Incognito, who were involved in the team’s bullying scandal.
Smith started eight games over the past two seasons for the Rams, including two last year.
Finnegan, who was an All-Pro in 2008, started only five games last year, when he was sidelined by a hamstring injury and then an eye injury that required surgery. The Rams signed him to a $50 million, five-year contract in 2012 but recently released him, his career in apparent in decline.
“You can never know how much a guy has left in the tank if he’s injured,” Finnegan said. “I was injured most of the year. Now it’s a clean slate. I’m on a new team with great coaches and I’ve got to let my play do the talking.”
Finnegan is known for drawing flags and fines, a sensitive issue for the Dolphins after their experience with Incognito, who had a reputation for dirty play.
“I play with an edge and I’ve learned to control that throughout the years,” he said. “At the same time, I want to bring that same tenacity and spunk and everything I had that maybe I was missing. A lot of people said something was missing and maybe that’s what it was. You don’t want to hurt the team but you want to play with the edge that got you where you’re at.”
General manager Dennis Hickey said the Dolphins like Finnegan’s zeal on the field. “He has been a tough playmaker over his career, with a veteran presence and leadership and love and passion for the game,” Hickey said.
Finnegan is expected to complete for playing time with Jamar Taylor and Will Davis, who saw little action as rookies last season.
The Dolphins are looking for a starter opposite Brent Grimes, a Pro Bowl cornerback re-signed last week to a $32 million, four-year deal.
“Grimes is one of the best in the NFL, in my opinion, if not the best,” Finnegan said. “I’m excited to play with him and learn from him.” Grimes and Finnegan are both 5-foot-10.
A native of Milton, Fla., Finnegan was a seventh-round draft pick with the Tennessee Titans, where he spent his first six NFL seasons. He has 18 career interceptions, with four returned for touchdowns.