In Around the League's "Offseason Forecast" series, NFL.com's resident Miami Dolphins fan Henry Hodgson pegged Sean Smith as a critical priority for the team's front office.
The fifth-year cornerback is set to become an unrestricted free agent in March. If the Dolphins can't agree to a long-term deal with Smith, he might be slapped with the franchise tag, because negotiations for a new contract aren't going smoothly.
Ben Volin of The Palm Beach Post reports the sides are "far apart," with Smith asking for a contract close to the six-year, $43 million pact the Tennessee Titans handed Jason McCourty last summer, according to a source. The Dolphins aren't about to furnish that type of cash to Smith, the source said.
Under new coach Joe Philbin, the Dolphins have taken a patient approach to building their program. Still, they're pegged as a team that might make a splash in free agency by chasing after one of the three big receivers in play -- Greg Jennings, Dwayne Bowe or Mike Wallace.
That would please the fan base, but keeping Smith -- one of the better players in a weak secondary -- is arguably more important for a team that finished 27th in the NFL against the pass last season.
Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @MarcSesslerNFL.