The Miami Dolphins currently sit at around 116 million dollars committed towards the 2012 NFL salary cap that is estimated to be around 123 million. They will need to allot around 5 million for their draft class and can carry over 9 million from unused cap space last season. In addition, they can borrow an additional 1.9 million from next years cap if they need to for a veteran salary.
Add the numbers and you can expect the Dolphins to have somewhere around 15 to 16 million they can spend on free agents and draft picks this season. That of course is without re-structuring any contracts.
According to Ben Volin of the Palm Beach Post, the Dolphins top five salary recipients account for 47 million of this years cap and the top 10 account for 71 percent. That’s a lot of money but it’s not uncommon on any NFL team to have the majority of it’s teams’ salary cap eaten by the top 10 on their roster. For the Dolphins, it’s an opportunity to shave some money this year by restructuring the deals. Next years cap was rumored to have a 20 million dollar increase. Creative contracts could spill some guarantees into next season if need be.
At the top of the list is Jake Long who will account of over 12 million this season. An clause in his rookie contract has enacted a sixth year which means that Long has two seasons left with the team, not one as widely speculated. Per a report from Omar Kelly of the Sun-Sentinel. The Dolphins could rework Long’s current contract and reduce this years salary considerably by signing him to a long term deal with spaced guarantees and a back-loaded incentive laden deal.
Brandon Marshall is entering the third year of a five year deal and is the second highest paid player. The team could guarantee more of that deal in order to get a lower 2012 cap figure. Karlos Dansby is also a player who the Dolphins could approach about signing an extension as well, guaranteeing portions of his deal. Guaranteed money can be spread through the life of the contract which is what happened in Vernon Carey’s deal. He will count 4.5 million on this year cap regardless of whether he is here or not.
After the top three, Yeremiah Bell comes in at number 4 and carries a cap number of 6 million. The Dolphins would be wise to renegotiate the terms of that deal and reduce it significantly. Speculation is that if Bell refuses to rework his deal, he may be a cap casualty. Another six million dollar player is Reggie Bush who is entering the final year of his two year deal he signed with Miami at the start of last season. Bush could be signed for another three to four year deal with guaranteed salaries that would pay out over the life of the contract and reduce his current salary cap number.
For all of the players mentioned above, outside of maybe Brandon Marshall, reducing their cap numbers would make sense for the player and the team. Long would get the extension he needs, Bell would have a final deal and extend his career in Miami, Bush would not have to worry about free agency again and could secure a nice deal off his record breaking season last year. Dansby who is in his prime would also benefit from securing a three to five year extension thus solidifying Miami as his final career stop.
Jeff Ireland is very good at working the numbers and it’s likely that given the opportunity or the need to take it, he will find a reasonable way to get his players new deals that are cap friendly this season and beyond. So while we all talk about possible free agents, the Dolphins have the means to get a perfect number in line to make good moves at the top of the free agent food train.
Information for this article was taken from the Palm Beach Post and portions from the Sun-Sentinel.