Across the NFL landscape teams are preparing contract offers and debating the use of the franchise tag to hold on to key players. Miami is not one of those teams. In Green Bay, the team is deciding what to do with Jermichael Finley. Buffalo is said to be far apart with their talks with WR Stevie Johnson and New Orleans is dealing with Drew Brees, OG Carl Nicks, and WR Marcus Colston among many others.
While these teams and their General Managers work towards trimming salaries to get under the cap or at least give them some room to breathe, teams like the Dolphins are planning their free agent attack. Kansas City reportedly has the most to spend in free agency if they desire, some 30 plus million in cap space. The only real priority they have is Dwayne Bowe and recently signed street free agent CB Stanford Route to a three year 20 million dollar deal. In Houston, the Texans have a restricted free agent in running back Arian Foster and an impending free agent LB in Mario Williams. They are up against the cap and need to make both happy.
Miami however is not playing those games this year. Instead of working contracts to get their free agents under contract, the team is likely reviewing the current contract of some of it’s veteran players and determining who is worth the amounts being made. Yeremiah Bell at 6 million and Anthony Fasano at 4.5 million come to mind immediately. Where the Dolphins benefit however is that none of their impending free agents are must re-signs.
That’s good and that’s bad. On the bad side of that coin, none of the Dolphins impending free agents have made such a mark for the team that they have achieved an elite status and thus have forced the team to spend valuable portions of their cap to retain them. Aside from NT Paul Solia, the free agents are replaceable. Solia would have been an issue if the team were sticking with a 3-4 defense instead of the move to a 4-3.
Few teams can say they have the luxury that the Dolphins have. Yes it is in fact a luxury. Consider that the core of the team is still under contract. The playmakers are still under contract and not even restricted free agents. Jake Long, Cameron Wake, Reggie Bush, Brandon Marshall, Vontae’ Davis, Sean Smith, Kevin Burnett, Karlos Dansby, etc..etc…etc… The fact is the teams talent is all still playing under current deals.
It’s the back-ups that are facing free agent lines and in some cases back-ups of back-ups. Perhaps the next biggest name on the list is Kendall Langford who took a step back last year in his contract season. Still he is valuable and the Dolphins may be trying to work out an extension but if he leaves, the Dolphins will be no worse off than they would be better off with him.
Miami gets to focus their attention on who to bring in to make the team better as opposed to retaining players to keep the team as good as it is or to maintain continuity. Fortunately, the continuity part won’t be an issue because the Dolphins are not set to lose starters that they were not looking to replace anyways. Vernon Carey and Marc Columbo come to mind as starting free agents but would anyone argue that the team would be better off with them re-signed? Of course not.
So while the Patriots contemplate Wes Welker and San Diego decides what to do about Vincent Jackson the Dolphins can explore adding anyone without having to turn inward first. Pittsburgh has two starting WR’s headed into free agency along with a slew of other starters and even Baltimore who came a FG away from OT against the Patriots in the AFC Championship game has to deal with a RB in Ray Rice who wants Adrian Petereson kind of money.
Next year, the Dolphins will have a few more starters on their teams list of impending 2013 free agents but the good news is that the expected salary cap is reportedly going to jump about 20 million leaving the Dolphins in good shape for keeping the members of the team they wish to carry over for another contract. For now however, the Dolphins finally get at least a little luck. For whatever it turns out to be worth.