Last night as I sat with the family and watched some family TV, a message appeared on my iPad that said the NFL had finally announced this years salary cap. A whopping $225,00.00 increase over last years. This years cap sits at 120.6 million. For the Dolphins, it means they will have less money to spend than originally anticipated but far more than many other teams.
The Dolphins, shown here in a very solid breakdown by Omar Kelly, have almost 14 million to spend in free agency BEFORE re-structuring any player contracts. Something that the team has yet to do. The cap number is a solid number for the team to work with provided they decide not to give it all to Peyton Manning. Which is the reason why this years free agency will likely come in like a lamb, and leave like one.
Manning has flown to Denver and then on to Arizona. His camp has sourced out information that he favors those two teams more than any others. The same camp has said that Manning will not meet with Seattle nor Kansas City, ending their interest in the future Hall of Famer. While the Tennessee Titans opened the door to Manning visiting them when owner Bud Adams publicly announced he was “making the call”, the real story is the Miami Dolphins. Who have yet to meet with Manning but apparently have been assured at least a face to face.
Manning is in Miami today. However, he spends is off-seasons in Miami at his condo on Southbeach. For the Dolphins, the timing is critical as the Manning wait will send the team into a wait and see mode when free agency opens tomorrow at 4:00 pm. The Dolphins, unless told by Manning that they are out, will likely sit our the start of free agency awaiting his decision. The reason is simple. Finances. The Phins can’t afford to be pro-active in free agency if they are holding a place mat for Manning.
Miami is a team that needs free agency, possibly more than most teams. They have holes to fill like others but the perceptions belonging to the fans of Jeff Ireland and Stephen Ross have made it clear they do not trust the men tasked with turning the franchise around. If the Dolphins wait on Manning, lose out on the top tiered free agents, the Ross/Ireland jokes will continue.
Our own poll here on Phinphanatic, asked how you would feel if Manning was lost. The results, although far from representing the fan base, showed 24% believe that the loss of Manning was typical of this front office. 12% said that they would be fine with the money the team could spend elsewhere. Either way it’s problematic for an owner is viewed as a joke to many fans and to some in the media.
Despite being one of the top three richest owners in the NFL, Ross still is portrayed as a bumbling fool by many in the media. Reports that Manning and other free agents will use his “open checkbook” to drive the price up on the teams they are really interested in, is making the rumor mill more sarcastic than realistic. Even now as we await whether or not Manning will make the hour drive to Davie to tour the facility, meet with Ross and Ireland, and so forth, no one really knows how the Dolphins approach to free agency will be. If they sign Manning, they may not have the money to do anything else.
What can we expect though? If Manning does fall into Miami’s lap and he is impressed by the training facility and coach Joe Philbin, the Dolphins will start purging some of their roster in terms of salary. You can expect some players to start having the contracts re-worked or released outright to make room for a possible “Manning entourage” of Jeff Saturday and Reggie Wayne.
Over the last few days it feels as though this site and most of the other sites on the internet covering the Dolphins have been handcuffed by the Manning merry-go-round. In a sense that is very true. It would be wildly speculative at this point to look at other free agents even as a course of due diligence given the fact that Miami won’t pursue anyone until this whole Manning ordeal is settled.
Matt Flynn, now considered “the other” QB, will hit the market tomorrow afternoon and it’s very likely that by Wednesday afternoon he will have a new team. The Cleveland Browns and Seattle Seahawks are expected to go after him hard. While Miami would seem like a logical destination given the four years under Philbin, the Dolphins won’t risk alienating Manning if they still think they have a legit shot at him. There is chatter that internally as an organization, some in Miami are not thrilled at the prospect of Flynn. Others say that Philbin is high on Flynn and not thrilled with Manning. The reality is no one knows for sure what anyone is thinking.
Still the thought of entering free agency on hold should be a bit worrisome for Stephen Ross who is pinning his name to his first head coaching decision, Joe Philbin, his proclamation that the team would finally stop the franchise QB bleed, and that the team would become “exciting” to watch. Ticket sales have been tepid at best and a lack of free agent action will only serve to keep more and more fans from committing to the seasonal pass that gets them front and center for every home game.
While Manning would surely increase the population on Sunday’s at the soon to be re-named Sun-Life Stadium, Matt Flynn will not come close to the same level of Manning or even RGIII. The Dolphins, if they lose on Manning will have to do more than just add Flynn. For Ireland and company, this free agency period has to add the right amount of playmakers as it does roster bodies.
This whole thing is playing out like another big time free agent a couple of years ago. A nation of NBA fans watched the Cleveland Cavaliers enter free agency and wait out the decision of one Lebron James. By the time James announced he was taking his “talents to Southbeach” the Cavs free agent window was all but officially closed. Miami would be wise to take that into consideration when free agency opens tomorrow and a decision by Manning is still hanging in the air.