The first item in the “Ideal Offseason” series featured moves Miami should or could make this offseason to put the best possible team on the field in 2014 in regards to retaining their own players scheduled to be free agents when the league year begins in March. This will be a continuing series examining each aspect of the upcoming Dolphins offseason and the ideal moves that can make to catapult themselves forward in 2014.
To read the previous entry regarding impending internal free agents, the link can be found HERE.
There are a number of low budget contracts in Miami that could be shuffled to create even more cap room than Miami currently has, but there are a number of higher profile contracts that may be adjusted based upon the teams cap space for the 2014 season. Some players may find themselves looking for work unexpectedly, while some may see their role on the team saved by the potential cap hit for releasing the player. Several players could be approached to restructure their deals based upon the teams offseason moves as well.
Below you’ll find several potential cap casualties, candidates to be restructured and players who may be saved in part due to their cap numbers. All of these items affect what the Dolphins are able to do in the upcoming offseason. All cap numbers and savings indicated below are courtesy of OverTheCap.com.
Potential Cap Casualties:
The first category we’ll look at contains the players who may find themselves looking for work as not only do their cap numbers outweigh their value to the team, but they could represent a significant savings for the team if released.
- Matt Moore, QB – Matt has done a lot of good things for this team in his time here. A former team MVP, he was supplanted by Ryan Tannehill for the starting job. Moore handled the move like a consummate professional and has been instrumental in Tannehill’s development. Moore showed signs of regression in the 2013 preseason, however, and when Tannehill was injured briefly in Buffalo Moore looked disastrous in his limited action. He re-signed with Miami last offseason, and carries a very bloated $5.5M cap number into 2014. That is FAR too high of a cap number for a backup QB, and the team can save $4M by releasing him. Verdict: Will be released
- Dmitri Patterson, CB – Dmitri Patterson is a bit of an enigma. When healthy, Patterson and Grimes looked to possibly be one of the best CB duo’s in the league. Unfortunately, Patterson couldn’t stay on the field due to nagging injuries that finally saw the team shut him down in December and place him on IR. Patterson would actually cost the team $0 in dead cap space to release, while saving the team his full salary of $5.4M for 2014. I expect the team will attempt to restructure this deal, as they have Jamar Taylor and Will Davis waiting in the wings, and the two younger players are both expected to be healthy for the upcoming season. What happens with Grimes and Carroll, both free agents, could dictate how this is handled. Verdict: Miami will most likely re-sign Grimes, and release Patterson if unable to restructure.
- Jason Trusnik, LB – Jason Trusnik’s 2014 salary may be just over $1M, but that is too much for a limited special teams player who is a liability on defense. Miami will most likely be adding a LB or two in the draft, and Jelani Jenkins flashed enough promise that Miami could realize nearly $1M in cap space by releasing Trusnik. Verdict: Will likely be released.
- Nate Garner, OL – Garner has been with the Dolphins for a long time, and will start the offseason as a projected starter by default. In an offseason that will see Miami attempt to rebuild an offensive line that is losing at least 4-5 starters from 2013, the moves Miami makes will justify whether or not Garner’s $1.8M cap number is a frugal salary for a starter, or if he will be asked to restructure. While cutting Garner would save the team $1.5M in cap room, I don’t believe that he will be leaving the team in 2014. Verdict: Will remain with team, possible restructure
Candidates for Restructure:
- Mike Wallace, WR – Without a doubt, Mike Wallace should be a Dolphin next season. While he and Tannehill struggled at times to find chemistry, Wallace possesses the tools to add an explosive element to the offense while also commanding focus from defenders that allows other players to excel. Wallace’s cap number for 2014, however, currently sits at $17.5M, and I expect that if needed Miami will attempt to restructure that number in a mutually beneficial way to allow them to improve other areas of the team. Verdict: Will restructure if cap room is needed, will take the hit this season to improve future seasons if not.
- Brandon Fields, P – Fields is coming off a phenomenal year, and while people referred to him as a team MVP candidate that is not so much a knock on the other players as it is a tribute to his skill set. Fields is set to have a cap number in excess of $3.5M for 2014, so he may be an option to have his cap number reduced if space is needed, while also extending his contract with the team. Fun fact about Fields, he trained with recently announced HOF inductee Ray Guy as a teenager. Verdict: If some cap room is needed, may be restructured to possibly include extension.
Protected by the Cap:
The following players are ones that many fans have indicated they would like to see released by the team, but it wouldn’t make financial sense to do so based upon the extremely large cap hit the team would be forced to absorb. In addition to the cap hit, the team would ALSO have to pay their replacements, so the cap hit would be even larger in reality. Additionally, they have shown promise (whether prior to their arrival or not) and with Miami and Joe Philbin in “win now” mode, expect them to have the opportunity to prove themselves in 2014.
- Phillip Wheeler, OLB – as is the case with both Wheeler and Ellerbe, any move here would simply not make sense financially. Wheeler would cost the team $4.2M against the cap to part ways, and the new Linebackers coach has indicated he’s high on the skillset that both players bring to the table. Expect Wheeler to get one more season to prove his worth, as the Fins can part ways with him next offseason with negligible impact.
- Danelle Ellerbe, ILB – as with Wheeler, Ellerbe didn’t have the desired impact in 2013 that was expected when he came in. Some have indicated that he’d be a more natural fit moving back to the outside and it will be interesting to watch how 2014 plays out for the duo. Like Wheeler, parting ways with Ellerbe would cost the team $4.175M in dead space against the cap. This move doesn’t make sense for a player who showed promise, and he is also a candidate for release following the season with negligible cap impact for release in 2014 if this season doesn’t pan out.
Additional: While I have no idea how the team will handle the Jonathan Martin situation, his cap number for 2014 is $1.3M, and releasing or trading him would only net the team $345k against the cap while creating $960k in dead cap space. Owner Stephen Ross already indicated Martin will likely not return to the team in 2014, so that will be intriguing to watch. A trade is most likely if possible, with Indianapolis, the Giants and San Fran being likely destinations.
- M.Moore: Likely to be released
- D. Patterson: Likely to be restructured or released
- J. Trusnik: Likely to be released
- N. Garner: Likely to be retained, if a backup may be asked to restructure.
- M. Wallace: Likeliest candidate to restructure if additional cap room is needed.
- B. Fields: Likely restructure/extension if cap room is needed
- P. Wheeler: Likely retained at least through 2014 season
- D. Ellerbe: Likely retained at least through 2014 season