Dolphins Ideal Offseason: Capology 2014

 

Dec 8, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery (89) runs after a pass reception as Miami Dolphins middle linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (59) and outside linebacker Philip Wheeler (52) defend during the third quarter at Heinz Field. The Miami Dolphins won 34-28. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Summary:

  • 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

Fins up!

 

 

Topics: Ideal OffSeason, Miami Dolphins

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  • Eric Roddy

    Wouldn’t mind seeing Miami go LB or TE with the first pick, and save the OT or OG for their 2nd and 3rd round selections. Not sold on the “top tier’ line talent in this draft.

    • Paul L. Picken, Jr

      Quite honestly, and as I said on the show the other night, I expect Miami to move down. Cleveland is the most likely trade partner for that with the 26th pick and a bevy of available picks – and SF would be a close second. Both of those teams may salivate at the opportunity to move up if Jace Amaro, Eric Ebron or Mike Evans are available.

      • tpl

        Love to see Miami trade down for more picks. This draft is deep in tackles and Miami could still get a good one in the late first or second.

        • Paul L. Picken, Jr

          I totally agree there. Cleveland and SF seem the most likely candidates for a trade down possibility in rd 1

  • Bill Stowers

    Why do people think we need to go TE in the draft? Charles clay did an amazing job last year and we have keller coming back. Also sims and egnew are starting to come along. The phins need to be thinking OL OL OL. Not TE

    • Paul L. Picken, Jr

      Hi Bill. If you’ve read some of my past articles, I’ve been a proponent of Egnew (though I’m liking him better at Fullback), and have said good things about Sims. I’ve also been a fan of Clay since he flashed his talent in his rookie year, though he is better suited to the hybrid “move” role. That said, Egnew was the only one that did any effective blocking from the TE role, and Miami may take a TE this year if the right one comes available.

      I don’t see it being in the 1st round, and probably not the 2nd, either. I do think that Miami could grab a TE, and if so look for CJ Fiedorwicz in late round 3 or early round 4 – who, coincidentally, was coached by WR coach Ken O’Keefe at Iowa

      • Miami Jules (Julian)

        What I want to see, instead of another TE, is a tall WR and I like a couple of people in rounds 4 or 5.

        • Paul L. Picken, Jr

          Jules!!! Glad to see you here, bud! Did you have a WR in mind for this? I have trouble thinking they go receiver, simply because they’re getting Binns and Gibson back, and still have Wallace, Hartline & Matthews.

          • Miami Jules (Julian)

            Hey Paul! I’m always looking out for your articles, I was glad to see your post on and that it is a very good and interesting one as expected.

            I have a thing for a WR out of Rutgers by the name of Brandon Coleman, whom I have included video on, which can be found in my Post SR Bowl mock draft article, posted on Bill’s site. You can also watch it on YouTube… 6’6″ but lacking a TE’s build. I also went out on the limb and risked raising the ire of many, by calling for (as the 3rd of this tri-option mock draft) a WR at 19 named Kelvin Benjamin, 6’5″. This draft is fortunately OL deep enough that we can afford taking some liberties and think outside the box in my opinion. Other than TEs, the only Dolphins’ WRs who are 6’3″ and over are Binns and Spadola.
            Paul, keep in mind I’m not including TE’s. Love Mathews, Hartline of course and I’d like to see more of Thigpen as a receiver but neither isn’t really tall which I think may make a difference especially if Miami keeps struggling with the deeper routes IMHO.

          • Paul L. Picken, Jr

            I honestly believe Miami will attempt to trade down, but will take a look at Benjamin. Miami needs to accumulate picks and both SF & CLE have needs in areas that benefit them to move up. Could be some very mutual beneficial moves made here, as there is a great deal of mid round talent where Miami needs it most.

          • Miami Jules (Julian)

            The partnership is certainly there Paul, however, I am intrigued as to who your mid rounders are… can I get you to share? So many picks I am sure I have skipped a few people.

          • Paul L. Picken, Jr

            Lol no worries. There are a ton of them, really. I’ll dive into them more as I go through these, but as far as TE’s you can grab one almost anywhere in the draft this year. I really love Yawin Smallwood for rd 3, and there are a few linemen. Additionally, one of my co-bloggers here pointed out Jimmie Ward at safety. If Miami doesn’t grab Hyde, there are some other complimentary RB’s etc

          • Miami Jules (Julian)

            Aha! I was afraid of that and I failed to persuade you into prematurely sharing them… now I will have to, however impatiently, wait for it to be posted along with everyone else. I remain firmly entrenched on NOT drafting yet another TE…especially if Keller is good and resigned which I’m hoping for both. I don’t mind a very TALL WR, as a matter of fact I’m actually calling for one.

          • Paul L. Picken, Jr

            Haha I’ll share with you, but don’t have my notes with me. Will drop you a line on it

          • Miami Jules (Julian)

            ;-) Thanks Paul.

    • tpl

      A lot depends on what the coaching staff thinks of Egnew and Sims. Sims didn’t do much receiving wise this year. And you’re right, Egnew might be on the verge of becoming the starter.

      • Paul L. Picken, Jr

        Definitely… I had an opportunity to ask Philbin about Egnew back in October, and I had started my question about him with “I know Egnew took a beating in the media…” and he immediately cut me off with “Not by me!” and said a few good things before I even got to ask a question. From my understanding as well, Egnew was a Philbin pick. Honestly, I think Egnew has stepped up (and if I remember correctly, you commented on my post back in Oct/Nov around Egnew).

  • Johnny

    I think Garner is Versatile and cheap enough to keep… Esprlecially with all the new OLine .. and that comes with risk.. That’s why Garner is important to keep around this coming year…

    • Paul L. Picken, Jr

      I do as well, and his versatility is very key. His salary range is intriguing, because if he is a backup he’s an expensive one, but if he’s a starter his salary is a steal. That said, it really depends which direction they go in FA and the draft, which could make him either a necessity or a steal, depending.

  • Miami Jules (Julian)

    Great article Paul, very detailed and interesting reading. I’ll say that if we make the right moves during F/A and the draft, I would not mind moving on from Gardner if they can’t work things out. I agree that Patterson, when healthy, has been a difference maker, but he seems to be out a lot with injuries, so I think it’s better to move on in his case too.

    • Paul L. Picken, Jr

      Thanks man! Yea… Garner and Patterson are both ones that the situation will really dictate what to do there. If Miami pushes hard and resigns Grimes + Carroll (or hell, makes a push at Grimes + Verner – which I view as unnecessary) then you could see Patterson get outright released. I think they attempt to restructure, but quite honestly I expect that Jamar Taylor and Grimes will be the starting CB’s next season by week 4.

      • Miami Jules (Julian)

        My pleasure reading Paul. I had picked Jamar Taylor in the 2nd last year, but during this season, I started to second guess my own pick… glad to see you actually expect a brighter future for him.
        Grimes all the way! This kid is a play maker and then some, I also caught him by the water cooler as I was on my way to the rest room during the Webbies. We had a conversation…, well, it wasn’t a long one, I said ” You’re great” and he said “thank you”. He makes people my height look really good!

        • Paul L. Picken, Jr

          I absolutely love Brent (and Miko is a nice bonus). While I didn’t get to meet them while we were in Miami, I got to spend some time hanging with Miko at the MetLife Takeover, and a little time speaking with both of them up in Buffalo. Absolutely fantastic people, and he is one hell of a player. I called him as a guy to go after back in the offseason, and I’m so glad he proved me right

          • Miami Jules (Julian)

            When I saw him (Grimes) during training camp back in… was it August…? You could just tell this guy was ready to go Paul. Actually and somewhat off topic, so did Thigpen, who was used a lot out of multiple positions, lining up with the 1st squad every time, and looked as if he was finally going somewhere, and then during the season. he was only used like 3 times other than on returns. How I feel about Thigpen now, is exactly how I felt about Clay as far back as 2 years ago.

          • Paul L. Picken, Jr

            I’m intrigued about the view on Thigpen… Seemed to be hit or miss on returns this year, but when he got a little shot on O he did some things. I’m interested to see how much Lazor adapts scheme to talents.

          • Miami Jules (Julian)

            You should’ve seen what I saw during the “open-to-the-public” work outs during training camp. Our friend Brian “Cat” seemed to share my views on him back in October. Thigpen was pretty meh on returns this year, but you may remember that 10 yard catch he turned into like a 50 yard gain and then, inexplicably, we would not see him again until like several games later. He did something each time he had the ball on offense as a receiver, not so much as an RB but then who did, we had no line.

          • Paul L. Picken, Jr

            I need to take a trip down for camp one of these years. I attribute a lot of line issues to Sherman & cadence. Much like so many things this year, if it worked they got away from it.

          • Miami Jules (Julian)

            Let me know when you do so that I can give you my contact info and you have yet someone else local… TIP: I made the trip back from the entrance to the NJ Turnpike in Elizabeth, to my driveway in the city of Miami in 18 hours, and the only reason I failed to make it in 17 was because the FHP lit me up like a Christmas tree as I entered Palm Beach county… $370.00 Fine and loss of my “safe driver” status.

  • tpl

    I think Miami will draft an OT with its first pick, but that might change if Miami signs Albert during free agency. I would also expect Miami to re-sign McKinney. Even if he doesn’t start, he was a solid tackle. Also like the fact Miami signed John Benton as assistant OL coach. He produced some very good lineman.

    • Paul L. Picken, Jr

      I somewhat agree… The tackles you mention, Albert and McKinnie, are both very much locked in that they are LT’s – so I don’t expect that they’ll both sign with Miami. Looking at free agency, I expect that Miami will be able to address the tackle spots there, but they may face some heavy competition for the only two “upgrade” players at OG – Asamoah & Ohrnberger.
      If Miami doesn’t get at least either:
      A) A LT + RT
      B) A LT + at least one of those 2 OG’s

      Well… then I feel very worried at the state of the line going into the season.