For the Miami Dolphins, linebacker is the defensive version of the offenses offensive line problem. They simply can’t get it right and desperately need to. With the Dolphins entering the off-season with a cap problem and holes needed to be filled several changes at linebacker will be necessary.
At the top of the list is Dannell Ellerbe who will be counting over $9 million on the cap this year. If designated a June 1st cut the Dolphins will save $8.4 million in cap space while leaving 1.4 in dead money. Ellerbe is no brainer at this point. He is coming off a season ending injury and frankly didn’t play all that well in his first year with Miami.
Phillip Wheeler is another player that should be seeing his time in Miami come to a close. Wheeler has placed vocal blame on the coaches for being out of position and the coaching staff normally do not tolerate that kind of talk. In addition his play hasn’t been all that great either. Like Ellerbe, Wheeler will count 1.4 mill in dead money if released after June 1st but will have a $3 million dollar cap saving. If the Dolphins choose to release him prior to June 1st they will only save $200,000 and eat $4 million.
The issue for the Dolphins is that they can only designate two players as post June 1st cuts and that will create a spending problem at the start of free agency as they will not have sufficient money to spend. All things currently being equal, expect Wheeler to remain on the roster until at least June 1 when his contract can be terminated if the team desires.
The free agent market doesn’t look bad this year for linebackers but again spending will be an issue or at least having money to work with will be an issue. The Dolphins won’t likely be active early in free agency and many of the available free agents will be gone by the time Miami has money to spend. Linebacker will still be a priority.
Rumors continue to circulate that the Dolphins will try Dion Jordan at linebacker this season which is a good thing considering he doesn’t see much time at defensive end. Will it work is another question entirely.
The good news for the Dolphins however is that Koa Misi will be back healthy and Jelani Jenkins showcased a future for the team. A solid free agent linebacker (not a top tier one) and a solid draft pick in the first three rounds could really boost the performance of this teams defense.
Jets David Harris, 30 years old
Bengals Rey Maualuga, 27 years old
Cowboys Rolando McClain, 25 years old
Bills Brandon Spikes, , 27 years old
Buccaneers Mason Foster, 25 years old
Dolphins Kelvin Sheppard, 26 years old
Bears D.J. Williams, 32 years old
Vikings Jasper Brinkley, 29 years old
Eagles Casey Matthews, 25 years old
Texans Akeem Dent, 27 years old
Chiefs Justin Houston (3-4), 26 years old
Steelers Jason Worilds (3-4), 26 years old
Ravens Pernell McPhee (3-4), 26 years old
Eagles Brandon Graham (3-4), 26 years old
Redskins Brian Orakpo (3-4), 28 years old
Browns Jabaal Sheard (3-4), 26 years old
Falcons Sean Weatherspoon (4-3), 26 years old
Chargers Dwight Freeny (3-4), 34 years old
Cowboys Bruce Carter (4-3), 26 years old
Patriots Akeem Ayers (4-3), 25 years old
Broncos Brandon Marshall (4-3), 25 years old (RFA)