Miami Dolphins have big decisions to make in the off-season

Nov 27, 2016; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins middle linebacker Kiko Alonso (47) chases San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) during the first half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 27, 2016; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins middle linebacker Kiko Alonso (47) chases San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) during the first half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /

The Miami Dolphins are not talking about the post-season and no one is talking about the off-season. Nor should they be but inside the Dolphins executive offices, you can bet they are talking about who will be playing in Miami next season.

With two weeks left in the regular season and a legitimate shot to make the post-season, the Dolphins season is far from over right now. There will be no head coaching search this year and no search for a new general manager either. In other words, the start to the off-season should be pretty quiet.

Having a quiet start to the off-season will allow the Dolphins more time to evaluate the team for 2017 and beyond. While Adam Gase and his coaching staff are hammering away at game plans, Mike Tannenbaum and Chris Grier are already studying the roster and looking at the future.

Several players are set to make a lot of money in 2017 and their production on the field doesn’t warrant the larger contracts. The NFL salary cap is expected to increase to around $166 million in 2017 which should give the Dolphins plenty of money to spend this off-season.

Jarvis Landry and Reshad Jones

Both Landry and Jones are not free agents but both players are in need of new contracts. Last off-season Jones stayed away for a short time in protest of not getting a new deal so the Dolphins may want to look at locking him up this off-season long-term. Both players are entering the final seasons of their current respective contracts in 2017 so Miami is going to need to pony up the dough to keep them in South Florida ahead of the 2018 off-season.

Both players should be top priorities this off-season.

Mario Williams

Williams was brought in to add depth and help ease the loss of Olivier Vernon on the outside. He has not come close to reaching the Dolphins expectations. At a whopping $10.5 million in salary cap space for 2017 there is no reason Williams should be brought back. Especially since the Dolphins will save $8.5 million for cutting him.

Branden Albert

The real question is whether or not the Dolphins are ready to move Laremy Tunsil outside to replace Albert. Albert is scheduled to make $10.6 million at left tackle next season with $7.2 million in savings if he is released. He might be a candidate for a restructure conversation.

Mike Pouncey

The Dolphins need to find a healthier option at center as Pouncey is breaking down as each season passes. He is due to make $8.9 million next year and the Dolphins would get only $4 million in cap relief by letting him go. It would make more sense to find another center and move Pouncey back to guard as well as potentially restructuring his contract.

Koa Misi

Misi is on IR with a neck injury and his long-term health is a serious concern. Misi would make $4.7 million next season but the Dolphins would save $4.2 million if they released him. It would be surprising if Miami kept him on the roster.

Dion Jordan

With a savings of $3.2 million and no dead cap Jordan has no business being on the Dolphins roster in 2017 unless the Dolphins believe that $3.2 million is a bargain for a guy who hasn’t played in 2 years.

Isa Abdul-Quddus

IAQ is scheduled to count $5 million and change in 2017 and carries a $3.4 million cap savings if released. IAQ hasn’t played bad and the price might be better for the Dolphins than what they could find outside of the organization. Couple him with a returning Reshad Jones and his production might improve.

Byron Maxwell

Maxwell’s season has been up and down but mostly down. He was benched earlier in the season and returned to the starting role after Xavien Howard was injured. Maxwell’s contract was high when the Dolphins traded for him and 2017. Maxwell is scheduled to count $8.7 million against the cap and the Dolphins would get $5.5 million back while losing $3 in dead space. Miami has to decide if Maxwell is worth keeping. While it has taken awhile for him to get adjusted to the Dolphins defense, he has made some positive strides.

Earl Mitchell

Mitchell’s name has appeared on this list each of the last two seasons and it will again. Mitchell will count $4.5 million on the cap and only $500K if against it if released. Miami has to decide if Jordan Phillips is ready for a more prominent role on the defensive line. In Mitchell’s absence this year, Phillips has played well.

Kiko Alonso

Alonso has done far more than expected since the trade brought him to Miami. Alonso, part Cuban has become a favorite in the South Florida mixed cultural environment but it’s his play on the field that has been impressing. Alonso deserves a look to return as he is not under contract for 2017 but Miami needs to decide if he is the final answer at the position or if he will need to compete. For now, it’s a good bet that Miami tries to bring him back without overpaying.

Positions of need

The Dolphins have a lot of holes that still need filling. Specifically the offensive line still needs addressing and guard will be a priority again this off-season. Linebacker and Corner also need new starters, linebacker needs two new starters especially on the outside. The Dolphins also need to address tight-end where Cameron Jordan will not return as well as defensive end where Miami needs to start searching for the eventual replacement for Cameron Wake.

The Good News

Miami is a young football team with a solid nucleus to build on. They also appear to have a good coaching system where the players are responding. Miami needs to make solid decisions in the off-season to continue filling the team with talent and should be careful not to overspend in free agency.