The Miami Dolphins salary cap situation is not good but it’s not bad either. The team can easily clear space if they need it. Will they need it?
Free agency spending is all but over. The tier one players are off the market and while a few stragglers are still out there most of what is left are phase three players. The Dolphins still have holes to fill as well. Defensive tackle, linebacker, cornerback, guard, and defensive end. As of today they don’t have enough cap room to fill those holes.
Miami is reported to have between $13.7 million to $17 million depending on which site you visit or what local paper you read. The team will need nearly $6 million to sign their draft picks in late April. That leaves about $7 to $11 million to spend.
Thus far the Dolphins have been frugal in their out of house spending and it’s not likely going to change. Miami is looking for pieces that will play for around $1-2 million on a one year deal. At best. Given those figures the Dolphins could add several players.
If the team does indeed need cap space there are ways to get it. First the obvious way to clear over $7 million in cap space with only a $585,000 dead money hit.
Releasing Dion Jordan: The now 27 year old defensive end has missed the last two seasons due to injury and suspension. He carries a $3.25 million cap hit this year and all of it is added to the cap if he is released.
There are those who will argue to keep Jordan through training camp and see if he can be coached up but honestly Jordan doesn’t deserve anything close to $3 million. In fact if Miami wants to see what he has they should cut him and re-sign him to a league minimum deal that is incentive laden with very little guarantees. Such as being on the roster in week 17.
Miami needs to get tough with Jordan and letting him sit around isn’t worth the money they are paying him. Take the $3 million and add another DE/DT or give it to Jarvis Landry as part of a new deal.
Releasing Koa Misi: Misi has been good but never great as a linebacker. He has the right attitude and is a positive locker room influence but Misi is suffering from a career threatening if not life altering neck injury. The team has downplayed the severity of the injury in recent months as has Misi’s camp but there are real concerns here.
Releasing Misi would save the Dolphins $4.2 million in cap space with only a $578,000 dead money hit. That’s enough to buy another linebacker or add to Jarvis Landry’s extension.
Seriously though Misi has become a liability over the last couple of seasons due to injury and it’s time the Dolphins moved on for the betterment of the team and for Misi’s future health.
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The not so obvious.
Ryan Tannehill restructure: Ryan Tannehill and Ndamukong Suh will count almost $50 million combined against this years cap. Tannehill himself will count $20,300,000 million against the cap. That drops to $19 million in 2018, then up to $21 in 2019 and back to $19 in 2020. The Dolphins would carry a $4 million cap hit in 2018 if they released him after the 2017 season. That number continues to go down through the life of the contract.
A restructure of the contract could turn some of the guarantees into signing bonus money that would extend throughout the life of the deal. Tannehill is the Dolphins starting quarterback so long as he can stay healthy so there is no reason to believe that he will not be in Miami on a new deal by 2020. So if the Dolphins need cap space, Tannehill could reduce his salary over the next two years. But like everything whatever isn’t paid now will come due later.
For the record, Ndamukong Suh is nearly untouchable as any restructure would further elevate his cap number in the latter years. Suh’s cap hit will balloon to $26 million next season along with a $22 million hit if released or traded. In 2019 that number jumps to $28 million with $13 in dead money if released. Even in 2020 Suh’s $22 million cap number carries $4 million in dead space.
Restructure Mike Pouncey: The Dolphins need to admit to themselves that Mike Pouncey will need to be replaced sooner rather than later. Pouncey has $8.9 million in cap dollars this year and releasing him saves the Dolphins less than the dead space.
The dead space number decreases to $2 million in 2018 with a cap savings of $7 million if released. This is where the Dolphins need to spend some time thinking of Pouncey’s future. Restructuring now could spread the guarantees out over the next three or four years and lower this years cap hit. By converting more into guarantees the Dolphins could lower the cap hit the next couple of years while Pouncey gets more money.
Trading Matt Moore: This is not to advocate that the Dolphins should trade Moore but if they did they would flip the dead money and cap savings. Moore counts $2.1 million towards the cap which is nothing for a quality back-up but if the Dolphins did receive and offer for Moore and accepted it, they would save $1.7 million and carry only $375,000 in dead space.
Trading Byron Maxwell: Releasing Maxwell would save the Dolphins $5.5 million and carry a $3 million dead money amount. Trading Maxwell would recoup the entire $8.5 million of cap space with no dead money.
Maxwell isn’t going to get the Dolphins a day two draft pick but if Miami covets another corner or has intentions to trade for one, then trading Maxwell would be Miami’s best way to gain back the money he is due.