Dolphins dumping Ndamukong Suh picks up steam but it shouldn’t
By Brian Miller
The Miami Dolphins are rumored to be looking at dumping defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh on March 14 for cap reasons. They shouldn’t be considering this move.
Are the Miami Dolphins in a bad cap situation? Yes. There is no denying or hiding it. Come next Wednesday the Dolphins need to be below the $177 million cap and right now they are about $9 million over it depending on who you ask or read.
What it boils down is that the Dolphins need to not only get below the NFL cap but they need to have operating money as well. They need to have enough to fit their draft class under the cap and they will need to have money that they can replace injured players when it happens.
Naturally the higher the cap number for a player the more likely they are to be mentioned as a cap casualty. This line of thinking includes Ndamukong Suh. And Ryan Tannehill. And Mike Pouncey. And…you can fill in the names.
Suh will count $26 million of cap space this year and if the Dolphins release him and designate him a post-June 1 cut they will save $17 million and eat $13 million. That 17 can’t be used until after June 1 but it would get Miami under the leagues cap.
Unless the Dolphins are planning to start over and just gut the team, this is not a smart move. Not even a little bit.
Miami lacks leadership on this team and Suh is not a vocal leader. Not on the field and not in the locker room. He is a lead-by-example type player. So is Reshad Jones, Cameron Wake, and every single other player on the Dolphins roster. Both sides of the ball. But Suh is dominant and you pay for dominance.
Looking at Suh’s stats the last few years and you would shrug and say, “no big deal” but what Suh brings is something more. He takes up two offensive lineman and sometimes a running back. He is tough as nails and has missed no time on the field. He elevates others around him with his do as I do not as I say mentoring.
In another three years Suh will not be with Miami and the argument, one I have made as well, is that Miami won’t likely win in the next three seasons so why does keeping Suh make any sense when you can free up cap space and maybe get a draft pick in return if you can trade him?
The fact is that for every point of contention on that argument you can make one for the other side of that debate.
One of the biggest issues Miami has faced is stopping the run and they simply are not good at it. They were not good at with Suh and they won’t be good at it without Suh. Suh’s problem isn’t that he can’t stop the run it’s that his supporting cast can not stop the run.
Linebackers a big key to the Dolphins defense and to put it in the simplest of terms if Suh is taking up two or maybe even three blockers then why are the linebackers not filling that hole? Why are they not making plays at the point of attack instead of downfield? Why are the safeties making more plays than the linebackers?
There is no easy answer but Suh does his job the linebackers do not. Suh takes up blocks but Cameron Wake struggles with setting the edge as a run stopping defensive end. Suh however is the natural go to topic because of that looming $26 million. It will be $28 million next year.
The thing is next year Miami will not be in cap hell unless they screw up this off-season and spend a lot of their future money. Another looming mistake for Mike Tannenbaum and company. Miami spends money up to and sometime over the cap when they can. Stephen Ross has no problems with that. Money is not the issue for Miami and the contracts are not either.
The problem is this. Miami spends money on players that don’t make a lot of plays. Suh makes a lot of plays. Andre Branch is a big contract and doesn’t support it on the field. Kiko Alonso is a big contract who doesn’t support it on the field. Julius Thomas, Lawerence Timmons, T.J. McDonald, you get the idea.
Suh may very well be gone this time next week but more than likely the rumors that are swirling are just that. Rumors. Rumors based on his cap figure and nothing more.
Consider that Miami will save $6 million by releasing Thomas. Another $7 million by releasing Timmons. They can add to that amount by releasing Mike Pouncey, a savings over $8 million and they could gain another $9 million by releasing Ja’Wuan James and still another $8 million by letting Cam Wake go.
Unfortunately the Dolphins can’t do much more than that unless they get that $16 million back by trading Jarvis Landry. That is all they have on the table that brings money back into their cap. That is $50 million in cap space without touching Suh’s contract.
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More likely Miami restructures some of those deals and Suh could restructure as well. These are all tough decisions for the Dolphins and any player that is released or traded needs to be replaced and that too takes money and the replacement may be no better.
Miami has created this problem not with a contract like Suh’s or Ryan Tannehill’s but instead contracts like Thomas’ and Timmons’ and Branch and Alonso and Reshad Jones and the list continues. If Miami releases Suh it’s because they screwed up elsewhere at can’t hide it.
Suh has value to the Dolphins even in a semi or full rebuild. With youth around him and better production from the linebackers the Suh production will look better. Miami has to gauge whether or not Suh is part of the solution or simply a luxury that they can no longer afford to manage.
If the Dolphins let Suh go they may as well let most of them go, take a big hit this year, replace them all with players on one year deals, and enter the 2019 off-season with close to $100 million to spend. Not that there is a lot of faith that it can be spent right. At least not at this moment.
This off-season is critical for Mike Tannenbaum and company and they need to get it right. Not for this year but for the next four or five years. How they approach this coming free agency period is going to say a lot about the direction they are taking. There is no middle ground. They either play to win it now or they build for the future. There is room in both for Ndamukong Suh.