Miami Dolphins have a busy week ahead as free agency nears
By Brian Miller
The Miami Dolphins have one week before legal tampering begins in free agency for the 2023 league new year. They have a lot of work to do.
This upcoming week is going to be a busy one for the Miami Dolphins. To date, they haven’t done too much. Naturally, you have to believe they have spent a lot of time behind the scenes talking with agents, and other teams, and hopefully ironing out the final game plan for next week’s busiest week of the NFL season.
Miami will be $16 million over the cap that all teams must be at by 4:00 on March 15th. Currently, the Dolphins have 43 players under contract for the upcoming season and a couple of those may not make it to the start of free agency.
With 28 impending free agents, a red salary cap status, and no moves having been made since the season ended, Chris Grier and the Dolphins have a lot of work to do.
Miami will need to first begin the process of reducing their cap and spending room. This week, Dolphins fans should see plenty of action.
Reduce contracts and create cap space
First, the Miami Dolphins need to find a way to create more cap room and thus create more spending money. There are a few options.
- Release players such as Byron Jones.
- Restructure contracts of players who have a year or two left on their current deals.
- Extend some 2024 impending free agents and reduce their cap hits this year.
The easiest way to create space is to restructure or re-sign players. For example, the Dolphins could reduce the Christian Wilkins $10 million cap hit by giving him an extension.
It may sound easy to just release players but those players will need to be replaced and in many cases, the Dolphins won’t create a lot of workable cap room without incurring a large amount of dead money. Jerome Baker could save $4 million and change by releasing him but they would eat over $8 million in dead money.
Miami could also create around $13 million by releasing Byron Jones but the issue is that would only be if they made him a Post-June 1st release. In that case, Miami would not see the savings until June 1st.
Sign impending free agents
Next, the Dolphins need to identify the players that are impending free agents as players they want back in 2023. Those may include guys like Nik Needham who are coming off an injury or a guy like Andrew Van Ginkel who will see some action in free agency.
The Dolphins will need to weigh each players level of contribution to the team vs. the salary that they want for one or two more years. For a player like Van Ginkel, a one-year deal won’t get it done but many of the players who were on one-year deals last year might come back again for league minimum deals or slightly above.
Miami can’t afford to enter the free agency start with only 43 rostered players under contract.
Identify the free agents they will pursue
How involved or aggressive the Dolphins will be in free agency will depend on what they do with the first two items on this list, those have to be done this week, especially the first one (getting the cap under control). If Miami can’t do that, they won’t be active in free agency because they can’t afford to be.
While the salary cap is not exactly, “real”, it is real enough that teams have to be creative to make it work. This week, Miami has to find a way to make it work. If they don’t, next week will be awful quiet.