When the league's new year starts to approach, Miami Dolphins General Manager Chris Grier will be working in overdrive to get his team at a working cap number.
No, the NFL salary cap isn't a 100% real thing. It can be manipulated and twisted. Money can be shifted around and in the end, teams with no cap space can make a lot of moves that no one thought was possible.
For Grier, his priorities have to be making the cap manageable so he can twist it. He has to make a decision on Christian Wilkins, Tua Tagovailoa, Andrew Van Ginkel, Connor Williams, Robert Hunt, and Raekwon Davis to name a handful. It won't be easy.
The most expensive player this year will be Wilkins without question. He will land a deal in the $80 million range. Maybe more. If Grier wants him back, there are moves that he can make ahead of the deadline in March. He may want to start doing that now before the market gets set in two months.
According to Overthecap.com, the Dolphins will be nearly $50 million over the cap limit.
The easy money cuts.
- Emmanuel Ogbah - $13.7 million
Ogbah is likely the first player released. His contract is horrible vs. his play. Miami will eat $4 million in cap space but that is a small amount given what they will keep.
- Keion Crossen - $2.9 million
After missing the entire 2023 season, there is no reason to keep Crossen on the roster. He doesn't make that big of an impact.
- Mike White - $3.5 million
White is a capable backup but so is Skylar Thompson and there really hasn't been much difference between the two. Miami will only go as far as Tua Tagovailoa will take them so why pay an extra few million for a backup?
- Duke Riley - $2.5 million
Riley played a big role but he couldn't elevate when the Dolphins needed him the most.
- Jeff Wilson, Jr. - $2.8 million
With the emergence of De'Von Achane, Wilson becomes expendable.
- Lester Cotton - $1.1 milliion
Cotton carries no dead money if released.
The deeper cuts.
- Xavien Howard - $18.5 million
The only way Miami can get any value from releasing Howard is to designate him a post-June 1st release. That doesn't help the Dolphins in March.
- Jerome Baker - $9.8 million
Baker's play this year was outstanding and the argument should be made to keep him. The Dolphins may or may not feel the same way. Releasing Baker will save nearly $10 million but the Dolphins will take a $4 million hit. Baker will count $14.6 against the cap in 2024.
Terron Armstead - The Dolphins will not make any money on Armstead unless he opts to retire and give some of his signing bonus back. The Dolphins would be on the hook for $24 million if they release him before June 1st and would eat $11 million vs. an $8.8 million savings if designated post-June 1st.
Restructures would be the way to go per OvertheCap.com.
- Tyreek Hill - Miami could save nearly $12 million
- Bradley Chubb - $14 million
- T. Armstead - $8 million
- Jerome Baker - $6.4 million
- Jalen Ramsey - $18.2 million
Restructuring is great but it pushes money to another year and that in and of itself creates more cap issues down the road. It does become easier to hide as the yearly cap ceiling gets higher.
The Dolphins will have to pay Tua $24.5 million this season under the 5th year option. If they sign him to a contract extension as many expect, Tua's cap hit could drop by as much as $14 million.
Miami could make all these moves and still not have enough to sign all of their free agents and re-sign Christian Wilkins. The poor contract decisions that Chris Grier has made over the years have become a problem and now he will have to pay for it with an off-season that will once again feature many 1-year contracts and the loss of top contributing players.