Going into the offseason, which for Miami officially starts just after the final whistle in New England on Sunday, the Dolphins expect to have money under the cap upwards of 40 million dollars.
While, much of the past 4 years has been spent signing and re-signing players for enormous contracts, the Dolphins as a franchise can turn a new leaf and hit the reset button on the team and re-make the Dolphins based on what Joe Philbin needs to make the Dolphins a contender again. However, with 40 million plus to spend, the decisions for Jeff Ireland won’t be easy and it will rest on shoring up the defensive backfield, more offensive weaponry for Ryan Tannehill, and then looking for the two or three guys that should be re-signed from the current roster.
Last week, I had an opportunity to speak with salary cap guru and writer: Jason of NY Jets Cap. Even though, he roots for the Jets, his judgment and insight is not clouded by bias.
Here are some of the questions I asked him:
What exactly is the Miami Dolphins cap situation after absorbing the new contract of Dimitri Patterson?
Patterson cost the Dolphins about $347,000 this year so it didn’t really impact that cap much. His salary next year is $4.5 million and he also will earn a $100,000 workout bonus. As far as I know none of that is guaranteed so they could walk away if they wanted to. This year they should be in the ballpark of $6 million in cap room which they will carry over to next season.
Do the Dolphins have enough room to add a receiver such as Bowe, Jennings, or Mike Wallace and re-sign Reggie Bush?
Realistically the Dolphins should go into next season (assuming that no extension is made for Jake Long and they allow the deal to void out) with between 45 and 47 million in cap room if they carry over their remaining cap space from 2012. When you have cap room like that you can sign anybody you want, whether its Bowe, Wallace, etc.... They will have 41 players under contract and will earmark $5 million for 5-7 rookies so its major money for free agency when you consider roster size. (This data is based on last week’s conversation so the number is actually closer to 41 million.)
Going into the preseason, how much cap space do the Dolphins truly have?
There are also cap savings to be found if needed in Dansby, Marshall, and Soliai if they want. Dansby I think they should just cut bait with and maybe Soliai as well. But they have so much room it doesnt matter one way or the other. Im not really up enough on the Dolphin roster about some of these guys. Dansby I know is way overpaid. Soliai would be an extension candidate if you see him as a good player, but for the most part you don't need to do any extensions to create cap room. Its already built into the roster.
Finally, Jason offered his own take on Jeff Ireland and Dolphins owner Stephen Ross:
I think the biggest thing that will stand in the way of being a big spender is your GM and owner. If you go through the future caps of the Dolphins they have zero long term vision right now. Other than rookies Wake is the only guy that extends out and even that contract is a lot of funny money. They are so reluctant to get into long term deals that I don’t know if it’s because the owner is not sure that he wants to continue to own the team or because they do not want Ireland to screw up the cap and roster for a new GM. I upset alot of Dolphin fans when going over the team in the offseason where I said Ireland is one of the worst GMs in the NFL,
but he’s bad. The wasted money that the team had the past few years is bad.
If it’s the owner afraid of committing long term then Miami needs to take the Tampa Bay Buccaneer philosophy with no prorated money and high guaranteed base salary. For example Vincent Jackson got a 5 year 55.555 million dollar deal. Realistically it’s a deal worth a fully guaranteed 26 million over 2 years. Because he received no signing bonus they walk away free and clear after those 2 seasons if they want to. Bowe is going to want the same money and if they were to sign him they should just go that same route.
With the cap room that the team has they could sign 3 impact free agents and get some spare pieces to improve elsewhere without really impacting your cap beyond 2014. You want Bowe, DaShon Goldson, and Brent Grimes you could go and do it. If you want to go the Jets route and use the bonus money combined with the guaranteed money you could bring in (or re-sign) 5-7 high quality players that will be your core along with Tannehill for the next 4 years. There is really no limit besides their internal budgets and philosophies.
The insight I received from this conversation was incredibly valuable. However, breaking down what the Dolphins have to look at from a quantitative perspective, it will not be easy. Next week, Phins Phocus will have a breakdown of current free agents and what their value could be to this team based on productivity from the 2012 season.
It is rumored that some re-signings could be taking place in a matter of days for the Dolphins. Just knowing who exactly agrees to terms with the Dolphins is the big question (Hat tip Ben Volin-Palm Beach Post).
This much is true, the Dolphins have plenty of decisions to make. It won’t be easy. One thing is for sure, the Dolphins can make or break their 2013 season outcome with the decisions they make this offseason. Hopefully this is the most positive and prosperous offseason in Dolphins history!