2018 Rebound: Cap Space Won’t Be An Issue, Trimming It Wisely Will Be
Fins scored in 2017 with low-key buys… not so much with big purchases
Yes, the 2017 Season ended on a gutter-low note of undisciplined play with 14 penalties for 145 yards and both Kenyan Drake and Jarvis Landry getting ejected. But this debacle has no direct effect on the 2018 Season…
…If the leadership of the Miami Dolphins takes the right steps.
While Miami’s future is uncertain, it isn’t certain that it will end up a bleak one as most of the fixes needed isn’t rocket science. But given this regime’s history, even basic things can get can complicated.
We fans with zero control over the course of events, we only have blurry sign posts along the way to help us guess which way each season is heading.
The first sign post will be ‘what does the Dolphins brass do with several players on the books’.
It doesn’t take pay per head bookie software to know that NFL team building is as much about talent as it is about money.
Miami is currently set to have around $17 million in available cap space–and that’s without cutting loose some dead weight.
The Dolphins can easily get to around $40 million in available cap space without much maneuvering or by sacrificing their future financial health. Although they could get to as much as $60 million if they want to kick the financial can down the road.
Cap responsibility means you can resign your good players
A good sign to the future are three obvious casualties:
Julius Thomas and Lawrence Timmons were veteran free agent signings that were supposed to really make the Tight End and Linebacker group much more productive this season. Neither met expectations as both under performed. Thomas has zero guaranteed money and his cut will save them $6.6 Million; and thanks to Timmons disappearing act, Miami is only on the hook for $2.75 Million and will save $5.5 million with his release.
Combined, Miami can save over $12 Million by cutting them both… and they’d better cut them.
Add in the rescinding of Ja’Wuan James 5th Year Option with a savings of $9.3 Million and you are over $39 million in cap space. Forget about restructuring his contract. Miami needs consistency and James ain’t it.
Now, Ted Larsen has just under $2 million dollar figure with a saving of $1.1 million, but he shouldn’t be cut till after the draft. Maybe Jesse Davis will play Right Guard, or maybe he’ll play Right Tackle. Larsen’s fate will be based heavily on this decision. At least he could be depth at RG (hell no at LG) or start in a pinch, depending on how the draft pans out, Isaac Asiata develops, and where Davis plays. It’s not a make or break move, so the Fins should be patient.
Time for the Dolphins to put some serious competition in this roster
The other ways Miami can save money is by restructuring or cutting the contracts of Ndamukong Suh, Ryan Tannehill, Mike Pouncey, and Cameron Wake.
First, leave Wake’s contract alone. He’s a leader who produces, is disciplined, and is everything you want the rest of your players to be. Even if he’s just a situational pass rusher, he’s well worth it. You need one guy to be the example… and Cameron Wake is it. Period.
Second, Pouncey could be cut out-right for a savings of $7 million or restructured. Pouncey is a curious issue and not really cut and dry as to what to do with him.
Can he make it another season playing a full 16 games? Can you find an equal replacement? Can you fill the talent and leadership at three spots on the OL in one Offseason? Can you get him to restructure?
To me, Left Guard is the most crucial spot that needs to be filled on the OL, because Miami has neither a quality starter or reserve on the current roster. And please forget about Asiata at the spot. His feet are his weakness and LG needs great feet. Asiata is a RG or bust.
So if they move on from both Pouncey and James, then they need to fill Left Guard, Center, and Right Tackle. You could move Davis to RT and fill the easiest spot of RG with Larsen or Asiata (hopefully), then use another pick for Center. But with Brendel and Steen Free Agents, you’d have to resign one of them, or an other cheap FA who’s an unknown quantity, as the reserve and as competition for the rookie. Neither brings any certainty if the rookie gets injured or fails to perform.
Gase needs everyone to know they aren’t guaranteed a spot in 2018
Pouncey is another guy where patience is in order. I’d go through Free Agency and the draft to see what you can find and make the decision in May. Again, Miami shouldn’t be big spenders in Free Agency. They have a far better track record for hidden gems compared to their high priced aquisition from other squads.
When players get paid many lose the fear of job security. Miami needs to instill a large heap of fear for getting canned or replaced in this 2018 team… And a bunch of hungry guys fighting to make the roster and reach their payday is just what the doctor ordered.
Then there’s Suh, who currently is going to count as $26.1 million against the 2018 cap.
Miami can save $12 million just by converting that amount into a signing bonus instead, which will come with a higher cap number in the future. But this type of maneuvering needs to stop. Let it ride for 2018 and when Suh can get cut in 2019 and save the Fins $15 million, then there’s leverage to lower his annual price. Right now Miami can cut him and save a messily $4 million, while he’ll count $22 million against the cap. So there is zero incentive for him to help the Fins. Just leave it alone and be fiscally sound.
When you have money to burn you can cut anyone
Tannehill is the last meaningful cut Miami could make to save $15 million. But then Miami would have to fill a gaping hole in the most crucial spot on the roster. Even if they pick up a high-end rookie QB, they need to win in 2018 and riding it all on a rookie wouldn’t be wise.
In 2019, Tannehill’s release would only cost under $3 million against the cap and save them $18 million. Since rookies are cheap, and you can never have too many good QB’s, Miami should keep Tannehill and see what becomes of him in competition with a good rook. Matt Moore is a FA and likely won’t be back given due to price, Gase’s lack of trust in him, and the fact he played Fales in last week’s game.
Fales, Doughty, and Tannehill isn’t what this doctor orders.
Now Tannehill, Doughty, Fales, and a rookie is more like it. Tannehill will need reps as he is rusty, but Fales and Doughty should fall quickly behind a quality rookie. Then it will be Tannehill v.s. the rookie, with the Dolphins having 3 QB’s on the season roster.
A strong cap means a coach can cut anyone and hire anyone. And when players fear having to move and go to a new situation, they play with an edge. Miami needs to instill the ‘job security edge’ to this team. They were far too comfortable in 2017… and that includes the coaching staff. But it takes a wise and strong regime to run a tight ship… and that type of program begins and ends with discipline. Will Miami be disciplined in their finances? Who they cut will be a good indication. Go Fins!!!
*All figures are from Over The Cap