Miami Dolphins: An Offseason Salary Cap Review
I said going into this offseason that the Dolphins seemed like a team without direction and I’m not sure anything they did this summer changed that perception. They did extend the contract of pass rusher Cameron Wake, but it’s a contact that is easy to escape in two years. The makeup of the team is such that there is no roster in place beyond 2014. The most bizarre move of all has been the failure to re-sign T Jake Long. Long had a bad 2011 season, but was a stud prior to that. His cap figure alone is nearly 12% of the active roster and all offseason the Dolphins flirted with little cap room. I can’t really come up with a logical reason to not extend him which would create cap room now and probably cost the Dolphins less in the long run than letting him play out the deal and then signing him to a new contract, unless, of course, they plan on moving on from him next year when his contract voids. Statistically there is a reasonable foundation for splitting salaries between right and left tackle and maybe Miami does not want to overspend on a left tackle, but that has to be a tough pill to swallow for the team.
Their big moves of the summer came via trade, moving CB Vontae Davis and OL Ryan Cook to build their draft for next season. They are holding onto two high priced backup QB’s as I write this which I have to believe is only the case because they are hoping to trade one of them for another late pick. Their big cap move late in the season was releasing Lydon Murtha and his $1.927 million dollar salary. Watching Hard Knocks I feel more in tune with Miami than before. You have to feel for their head coach, Joe Philbin, who seems to have been dealt a poor hand to work with. He inherited a team that was a mess and still has a ways to go to clear themselves of the Parcells/Sparano/Ireland era. The team is carrying $14 million in dead money and they signed what seemed like a never ending list of undrafted free agents to fill out the roster due to cap constraints, many of which could have been seemingly avoided. Phibin comes across like a genuinely nice coach and smart football mind watching the show, but there is just nothing to work with. I think he was genuinely torn on the QB situation and I don’t know if Ryan Tannehill was his choice to start or not. He clearly did not see Matt Moore as his starter but wisely realized he meant a lot to the locker room. Tannehill may have been an organizational decision to move tickets or it may be Philbin simply seeing that his window of opportunity is small with Miami and he needs to make the most of it with Tannehill rather than a mediocre veteran QB. The fact that he seemed to bring nobody from Green Bay with him makes me think he has no real power at all in the organization as I can’t think of any coach that didn’t bring over some players or staff when they got a head coaching gig.
Structurally this is close to the Jets in the clear attention being given to certain positions while less given to others. In some ways the numbers are a little misleading because Long and LB Karlos Dansby have huge cap hits. Dansby was just a mistake that the team cant get out of yet. Even next season he will carry a cap hit of $4.65 million just to cut. He has Bart Scott of the Jets to thank for his salary, but he never came close to matching Scott’s production and Scott has been overpaid for the Jets as well, but the Jets did a better job with his deal than Miami did with Dansby’s contract. The QB spend will decrease once they trade one of the two backups while I’m surprised Reggie Bush is still on the team taking up so much cap room at running back. Part of me thinks that is because he is a known name and Miami needs those players on the team. 44.6% of the allocated money goes towards offense, which is surprising for a team that has pretty poor offensive talent on paper. Defense accounts for 38.7%. With Dansby and Long clogging up so much room you have to imagine how much better the team would be with better cap hits for those two players. 20% of your cap spending tied up in two players does not seem like a recipe for success. That being said if the QB turns out to be the goods it wont make a difference that there is almost no spending anywhere else on the team.
To me they are a team in desperate need for a new cap manager, unless they are tied up by ownership, in which case they have no choice. Even going back to last season they inexplicably franchised DT Paul Soliai, who is a nice player with some upside, and allowed him to play on the tag before turning around and signing him to a 2 year contract that was essentially what they paid him for one the year before. That is just hideous cap management and planning on Miami’s part. Had they taken care of business last year they would have had more cap dollars to go around and probably spent less cash. Long looks to be the same situation. Dansby is a mess. You had the situation with Joey Porter where he was cut and he had to be taken back because they failed to understand the CBA. Last year they voided Vernon Carey’s deal, seemingly as an attempt to use up the dead charges in 2011, except they failed to realize the transitional rules didn’t allow a team to use that void clause to accelerate money into the 2011 books. While the net effect of those latter two was nothing, it just shows a poor fundamental understanding of things that other team don’t seem to miss. Miami is going to have loads of cap space in 2013 (somewhere in the vicinity of $40 million) as they have completely purged the roster and have no long term commitments on the books. They need a strong front office in place for what looks to be a crucial season in their franchises history.