For all of the personnel moves they’ve grown to regret, the Dolphins could easily clear out $76 million in cap space this offseason if they choose to significantly reshape their roster, with an ability to create even more than that.
That would give them the fifth-most cap space next spring, behind the Colts, Jets, Browns and Bills. At the moment, Miami has only $16 million in space, which is eighth least, according to overthecap.com’s Jason Fitzgerald.
How would they do it? Here’s the hypothetical but very do-able scenario:
▪ With Fitzgerald projecting a $190 million NFL cap for next season, the Dolphins currently have $16 million in space based on their $174 million in current cap commitments for next season, including $13 million in dead money for Ndamukong Suh.
▪ If they move on from Ryan Tannehill and cut him with a post-June 1 designation, the Dolphins would save $18.75 million against the cap, giving them $34.8 million in this scenario. (Tannehill would have a $26.6 million cap hit next season if he remains with the team under his current contract terms, which is becoming more difficult to envision.)
▪ If the Dolphins release disappointing Robert Quinn — which appears likely — they would slash another $12.9 million off their cap. So under this scenario, that would put them $47.7 million under the cap.
▪ If they cut DeVante Parker, that would slash another $9.4 million off the cap, giving them $57.1 million in space this offseason. Parker’s release is considered likely.
▪ If they cut disappointing defensive end Andre Branch, they would have $2 million in dead money but slash $7 million off their cap, giving them $64.1 million in space in this scenario. It’s difficult to envision Branch returning with that contract.
▪ If they move on from guard Ted Larsen, that saves $1.9 million in space, giving them $66 million.
▪ At the moment, the Dolphins have $6.6 million in carryover space, which would bring them to more than $72 million in space.
▪ If they decided to try to upgrade at defensive tackle over Akeem Spence, they could slash $2.5 million off their cap by cutting him, with no dead money. That would bring the total to $74.5 million in this scenario.
▪ If they wanted to move on from T.J. McDonald and make Minkah Fitzpatrick a starting safety, that would save only $1.4 million in cap space with $4.6 million in dead money, and that McDonald release would need to be done with a post-June 1 designation. So that brings Miami to nearly $76 million in cap space in this scenario.
▪ And while this is unlikely, Miami could save another $6 million in cap space, with no dead money, if they moved on from Danny Amendola, which would give them $82 million in space in this hypothetical. But that’s the most unlikely of all these moves.
A large chunk of that more than $75 million or so would need to be used on a quarterback, perhaps Teddy Bridgewater (or a cheaper deal with Tannehill if he’s willing) and a backup, perhaps unrestricted free agent Brock Osweiler. They also would need a large chunk of money to sign at least three defensive ends, with Cam Wake and William Hayes entering free agency, and Quinn and Branch released under this scenario.
Among other allocations, they also would need to draft or sign a starting cornerback, re-sign Frank Gore or another running back, re-sign Ja’Wuan James or find another starting right tackle and re-sign restricted Nick O’Leary or find a veteran tight end elsewhere to supplement their two rookies at the position.
Miami would also need to set aside $7 million to $10 million to sign its rookie class and a practice squad. And in my hypothetical scenario (with Amendola staying but the other players being cut), Miami would have only 27 players under contract, meaning they would need to fill out half their roster. They also would need modest allocations to keep restricted free agents Jake Brendel and Sinorise Perry, if they choose, as well as O’Leary.
And keep in mind that under my scenario, the Tannehill and McDonald cap space couldn’t be used until June, but that shouldn’t be a problem. Miami can just wait until June to sign its draft class, as it did this year.
So most of the $75 million would go pretty quickly. But at least the Dolphins, in this scenario, would have a lot of flexibility.
Incidentally, cutting Reshad Jones would come with serious cap consequences. Miami would save only $2 million against the 2019 cap and have $15.2 million in dead money in the scenario that would be friendliest to its 2019 cap. So that isn’t an appealing option. No wonder Miami was forgiving of him pulling himself out of the Jets game.