- Fins hire new GM Miami Dolphins announce Dennis Hickey as their new GM
- GM Jeff Ireland Resigns Dolphins announce that GM Jeff Ireland mutually agrees to part with Miami
- OC Mike Sherman fired The Dolphins terminated OC Mike Sherman
- No playoffs - 5 years and counting The Jets ended Miami's playoff hopes by beating them 20-7
Miami Dolphins 2012 Free Agency Primer
The media and fans have started speculating about Miami making a major splash in free agency by signing a “franchise QB” like Peyton Manning or Matt Flynn.
To do that though the team will need cap space. According to the salary cap figures I can find Miami presently has $108 mil committed to the 2012 salary cap with the players currently under contract. Early projections put the 2012 salary cap near the $120 mil allotted to teams in 2011 – meaning Miami already has some, but not a whole lot, of wiggle room (especially when you factor in Miami must also have space for the incoming rookies).
Free Agency Primer Part 1: re-signing the Dolphin’s free agents
Before looking at bringing in a QB, Miami must first look at re-signing its own free agents. Unfortunately most of Miami’s key free agents are on the defensive side of the ball, so departures here could adversely affect Miami’s good but not great defense.
Miami’sbiggest free agent (figuratively and literally) is NT Paul Soliai. If Miami intends to keep the 3-4 defensethey need a solid, offensive line clogging nose tackle. Miami can’t afford to franchise Soliai again – doing so would cost them 120% of his 2011 franchise tag of $12.5 mil, meaning he’d count $15 mil against the $120 mil cap. Either a long term deal is needed or Miami is looking at plugging in a journeyman free agent, drafting a rookie, or spend big on another free agent NT. As important as the QB issue, having a starting caliber NT is just as important to the defense… assuming we keep the 3-4. Saints NT Aubrayo Franklin or Jets NT Sione Pouha are the best alternative free agents.
DE Kendall Langford and DE Phillip Merling are both unrestricted and hit the market at the same time. Merling is a disappointment, while Langford is a solid player I’d prefer not to lose. I’m not sure what Langford will fetch on the open market, but replacing him would be expensive or would rob our critical depth on the DL regardless of whether we play a 3-4 or 4-3 defense.
Will Allen and Tyrone Culver are both free agents. Upgrades are possible and desired.
On offense the unrestricted free agents include G Vernon Carey, QB Chad Henne, and “emergency” QB J.P. Losman. I don’t expect any of the three to return.
Restricted free agents RB Lex Hilliard, TE Jeron Mastrud, OT Lydon Murtha will likely be re-signed for cheap.
(Side note: What does it say about Bill Parcells first draft class that outside of Jake Long none of these guys are superstars?)
Free Agency Primer Part 2: Cap Savings!
Miami isn’t limited by the current $12 mil in cap space if they cut or renegotiate the contracts of the players currently under contract. Key targets for renegotiation or cutting include:
- LT Jake Long is scheduled to make $11.2 mil in base salary in the final year of his rookie deal. Miami should extend this deal now, lock Long in for long haul and free up valuable cap space this year. Long will cost a lot more if he hits free agency next year. In my humble opinion extending Long is as important as getting a QB and NT.
- The next potential savings is Yeremiah Bell, scheduled to make $4.3 mil in the last year of his deal. Renegotiate or say goodbye.
- OG Richie Incognito base salary is $3.3 mil. Cutting him would free up $2.7 mil.
- TE Anthony Fasano base salary is $3.6 mil. Cutting him would free up $3.7 mil. This is a tougher move given the lack of depth and particularly frustrating given the free agents that were available in 2011 not to mention the rookies available in the 2010 draft.
- DT Tony McDaniel base salary is $3 mil. Cutting him would free up $3 mil. This would be a tough move given the pending departures of Soliai, Langford, and Merling. Who would you prefer to keep if you can’t keep both: McDaniel or Langford?
Are the following players worth their contracts?
- CB Jonathan Wade @ $700k
- OL Ryan Cook @ $1 mil
It isn’t difficult to envision Miami adding about $10 million in cap space.
Free Agency Primer Part 3: A look ahead to 2013
While Miami’s 2012 free agent loses aren’t scary, 2013 is another story. The players scheduled to be free agents include those listed below. While many fans may be ok with parting ways with many of these players, others will be difficult to replace. It’s a big list filled with contributors and Miami would be smart to lock some of these up this offseason or start eying replacements in the draft. Many fans would likely say we can worry about this later since these players are under contract for this season, but a good GM should be proactively planning for the future. Here are the prominent players currently slated to be free agents in 2013:
- DE Cameron Wake – losing Wake would be a colossal blow to the Miami pass rush. He’s scheduled to make a paltry $565k this year. Miami will likely ride him for cheap this year. But if Wake and Long are both free agents next year the team can only franchise one. This will make it even more criminal if Miami doesn’t restructure Long’s contract this offseason.
- RB Reggie Bush – that 2 year deal is less attractive if Bush continues to produce the way he did at the end of last season. Still – RBs can be found for cheap. Here’s hoping Miami drafts another RB in the middle rounds of the 2012 draft.
- S Chris Clemons
- T Ryan Cook
- TE Anthony Fasano – I don’t envision him being the best fit in the offense I expect Philbin to run.
- G Nate Garner
- WR Brian Hartline
- DL Tony McDaniel
- LT Jake Long – as mentioned previously, super critical to extend Long asap.
- CB Sean Smith – it will be interesting to see Smith play in a contract year. With different coaches and possibly a different scheme will he finally become the player we hoped for? I won’t hold my breath.
- DL Randy Starks – He’ll be 29 next year. He currently has the 7th highest salary on the Phins at $3.725. My guess is he’ll make more on his next contract.
- QB Matt Moore – at a minimum Moore will be depth in 2012. Philbin could give him a chance to compete, but I have to think Moore is done after 2012.
So Dolfans, keep all of this in mind while you dream of the Dolphins splurging on the free agent market this offseason, particularly if you are imagining the Dolphins spending the incredible amount of money it is going to take to land Peyton Manning. Then think about what are the odds that Miami is going to spend every last cent that they can under the cap? It’s always good to have some cap room to pick up any good free agents that shake loose over the summer – like when Miami acquired QB Chad Pennington.
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