Jake Long. Brian Hartline. Reggie Bush. Sean Smith. Randy Starks. Those are just a few of the Miami Dolphins players with contracts expiring at the end of this league year. Miami is set to have around $50 million in cap space next year, a large portion of which is because of those expiring contracts, and fans have heaped criticism on Miami general manager Jeff Ireland for not signing any of the big names to a contract extension during the season.
But, the Palm Beach Post's Ben Volin points out, it may actually be a "little-discussed aspect of the new collective bargaining agreement is partly responsible."
As Volin points out, the new CBA allows teams to roll over unused portions of the salary cap into the upcoming season's limit. That ability seems to be making in season contract extensions less popular around the NFL.
The Dolphins did make offers to Long and Hartline, but both offers were below-market contracts, as the team looked to maximize the 2013 salary cap space. If the Dolphins were to sign a player in season, any salary cap bonus would come out of this years cap space, lowering how much the team can roll over. If Miami waits to sign players to contracts in next year's salary cap, they still get to roll over the entire unused portion from this year, which will actually work out to the team having more space next season.
Agent Drew Rosenhaus recently spoke about Hartline's contract offer, and how rare it has become for players to get in season contract offers. According to Volin's article, "Rosenhaus said last week on 560-AM that only 'one in twenty' players gets an offer and said Hartline 'has no hard feelings' stemming from the Dolphins' low-ball offer during the season."
It's an interesting twist on the way free agents are handled by a team. Obviously, it's not know whether or not it really does have a impact on what GMs around the league are really doing, but it does have a logical sense to it. Just like teams waiting until after June 1 to cut players, in order to get bonuses split over multiple seasons, keeping a bonus from having to be paid this season and next season could be one part of why a team, like the Dolphins, would rather wait to re-sign a player.