Ben Volin of the Palm Beach Post recently wrote a brief "Snapshot" of the 2013 Miami Dolphins offseason (read here). This article will provide a more thorough look at the upcoming offseason, reviewing not only the players under contract for 2013, but also their cap hit in 2013 and number of years left on their contract. In addition, this article will discuss players who were on the roster in 2012 but are not under contract for 2013 (yet), as well as our draft and salary cap situation for 2013. Ideally, after reading this article, you have a good handle on not only what positions on the team are set to lose starters, but also which positions lack quality depth. Let's begin with Miami's worst unit, the offense.
Miami's 2013 Roster (So Far) and Needs
Format: "Player name" (Salary Cap Hit in 2013, years left on current contract).
This information current as of 1/6/2013. All contract figures from http://www.Rotoworld.com.
Most cap figures have been rounded up to the nearest thousand or hundred of thousand for simplicity and were retrieved from http://nyjetscap.com/Dolphins/dolphins2013.php
(*) = Second position a player has been listed at
Offense (22 players)
1. Ryan Tannehill ($2.8 million cap hit in 2013, 3 years left)
Matt Moore is an unrestricted free agent (UFA), whose goal is to find a team willing to give him a chance to start. If he is unable to find a team with an open QB competition, he reportedly would like to remain in Miami as a backup.
Pat Devlin is not under contract next year, but he is an Exclusive Rights Free Agent.
"An Exclusive-Rights Free Agent is an NFL player who is not under contract, but has only two years of NFL experience. If his former club makes him an offer at the three year veteran minimum salary, then that's it, he has to take it or leave the NFL. These guys have no right to negotiate with other teams."
Miami will most likely make that offer to Devlin, who is a favorite of Coach Philbin. Devlin improved to the point of becoming a viable third-string quarterback this season after being on the 2011 Dolphins practice squad in his rookie season. Whether he's a viable second-string quarterback or not is unknown and will play a role in whether Miami signs a veteran QB like Moore or drafts a backup QB in the later rounds of the 2013 draft.
1. Daniel Thomas ($880,000 cap hit in 2013, 2 years left)
2. Lamar Miller ($602,000, 3 years)
3. Marcus Thigpen ($483,000, 2 years) - he's listed here at running back, but on offense, he's been almost exclusively used as a slot receiver in 2012
4. Jonas Gray ($482,000, 2 years)
Reggie Bush is an UFA. Reportedly, the Dolphins want to bring back Reggie Bush if he's willing to take a discount.
1. Charles Clay (*)
2. Michael Egnew ($652,000, 3 years)
3. Kyle Miller ($480,000, 2 years)
Anthony Fasano is an UFA who is well liked by the coaching staff.
Jeron Mastrud is a restricted free agent (RFA) backup who is used as a blocker and special-teamer. Mastrud may not be re-signed if the team prefers the other younger TEs on the roster.
1. Davone Bess ($3.4 million, 1 year)
2. Rishard Matthews ($493,000, 3 years)
3. Armon Binns ($480,000, 1 year)
4. Brian Tyms (Practice squad, $405,000, 2 years)
5. Jeff Fuller (Practice squad, $405,000, 2 years)
Brian Hartline is an URA likely to be re-signed unless the team pursues upgrades in free agency.
Marlon Moore is a RFA who can serve as a backup wide receiver and special teams ace, so I would expect him to be back next year on a modest deal.
1. Jonathan Martin ($1.1 million, 3 years)
2. Will Yeatman ($555,000, 1 year)
3. Andrew MacDonald (Practice squad, $405,000, 2 years)
4. Jeff Adams (Practice squad, $405,000, 2 years)
Jake Long is an URA whose fate is a hot-debate topic.
Will Yeatman is under contract for 1 more year but is a big unknown. We know the coaching staff was so high on Yeatman's potential after asking him to change positions from tight end to offensive tackle that they kept him on the roster rather than risk leaving him on the practice squad where he could be poached. However, he has played offensive tackle for less than a year, which means we don't know how ready he'd be to play either as a backup OT or a starter next year.
1. Ritchie Incognito ($5.4 million, 1 year)
2. John Jerry ($790,000, 1 year)
Nate Garner is an UFA backup OG/OT. With both of the Dolphins' starting guards entering the last year of their deals, Miami may want to draft a backup guard in 2013 with starting potential rather than keep a career backup like Garner who is getting paid $1+ million per year.
1. Mike Pouncey ($2.5 million, 2 years)
2. Josh Samuda ($482,000, 2 years)
Miami has a terrific young center and a young backup center the coaches are high on. Center and Fullback are the ONLY positions on offense where I have no complaints/worries.
Martin's List of Possible Offseason Needs (8):
1. Backup QB to compete with Devlin,
2. Running back (starter or backup),
3. Tight end (starter or backup),
4, 5, 6. Wide receiver (3 total: 2 starters, 1 backup),
7. Offensive tackle (starter at either left or right tackle),
8. Offensive guard (starter or backup).
Simply bringing back all of our impending free agents like Long, Bush, and Hartline would not be enough to fill those 8 needs, so expect investments in outside free agents and the draft to improve the offense.
1. Paul Soliai ($7.8 million, 1 year)
2. Jared Odrick ($1.9 million, 2 years)
3. Kheeston Randall ($495,000, 3 years)
4. Chas Alecxih (Practice squad, $405,000, 2 years)
Randy Starks is an UFA.
Tony McDaniel is an UFA.
I doubt Miami keeps both free agent tackles. Miami likely chooses 1, and either asks Odrick slide over to tackle more or drafts a new tackle. I think it's more likely Odrick spends more time at tackle next year.
1. Cameron Wake ($5.0 million, 4 years),
2. Jared Odrick (*)
3. Olivier Vernon ($670,000, 3 years)
4. Derrick Shelby ($482,000, 2 years)
Moving to Odrick to tackle would force Miami to acquire a new defensive end to have a 4-man rotation. That new defensive end could compete with Olivier Vernon for the starting role next year.
1. Karlos Dansby ($8.5 million, 2 years)
2. Kevin Burnett ($5.7 million, 2 years)
3. Koa Misi ($1.1 million, 1 year)
4. Jason Trusnik ($900,000, 2 years)
5. Josh Kaddu ($480,000, 1 year)
6. Jonathan Freeny ($480,000, 1 year)
Austin Spitler, a backup linebacker and special teamer, is a RFA who may not be brought back in 2013 given the young linebacker depth under contract.
The player who stands out here is Dansby due to his cap hit, but I'm not sure if now is the time to replace Dansby with so many other needs that have to be addressed. I'll be writing an article about the fate of Dansby and his large contract soon.
1. Reshad Jones ($615,000, 1 year)
2. Jimmy Wilson ($566,000, 2 years)
3. Kelcie McCray ($407,000, 2 years)
Chris Clemons is an UFA who will probably be brought back unless the team tries to find an upgrade.
Tyrone Culver is an UFA who probably won't be back next year given that he was initially cut before the regular season began and was later signed mid-season for depth after injuries.
Jonathan Amaya is a special teamer who is an UFA and may not be back next year, given his legal problems (He allegedly choked a cab driver).
1. Dimitri Patterson ($4.6 million, 2 years)
2. Richard Marshall ($5.8 million, 2 years)
3. Nolan Carroll ($622,000, 1 year)
4. Jimmy Wilson (*)
5. Julian Posey (Practice squad, $480,000, 2 years)
6. DeAndre Pressley (Practice squad, $480,000, 2 years)
Sean Smith is an UFA.
R.J. Stanford and Bryan McCann are impending RFAs.
Dimitri Patterson, a late-season waiver-wire pickup from the Browns, is technically under contract for $4.5 million in 2013 and $5.3 million in 2014, but he's a top target to be cut to free up cap room because his pay outweighs his perofrmance. If the coaches like Patterson, Miami would likely seek to negotiate a less lucrative deal.
Martin's List of Possible Needs (6):
1. Defensive tackle (starter or backup),
2. Defensive end (starter or backup),
3. Starting safety,
4. Starting cornerback,
5. Backup cornerback (At least 1), and
6. Backup linebacker.
Simply re-signing most of our impending free agents (Starks, Clemons, and Smith) would satisfy half of these needs if Miami chooses not to pursue upgrades.
Special Teams (3)
Punter - Brandon Fields ($1.7 million, 4 years)
After center, punter is the position I feel most confident in.
Long-snapper - John Denney ($1.0 million, 1 year)
The lone blemish for Denney came in the 49'ers game, in which he was guilty of a low-snap. Some will debate cutting Denney and using a player like TE Kyle Miller, who was a long-snapper in college, as our primary long-snapper. I would prefer keeping Denney, and using Miller as a reliable backup/emergency long-snapper. Ask Oakland Raiders fans about the importance of a reliable backup long-snapper (or read here).
Kicker - Dan Carpenter ($3 million, 1 year)
He has been perfect under 45 yards. Beyond 45 yards, he's struggled. I personally wouldn't list kicker as a priority need because the team is unlikely to find a kicker who is reliable beyond 45 yards (which is Carpenter's only issue), but I'd understand if some fans chose to list this as a need.
Kick-returner/Punt-returner - Marcus Thigpen (*)
Top 5 in the AFC in kick/punt return average. 2 TDs scored this season. Only 1 big mistake - 1 awful fumble against the 49'ers - but otherwise has played very well as a rookie
Martin's List of Possible Needs: None...though kicker is debatable.
Final summation - 46 players under contract, with projected cap commitment of $78 million.
Miami's Resources in the 2013 Offseason
2013 Draft - 9 guaranteed draft picks, up to 10 Draft picks total
Round 1 - 1 pick: Miami, 12th
Round 2 - 2 picks: Miami, 42nd + Indianapolis (Vontae Davis trade), 54th pick
Round 3 - 2 picks: Miami, 77th + Chicago (Brandon Marshall trade), 82nd
Round 4 - 1 pick: Miami, Exact Number of Pick To Be Determined due to unknown number of compensatory picks at the ends of rounds 3-7
Round 5 - 1 pick: Miami, Exact Number TBD
Round 6 - No pick: The Dolphins traded away their own 6th round pick to move up and draft Lamar Miller in 2012
Round 7 - 2 picks: Miami + Dallas (Ryan Cook trade), Exact Number TBD
Final potential pick - Compensatory draft pick of unknown round, awarded by the NFL.
Miami lost DE/DT Kendall Langford in free agency in the 2012 offseason. The NFL awards "compensatory" draft picks to teams based on a secret formula that balances the "quality and quantity" of free agents lost versus the "quality and quantity" of free agents gained during the offseason. Langford has played well for the St. Louis Rams and hasn't missed a single game, while Miami's only notable free agent signings in 2012 included Richard Marshall (who landed on IR after playing in just 4 games), Legedu Naanee (who was cut from the team after 4 games and just 1 catch), Chad Johnson (cut in preseason), and Jabar Gaffney (who was cut from the team after 4 catches in 3 games). My guess is the NFL awards Miami a 6th round pick, but that's a guess and could be anything from a 3rd round pick to a 7th round pick. Read more about how Compensatory draft picks work and their relationship to free agency here.
Vontae Davis Trade Result - In addition to a second round pick, Miami had a conditional 6th round pick as part of the Vontae Davis trade, but Davis failed to play the required 65% of snaps due to injury (per Adam Schefter, read here). That means Davis failed to meet the conditions of the deal, and the Dolphins do not get a 6th round pick from Indianapolis.
Projected Cap Space in 2013
This year's salary cap in the NFL is $120.6 million. The salary cap number for 2014 is unannounced, but it's rumored to be very similar to 2012.
$121 million in projected 2013 cap space - $78 million of total salary so far = Roughly $43.0 million
That $43 million is lower than the number some beat reporters have used in recent articles (most have said $46 million), but Miami signed 3 million dollars-worth of cap commitments in 2013 in the past week by re-signing their practice squad guys to 2-year deals.
[Editor's Note: The Dolphins will also be able to roll over around $5-6 million in salary cap space that they did not use this year. ]
Miami began the 2012 season with around $6 million in cap space that can be rolled over in 2013. I think the team will likely want to leave $5 million or so in free cap space each season to give the team some in-season flexibility, so it's safe to talk about $43-44 million in cap space the team will look to spend since spending that much leaves Miami a very modest $5 million cushion. That $44 million in available cap space can be increased if the team considers cutting expensive players under contract like Dimitri Patterson.
However, as you saw above, this $44 million figure is misleading because it only includes 46 players, and some of those 46 players are guys who are likely practice-squad material (Fuller, Alexcih, MacDonald, etc.). Also, that number does not include the money needed to sign the 10 drafted rookies in the 2013 offseason. To be safe, let's say signing the rookies costs $4 million against the cap, even though in 2012, it cost only $2.4 million against the cap during the offseason. That low number is due to the special rules that apply to calculating the salary cap number of rosters during the offseason before final cuts (read more here.) That leaves Miami around $40 million to find players in free agency.
While the list of needs looks long, Miami will have 9 or 10 draft picks and over $40 million in "spare" cap space to fill those 14 needs. In a follow-up post, I will go over Miami's impending free agents in greater detail, and try to give price range estimates of what it would cost keep them based on recent free agent deals awarded to players of similar talent and production. Hopefully, this article serves as a rough guide to come up with your own list of needs.