This is a subject many Dolphins fans don't want to think about. Cameron Wake is the Miami Dolphins best player. He's the favorite current player of many fans. His story is a sports movie writer's dream. He played 4-3 outside linebacker at Penn State. He went undrafted in 2005, signed with the New York Giants as a free agent, but couldn't make the team. He went to work in a gym and as a mortgage broker trying to make ends meet while he kept his NFL dream alive. He got a workout for a Canadian football team, but showed up to the wrong place for the workout and nearly missed the opportunity. But he was signed by the BC Lions, where the coach put him at defensive end instead of linebacker. In his first two seasons, he accumulated 39 sacks, earning defensive honors in the CFL. He signed with the Dolphins in 2009 and well, you know the rest.
Cameron Wake is the type of player that offenses have to account for on every play. He has possibly the best first step of any defender in the NFL and can bend with the best of them to get to the quarterback. He's the type of player that most every team wishes they had on their roster. On top of that, Wake has a favorable contract for a player of his caliber. He's a face of the Dolphins franchise. So why would Miami even think about giving a player like that away? There are two reasons why they should think of trading Wake.
Miami is on the verge of missing the playoffs for a sixth straight season. If they don't, it will be time to rebuild/retool yet again. Unlike previous seasons though, Miami has some young talent to build around: Ryan Tannehill, Lamar Miller, Jarvis Landry, Charles Clay, Ja'Wuan James, Olivier Vernon, Jelani Jenkins, and Reshad Jones are all talented players a new coach could build around. That's a good base to work with. But the other side of retooling is that the Dolphins will need to get rid of parts they can't build around. That means getting rid of aging or declining players.
As good as Wake is, his age will be a factor that does not work in his favor. He will be 33 years old at the beginning of the 2015 season. Wake takes great care of his body and the lack of overall football 'mileage' could keep him fresher than most 33 year old defensive ends. But at some point, his age will catch up to him. Wake excels with athleticism and when that starts declining, will Wake be able to keep up his level of play? There is no doubt that the decline is coming, but when will that happen: the end of his contract in 2017? Next season?
The inevitable decline is coming, but all we know is that it's not here yet. What that means is Wake's trade value is as high now as it's ever going to be. In the past, Miami has held on to a player a season or two too long and gotten nothing for them. If Miami holds on to him for too long and his play drops off, they will have to cut him, netting nothing. Or they can keep him and use him as a pass rushing specialist at a higher price. His contract is great for an elite pass rusher. If he can't remain an elite pass rusher, then Miami will be overpaying him and his trade value will be gone. Trading Wake this offseason means the Dolphins will be able to get the most they can out of the deal.
There is no guarantee that a team will want to trade for Wake, but a query must be made at the very least. There is always a team out there that is close to championship contention that would be willing to yield a draft pick for a player they think can get them over the hump. You can rule out attempting to trade Wake to lottery pick teams. It's a pipe dream to think the Dolphins will trade Wake to the Raiders or Buccaneers for a high draft pick. But teams like Atlanta, Seattle, or Arizona for example may want Wake for a Super Bowl push and would be willing to give up a decent pick to ensure they get there.
Wake is a popular player with fans, and most, including myself, would hate to see him go to another team. There are going to be some tough decisions coming up regarding this roster and what to do with Wake is one of them. It's unlikely that Wake will remain a top tier talent when Miami will be in a position to contend and his trade window is closing fast. This offseason will be the best opportunity for Miami to move Wake and get the best value for him, if they choose to move him. There are benefits to both sides of this equation and it will be a critical decision for the person that has to make it.