The Miami Dolphins have some decisions to make this offseason. Which potential free agents will they attempt to re-sign? Which players will be allowed to test free agency? Are there contract extensions to be signed? Will they use the fifth-year option on quarterback Ryan Tannehill?
And, there is the always debated salary cap cutting that happens. Which players with hefty salary cap price tags will the team determine they simply cannot afford to bring back in 2015?
There is another piece to making that decision. Some players have roster bonuses, or other stipulations in their contracts which change the discussion on whether or not a team will keep them into training camp. For the Miami Dolphins, there are two players with such language in their contracts for this season, according to Spotrac.com: wide receiver Mike Wallace and defensive tackle Earl Mitchell.
Wallace's contract has a clause that turns $3 million of his $8.85 million base salary for the year into guaranteed money on March 13. If Miami wants to get out from under that guarantee, money that would only add to the $9.6 million in dead money Wallace would cause Miami to eat if he were released as a Pre-June 1 cut this year, they would have to make a decision on releasing him by March 12.
Mitchell's contract gives Miami an extra day, with the clause not kicking in until March 14. His guaranteed money, however, is the full $4 million for his 2015 salary. Right now, Miami could cut him with no dead money and a salary cap savings of $4.5 million. If they wait until March 14, however, they would be on the hook for the entire salary for next year.
Neither of these guarantees means the Dolphins will cut either player, but it does add to the consideration. Wallace counting for $9.6 million against the cap this year ($5.2 million if made a June 1 cut, but with additional dead money couting against the 2016 salary cap) makes it very difficult to envision the Dolphins walking away from the deal. He would save Miami $2.5 million, but is making a bigger hole in a wide receiver corps full of questions heading into the offseason worth only getting back $2.5 million? (Obviously, if the Dolphins do not think Wallace, who was benched for the second half of the Week 17 season finale after reportedly taking himself out of the game late in the first half, can come back to the team in an effective manner, the discussion of cutting him changes drastically, and is no longer just about money.)
The Dolphins are not making any public personnel moves, other than signing futures contracts, with no timetable on any decisions to be made. Behind the scenes, contract talks may be ongoing, but what the ultimate look of Miami's roster is when free agency rolls around in March will not be known...probably until March.