The NFL has told team executives to expect the 2016 salary cap to fall between $147 million and $155 million, according to a tweet from Jason Cole. That is an increase of between $3.72 million and $11.72 million over the $143.28 million cap for this year.
The Miami Dolphins currently are estimated for have $150,366,854 spent against the cap for next year, according to OverTheCap.com. In addition, they have $4,156,259 in dead money, which brings the team's total salary cap number to $154,523,113. They have 38 players currently under contract for 2016, meaning the team needs to find some salary cap space.
Part of that space will come from the team's roll-over of unused space from this season. According to the NFL Players Association, Miami is currently $10,553,037 under the 2015 cap. Whatever the do not use this year will be allowed to be added to their cap space for next year.
Miami's top five salary cap numbers for next year will be defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh's $28.6 million, quarterback Ryan Tannehill's $11.64 million, offensive tackle Branden Albert's $10.15 million, center Mike Pouncey's $10.025 million, and defensive end Cameron Wake's $9.8 million.
According to a report from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel's Dave Hyde in October, Suh's contract allows for an individual year's base salary to be spread over a five-year span. That could allow Miami to move his $23.485 million base salary next year into a five-year spread at just $4.7 million. That would lower his salary cap number from $28.6 million to $9.8 million, giving Miami back $18.8 million in cap space. Of course, eventually, Miami will have to pay for Suh's contract, but the ability to get some cap space next year will help the team as they re-build after what has turned out to be a poor 2015 campaign.
The Dolphins could also look to restructure some of the other contracts, like Pouncey's and Albert's, or they could look to release players, adding to their dead money, but getting some cap relief. Players like Jordan Cameron, who has a $9.5 million salary cap number next year, could be released, giving Miami $7.5 million in space. Brent Grimes could give the team $6.5 million in cap space, if the Dolphins were willing to release him. Recently waiver claimed defensive end Quinton Coples could be a $7.751 million cap savings.
Obviously the team will not release all of these players, but there are options available to the team to get back some salary cap relief. The team will also have some decisions to make on players scheduled to be free agents, like defensive end Olivier Vernon, running back Lamar Miller, and wide receiver Rishard Matthews.
Obviously, the higher the salary cap for 2016, the better for Miami - and for all the teams and players. If the past few years have demonstrated the patter correctly, expect the cap to be closer to the $155 million side of the range than to the lower end. Whatever the case, Miami can get beneath the number fairly quickly, giving themselves space to continue to re-sign their own players or add available free agents if they choose.