The Miami Dolphins released wide receiver Brian Hartline on Friday in the first of the team's salary cap casualty moves for 2015. Hartline had been scheduled to count for $7.35 million against the salary cap this season, but with the release, the Dolphins get back $3.15 million in space.
They, however, could have had more. If the team had waited until March 10 to release Hartline and used the post-June 1 designation, of which every team has two, the savings could have jumped to $5.95 million for the 2015 season. That is more money than someone like Philip Wheeler, who would add $3 million in savings if he is a post-June 1 release, would save the team. Why would the Dolphins make the move to release Hartline without getting the most savings they could? Two major reasons seem to answer the question.
First, it was a move to give Hartline the best opportunity he could get if he was not staying in Miami. The Dolphins releasing Hartline now allows him to start visiting, and potentially signing, with another team 11 days before free agency begins. It gives Hartline some flexibility, and, if the team was sure they were going to release him, doing it earlier is better than holding on to him when the team knew it was going to release him.
The second reason, and the bigger of the two, is the money. The Dolphins need to free up salary cap space in the time of year when business decisions take over. Assuming a $143 million salary cap this season, the Dolphins started Friday with about $3.7 million in cap space for 2015. With the two releases, they now have around $10.11 million available for use this year. If the team had decided to use the post-June 1 cut on Hartline, the savings would be more, but the team would not have that money available right now.
Post-June 1 cuts allow a team to release the player early, but the salary cap relief does not hit the books until June 2 thus the "post" June 1 cut). The NFL CBA explains in Article 13, Section 6 (b) (ii), "each Club may designate up to two Player Contracts that, if terminated on or prior to June 1... shall be treated... as if terminated on June 2, i.e., the Salary Cap charge for each such contract will remain in the Club's Team Salary until June 2."
The Dolphins releasing Hartline now gives the team the immediate $3.15 million in space. Waiting until March 10 to designate him a post-June 1 cut would give the team $5.95 million in space, but it would be space they could not use until June. In other words, the money would not be available to re-sign other players before the start of free agency, or to use to sign new players in free agency.
There are, of course, other factors, including Miami potentially deciding they would rather use the designations on other players instead of Hartline, but the availability of the money really does make the most sense. Being able to pick up over $3 million in salary cap space today is much better than waiting until June to get $5.95 million that will not help the team today.