The Miami Dolphins have spent the majority of this offseason looking for ways to save money against the NFL's salary cap. They, of course, also are spending money, including the apparently imminent signing of defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, but that does not change the team's need to continue to find more space. One of those savings plans could involve the release of a Pro Bowl player.
The Dolphins drafted punter Brandon Fields in the seventh round of the 2007 NFL Draft out of Michigan State. A little discussed move at the time, Fields became the first Dolphins rookie to be installed as the team's primary punter since Reggie Roby in 1983. Fields quickly developed into a weapon for the Dolphins, flipping field position nearly every time he kicked the ball. Fields has a 46.8 yards per punt average for his career, fourth all time in the NFL. He led the league in yards per punt in 2012, with a 50.2 yard average, and was a 2013 Pro Bowl selection.
The 2014 season was a down year for Fields, averaging 46.3 yards per kick, with several uncharacteristic shanked kicks during the season. A big part of the issue was protection, which apparently led to Fields feeling he had to rush each kick. Miami eventually shifted the protection scheme, and Fields responded with his normal kicking prowess, averaging over 50 yards a kick in four of the team's final six games.
Fields has also gotten expensive, however. He has the sixth highest valued contract among punters in the league, and is scheduled to be the second highest salary cap hit this season, behind just the San Diego Chargers' Mike Scifres. Fields' 2015 salary cap number is currently set at $3.903 million.
The Dolphins would like to make that number smaller, ideally through a contract restructuring. Adding a couple of years onto Fields' deal, while potentially paying him more in a new signing bonus and lowering his cap number, would provide Miami the relief they need while keeping Fields with the team. According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel's Omar Kelly, if that plan does not come together, the Dolphins are planning to release Fields.
If Fields is released, the Dolphins will either have to look to free agency to fill the position, or they could consider selecting a punter some time during this year's NFL Draft.