Trying to figure out an NFL franchise's salary cap situation is like trying to invent differential calculus without ever having observed any sort of rate change. Players are being signed and released, bonuses are being earned or forfeited, and the Top 51 rule keeps the salary cap line shifting for each team. It is a fun exercise.
Before we discuss free agent guard Evan Mathis, and how he could fit into the salary cap for the Miami Dolphins, we will break down what the Dolphins have in salary cap space as of today.
(All salary cap numbers via OverTheCap.com)
NFL Salary Cap 2015
Dolphins Rollover from 2014
Dolphins Salary Cap 2015
NFL Salary Cap + Rollover
Dolphins Top 51
Under the NFL offseason/preseason rules, only the Top 51 salaries for each team counts against the salary cap.
|Player||2015 Salary Cap Number|
Dolphins Top 51 Total:
When a team releases a player who either has guaranteed money still owed to him, or has a portion of the player's signing bonus, which is prorated over the life of a contract (up to five years), not yet accounted for in a salary cap number, that money is accounted for against the team's salary cap, and termed "dead money." Miami currently has 27 players who are accounting for dead money in 2015:
|Player||2015 Dead Money|
Dolphins 2015 Dead Money total
Dolphins 2015 Salary Cap Number*:
Top 51 Salary + Dead Money
*Note: There is a salary for which this number does not yet account. Defensive end Dion Jordan was suspended for the season with a salary cap number of $4,682,276. That whole number will not be counted against the Dolphins' salary cap this season, but it is not clear exactly how the league will apply Jordan's salary. We will make a correction later in this calculation to align with the NFL Players Association tracking of the Dolphins' salary cap space.
Dolphins 2015 Salary Cap Space as of June 22, 2015:
Dolphins Salary Cap - Dolphins Salary Cap Number*
NFLPA Tracked Salary Cap Space for Miami:
Dion Jordan Correction:
Dolphins Salary Cap Space - NFLPA Tracked Space
We will use the NFLPA tracked number as the correct status for the Dolphins' salary cap, but you can at least see where that number comes from for the most part.
According to the NFLPA's numbers, Miami has the 11th most salary cap space in the league.
Dolphins remaining salaries:
Every team is authorized 90 players under contract during the offseason and through the first part of the preseason. While only the Top 51 salaries are calculated into the salary cap, we do have the number for the remaining 39 players on the Dolphins' roster. (Note: the NFLPA website tracks Miami as having 91 contracts, which is 90 active contracts, plus Jordan.)
|Player||2015 Salary Cap Number|
The Dolphins are one of ten teams reportedly chasing Evan Mathis this offseason. The two-time Pro Bowl guard was released by the Philadelphia Eagles last week due to a contract disagreement. Mathis is among the top left guards in the league, and was expecting the Eagles to pay him as such. Mathis was scheduled to account for $6.5 million against the salary cap ($5.5 million in base salary) for the Eagles this season, then $7 million ($6 million base salary) in 2016.
The top paid left guards in the league are making in excess of $7 million per year, with the Arizona Cardinals paying Mike Iupati $8 million per year and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers paying Logan Mankins $8.5 million per season.
Assuming the Dolphins will look to keep $5 million for use during the season in case of injuries, that leaves Miami about $6.7 million to spend. They could offer that money to Mathis, or they could get creative with a multiple year offer that will give Mathis a large signing bonus this year, with a small base salary, that keeps his salary cap number low for the year. The only issue there is, Miami has the most money committed to the 2016 season already, with projections having them around $5 million over the salary cap. While that number is not a guarantee, it does mean the team has to be careful about mortgaging next season for a player this year.
Miami could also look to pass on Mathis, trusting the trio of Dallas Thomas, Billy Turner, and Jamil Douglas to be able to man the top two guard positions, then use the money they do not spend on Mathis as roll over for next year. Whatever the case, the money is available if Miami wants to use it.