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2016 Salary cap cuts Miami Dolphins could make to create space

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The Miami Dolphins have already started making salary cap space for the 2016 season. Where else could the team make cuts?

Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins have already released defensive end Quinton Coples, cornerback Brice McCain, and offensive tackle Jason Fox, all moves designed to save them salary cap space in 2016. Coples was scheduled to account for $7.75 million against the cap next season, with all of that money now saved by the Dolphins. McCain added $1 million into the dead money category with his release, but being cut also opened up $2.5 million in cap space. Finally, Fox had just $162,500 remaining on his signing bonus, so that moved into dead money for the Dolphins, while the other $1.38 million he was owed became salary cap savings.

In three moves, the Dolphins opened $11.6 million in cap space, with several potential moves still to be made.

The salary cap for 2016 is expected to be between $153 million and $155 million (the official salary cap will be established just prior to the start of the new league year on March 9). Assuming the low end of that span, the Dolphins will be able to spent around $162 million, when their $9 million rollover from the 2015 season is added (plus, there will be some other adjustments to the salary cap space that is rolled over for players who did not meet incentive bonuses that were included in their contract and counted against the cap for 2015).

After the three cuts listed above, the Dolphins currently have approximately $150.2 million in committed money for next year, giving them about $12 million in cap space. Take about $6 million of that for the rookies they will be signing, and the Dolphins have about $6 million for free agency. That is not a lot if the team plans to use the open market as a chance to fill some of their already existing holes, or if they want to re-sign any of their own players before they can hit free agency.

Where else can Miami save money? There are a few players whose contracts could lead to them being released in cap cutting moves. (All contract numbers via OverTheCap.com)

Branden Albert
2016 Salary Cap Number: $10.15 million
Pre-June 1 Cap Savings: $5.05 million
Post-June 1 Cap Savings: $9.025 million

Albert could provide a roster savings for Miami, but it is hard to say a Pro Bowl left tackle should be cut to save the team money when the Dolphins already have offensive line issues. Albert played in 14 games last year and, once he was healthy following his devastating knee injury at the end of the 2014 season, he did play well. If Miami is desperate for money, they could look to Albert to find some of that space, but it is not really a move that makes sense.

Mike Pouncey
2016 Salary Cap Number: $10.025 million
Pre-June 1 Cap Savings: $6.025 million
Post-June 1 Cap Savings: $9.025 million

Everything stated about Albert above continues for Pouncey. He was selected to the Pro Bowl this year, though he could not attend due to injury. He plays a key position on the offensive line, an offensive line already needing to be upgraded. Why create more of a need? Add in that Pouncey has been in the league five years, with three Pro Bowl selections, and is still only 26-years-old, and he is someone the Dolphins should not be looking to use as a cap space generator, unless it is through a contract extension.

Cameron Wake
2016 Salary Cap Number: $9.8 million
Pre-June 1 Cap Savings: $8.4 million
Post-June 1 Cap Savings: $8.4 million

Wake is entering the final year of his contract, as he works his way back from a torn Achilles that ended his season just as he was starting to hit his stride. He finished the season with seven sacks, 30th in the league, in a season in which he only played seven games. Wake is still a force, but he is 34 and coming off a major injury. Will he be the same player in 2016? Saving $8.4 million makes this a tempting move for Miami, but Wake's presence on the field, his status as a fan favorite, and his work ethic make him nearly indispensable for the team. Could Miami cut him? It is a possibility they have to consider. It would make more sense, however, to give him a contract extension, re-working his money into a two-year spread and giving the team some relief this year while making sure they keep Wake with the only team with which he has played.

Brent Grimes
2016 Salary Cap Number: $9.5 million
Pre-June 1 Cap Savings: $6.5 million
Post-June 1 Cap Savings: $8 million

Grimes is a tough one. That is a lot of money for a player who did not play up to the standards he set for his own high level of play over the last few years in Miami. Then again, he was named to the Pro Bowl as an alternate and is the top cornerback on a team that is already in need of cornerback help. It is hard to say cut Grimes, but, again, it is a big number. Miami could look to sign Grimes to a contract extension, lowering his cap number, but that could come down to whether or not Grimes wants to play in Miami after a rough year - including multiple incidents with his wife which will come into play in some form. The Dolphins should want to keep Grimes, but this might be the most interesting salary cap decision to watch.

Jordan Cameron
2016 Salary Cap Number: $9.5 million
Pre-June 1 Cap Savings: $7.5 million
Post-June 1 Cap Savings: $7.5 million

Cameron is a great talent that never seemed to find a role in Miami last season. Was that a part of the offensive scheme of the Joe Philbin/Bill Lazor scheme that is not a part of the team for 2016? Was that a reflection of the Miami offensive line, with the tight ends asked to help more in blocking, rather than being a pass catcher? How the new coaching staff views Cameron will go a long way to deciding what to do here, but that $7.5 million in savings is a big mark and will keep Cameron on the table as a cap casualty option.

Reshad Jones
2016 Salary Cap Number:  $8.203 million
Pre-June 1 Cap Savings: $6.297 million
Post-June 1 Cap Savings: $7.25 million

Not going to happen. This year is the biggest salary cap number for Jones, who is signed through the 2017 season, so there is a possibility of a contract extension, but he will not be cut.

Dion Jordan
2016 Salary Cap Number: $6.202 million
Pre-June 1 Cap Savings: $3.21 million
Post-June 1 Cap Savings: $3.21 million

Who knows what will happen here. Cutting Jordan now makes no sense, as the Dolphins can wait until April when the suspended defensive end may or may not be reinstated by the league. Then, they can wait to see if Jordan wants to return to play football. If he does return, his contract is not completely unmanageable. If Jordan is not reinstated, or if he fails to pass another drug test, the Dolphins will not have to worry about his salary cap implications. If Jordan comes back ready to play football, he could be an asset to the team. There are so many possibilities and questions about Jordan, the team really could do just about anything.

Greg Jennings
2016 Salary Cap Number: $5.5 million
Pre-June 1 Cap Savings: $4 million
Post-June 1 Cap Savings: $4 million

Jennings came to Miami to be the veteran wide receiver in a group featuring several young wide outs, and he was expected to be a starter. His role diminished throughout the year, and he only caught 19 passes for 208 yards with one touchdown on the season. The Dolphins releasing Jennings makes sense given the young players they have coming up, and they could use the space to try to keep Rishard Matthews, who will be a free agent, or use the money elsewhere.

Koa Misi
2016 Salary Cap Number: $4.878 million
Pre-June 1 Cap Savings: $3.722 million
Post-June 1 Cap Savings: $4.3 million

Misi always seems like the linebacker that does not have a position when it comes to Miami's defense. He couple play both strong-side and middle linebacker, with the team starting him at both positions in training camp and eventually settling him into a spot before the start of the season. He is a solid player who battled through injuries in 2015, but he is not spectacular. The Dolphins could hold on to him, particularly if they cannot find an upgrade in free agency, but his cap savings could be tempting.

Earl Mitchell
2016 Salary Cap Number: $3.5 million
Pre-June 1 Cap Savings: $2.5 million
Post-June 1 Cap Savings: $3 million

Mitchell started 12 games for the Dolphins at defensive tackle next to Ndamukong Suh, but he did not do anything to hold back Jordan Phillips, who should come into the starting lineup in his second year. Mitchell will not account for a lot of savings, and he could be kept as a depth option, but he probably is not in line to be the starter at the position in 2016. Picking up a $2.5 million savings could make Mitchell expendable.

Dallas Thomas
2016 Salary Cap Number: $1.799 million
Pre-June 1 Cap Savings: $1.647 million
Post-June 1 Cap Savings: $1.647 million

We are getting down into the smaller numbers of cap space being made with a release, but it still could be money used elsewhere. Thomas struggled throughout the 2015 season, and the front office could be ready to move on. If the new coaching staff thinks they can continue to develop Thomas, he is not overly expensive.

Dion Sims
2016 Salary Cap Number: $1.764 million
Pre-June 1 Cap Savings: $1.647 million
Post-June 1 Cap Savings: $1.647 million

Again, a small salary cap savings, but a potential cut that could be made if Miami needs the space. Sims appeared ready to break out heading into 2015, then was injured in Week 1 with a concussion and he never found a rhythm. The Dolphins will likely keep Sims as a second option at tight end, looking to change how they use him in 2016, but cutting him for salary cap space is an option.

Jamar Taylor
2016 Salary Cap Number: $1.153 million
Pre-June 1 Cap Savings:  $899,475
Post-June 1 Cap Savings: $899,475

Just under $900,000 is not much of a cap savings, but it is a move the Dolphins could make given how under-whelming Taylor has been thus far in his career. If the coaching staff is willing to continue to try to develop Taylor, he could hang around as a fourth cornerback on the roster, but releasing him is definitely not out of the question.