Following the 2008 season, the Miami Dolphins were able to secure the acquisition of a player who would eventually become the face of the franchise.
Cameron Wake was the reigning CFL defensive player of the year, and a heralded pass rusher. However, he was not defined by his physical abilities. Wake was known for his work ethic; he used his status as an undrafted player, and NFL reject, to help himself improve.
Cameron Wake came out of Penn State in 2005 and was not selected during the draft. The New York Giants cut him before the season started. Wake would not let his football dream die, and so he signed with the BC Lions of the CFL in 2007. Immediately, his ability was clear. Wake moved to defensive end and became the CFL’s biggest star. He has now become their shining example of how excellence north of the border can lead to NFL attention.
Now, Cameron Wake has reached another crossroads. Since the Miami Dolphins will be looking to clear salary cap space, many thought heading into the offseason that the 34-year-old pass rusher coming off of a torn Achilles would be a logical target. However, Cameron Wake is going to show all of us once again that work ethic trumps any tangible ability.
I do not believe that the Miami Dolphins will cut Wake. There are several reasons for this: one of which is Wake’s cooperation.
Yes, cutting Wake could save the Miami Dolphins $8.4 million against the salary cap. However, Wake has already stated that he would be willing to restructure his deal with the team in order to help them acquire and retain more talent. A restructure is not a pay cut, but usually an extension or shifting of money that would allow the Dolphins to pay Wake at a later date.
Cameron Wake will be a free agent in 2017, so the most logical way to remedy the current situation is with an extension. This would accomplish a few goals. First, it would allow the team to reduce his 2016 cap hit. They could spread the money on his contract out over multiple years, extrapolating his value for 2017-2019 (or so). Secondly, this would allow Wake to retire as a Miami Dolphin. At 34 years old, this extension would in all likelihood be the last contract he signs in the NFL. Third, it would allow Wake to continue to be productive, as he will be on a defensive line with Ndamukong Suh, and hopefully be playing with a more talented linebacking corps.
Many feel that Wake has been so willing to work with the organization in terms of restructuring over the years due to his loyalty. I disagree. Cameron Wake is not loyal to the team; he is loyal to a goal. That is the place where we can observe the difference between loyalty and dedication.
The Miami Dolphins were not the only team that wanted Cameron Wake. In 2008, they were not simply giving some long shot a once in a lifetime chance. They were competing with the Rams, Saints, Bills, and Vikings for Wake’s services. With that being said, I’m sure Wake is grateful for the team’s efforts in brining him in, but they did not throw him a life raft and drag him out of the CFL. With or without the Miami Dolphins, Wake would still be playing in the NFL.
However, Cameron Wake’s work ethic and drive make him loyal not to the organization, but to the final goal of bringing success to this team. He has never played in a playoff game. However, jumping ship to play for an immediate contender does not fit Wake’s personality based on what I have seen from him in Miami.
Cameron Wake wants to be a part of taking the Dolphins back to greatness. It is not about his own success. It is about achieving a goal. The goal for Wake when he arrived was to help foster a culture of hard work and discipline within Miami that could lead the team to greater success. If Wake jumped ship, he would be giving up on that goal.
That is why you want a team of 53 players like Wake. Earlier this week, reports surfaced that Wake was far ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation. Did that surprise me? Not one bit. Cameron Wake is one of the hardest working players in the NFL, and puts more effort into maintaining his body than anyone could imagine. He is ahead of schedule in his recovery not entirely because he is an athletic freak (which doesn’t exactly hurt), but because he is willing to outwork everyone.
I am not saying that Cameron Wake will never leave the Miami Dolphins and will play for $2 million in 2017 just to help try to reach the playoffs. He isn’t a martyr. However, if the situation is comparable, Wake has showed that he will work with the Dolphins’ front office to help them move closer towards success.
Cameron Wake wants to stay in Miami. He has established a life there. Like many athletes, he now calls South Florida his year-round home. He has his entire training regimen and fitness routine woven around the advanced facilities and lifestyle in Miami, and has become the face of the Dolphins franchise.
At 34 years old, Wake is certainly no longer in his prime. However, I will never count him out. Even coming off of a torn Achilles, I do not believe Wake will be stopped. Some players are willing to work hard. Some players are willing to work very hard. Some players are willing to do whatever it takes.
Cameron Wake is willing to do whatever it takes. The Miami Dolphins know this, and would be wise to work out a way to retain their star defensive lineman for the 2016 season and beyond.