Last night, I spent about three hours putting together an entire look at the Miami Dolphins' salary cap situation and where the team could save money ahead of the March 9 start to free agency and the enforcement of the 2016 salary cap. At the time I started writing, the Dolphins were $3,598,237 over the cap after rolling over $9,137,544 from the 2015 season. That rollover, added to the $155.27 million, gives Miami a $164,407,544 hard cap for 2016. As I was working my way player-by-player through the roster, breaking the team into groups of players with negative cap savings by being released, players with no effective savings, and players who would save the team money, as well as potential targets for contract restructuring, the Dolphins went ahead and announced they had made several roster moves that basically made my entire post worthless.
Guess I need to write a new one.
The Dolphins created nearly $24 million in cap space - not accounting for the $3.6 million they were over the cap - on Saturday by officially restructuring the contracts of linebacker Koa Misi and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and releasing wide receiver Greg Jennings. The Misi move will save the team around $1.7 million, while giving Misi a guarantee that he will be on the roster in 2016. Suh's contract restructuring comes via a clause in his original deal with the team that allowed Miami to convert base salary into a bonus, effectively spreading the base salary for that season over five years for salary cap purposes. That move provides the Dolphins with a little over $18 million in space.
Releasing Jennings, who only caught 19 passes for 208 yards and 1 touchdown - all career lows - saved the team $4.5 million in cap space, while accounting for $1.5 million in dead money. Jennings began the season as the team's starting wide receiver in tandem with Jarvis Landry, but saw his playing time dwindle as the year continued, with Rishard Matthews soon emerging as the team's second option at receiver.
The Dolphins also announced the exclusive rights tendering of six players, the previously reported tender on safety Michael Thomas, as well as tenders given to safety Shamiel Gary, wide receiver Matt Hazel, tackle Ulrick John, cornerback Tyler Patmon, and tight end Jake Stoneburner.
The additional cap space created by the Jennings release and the restructuring of Misi and Suh contracts gives the Dolphins nearly $20 million in cap space, even with the $12 million transition tag on defensive end Olivier Vernon. If he signs elsewhere, and the Dolphins choose not to match, the team would gain that money back in cap space for this season.
Miami could now use the available money to sign soon-to-be free agent running back Lamar Miller, as well as potentially use it to sign free agents such as defensive end Mario Williams, who is still in Miami after beginning a visit on Saturday.
The team could also look to make other roster savings moves, possibly restructuring or releasing players like defensive end Cameron Wake, tackle Branden Albert, cornerback Brent Grimes, tight end Jordan Cameron, and defensive tackle Earl Mitchell.
Free agency and the salary cap enforcement officially begins at 4pm on March 9. The "legal tampering" period, in which teams can talk the agents of soon-to-be free agent players from other teams, but are not supposed to agree to a contract with any player not on their own roster, will begin Monday at 12pm.