The run through the Miami Dolphins exclusive rights free agents in our review of each potential free agent the team has heading into the 2017 offseason has been going well, so we will continue it today with the third of four players to fit the category. Exclusive rights free agents are players who have an expiring contract, but have played two or fewer seasons in the league. Teams have the ability to extend a tender to those players, which locks them into only being able to negotiate with the team, and it is typically a fairly low salary cap hit for the team with no guaranteed money included, so the team could cut the player during training camp or the preseason without taking on dead money.
Basically, an exclusive rights free agent who is extended a tender is a “free agent” in name only. Players who do not receive a tender prior to the start of free agency become unrestricted free agents.
And, really, the franchise tag is never going to be in play for an ERFA.
NFL free agency begins at 4pm ET on March 9. Anyone who is not under contract for the 2017 season will be able to begin signing with new teams - barring any restricted free agent tenders that have been placed on players with less than four years of service time in the league. Over the next few weeks, teams all across the league will be trying to re-sign their own players to new contracts in an effort to prevent players they want to keep from testing the open market.
The Dolphins have 20 players about whom they need to make decisions. We have been asking you as fans of the team to provide your thoughts on what the Dolphins should do for each of their upcoming free agents. We break down the history of the player, what they did for the team in 2016, the terms of their expiring contract, the estimated value for the franchise tag, and then as you to vote on the decision the team should make.
This morning, we resume with a look at cornerback Lafayette Pitts.
Pitts signed with the Dolphins as an undrafted free agent out of PIttsburgh in 2016.
Pitts started the 2016 season on the Dolphins’ practice squad. After injuries started working their way through the secondary, Pitts was promoted to the active roster in November. He appeared in eight regular season games and the team’s Wildcard playoff game, primarily playing special teams.
Pitts’ expiring contract is a one-year, $450,000 contract, that was prorated into a $211,765 salary cap (via overthecap.com). He originally signed a three-year contract with Miami before being placed on the practice squad, with an average value of $540,000 per season. When he was cut, he accounted for $62,100 against the salary cap in dead money.
The franchise tag is not a reasonable option for an exclusive rights free agent.
The Phinsider thoughts
The theme running through our thoughts on the ERFAs are to extend a tender to all of them, keeping young players on the roster who can continue to develop, while not tying a lot of money against the salary cap. That is the same recommendation for Pitts, who provides special teams help and depth at a position of need for the Dolphins. Miami should extend him an offer and keep him with the club.
What should the Dolphins do with Pitts? Vote below and feel free to discuss in the comments.