Over the last few weeks, we have been working our way through a look at the Miami Dolphins players who are scheduled to become free agents this offseason, and trying to determine if the team should re-sign them, franchise tag them, or allow them to walk away as a free agent. We still have about eight players to consider in that series, but we also have to think about players the team could release, allowing them to hit free agency, in a salary cap savings move.
Most of these players are veterans who have a high salary cap number and are either not playing up to the level of the contract, have been dealing with injuries that keep them from being as available as you would want a player with the salary cap number they are scheduled to have in 2017, or a player who has reached a salary cap number that Miami simply cannot afford to keep. It is not always pretty, but it is a part of the business side of the game.
There are a few players who could fall into one of the three categories above, while providing Miami some significant amount in salary cap savings for 2017. Some of these players could be re-signed to a new contract, moving their salary cap numbers around, or they could be released then signed to a smaller valued contract - though that is rare given the lack of respect it typically shows.
Looking across the Miami roster for 2017, we take a look at five potential salary cap moves the team could make:
5. Branden Albert, offensive tackle
There has been a slight hint of people looking for Miami to potentially release their starting left tackle, moving 2016 first-round pick Laremy Tunsil out to the vacated position, with Miami adding a left guard to fill the roster. Salary-cap wise, Albert is scheduled to account for $10.6 million against the cap in 2017, and would provide $7.2 million in savings if he were released. The numbers alone seem to make sense, but Miami cutting Albert would only create a bigger need on an offensive line that is only starting to find themselves. Miami should absolutely keep Albert this season, with Tunsil and Albert battling in training camp for the left tackle position versus the left guard spot. Even if Albert is a $10.6 million guard next year, it gives Miami stability on the left side of the offensive line. Re-working his contract is probably a more realistic option as compared to cutting the two-time Pro Bowl tackle. Prediction: Remains with team, possible contract restructuring.
UPDATE: Of course, as soon as I write this, reports are, Dolphins are releasing Albert:
Dolphins will be releasing LT Branden Albert today, source says. It's Tunsil time there. Adds an intriguing option to the tackle market.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) February 16, 2017
4. Byron Maxwell, cornerback
This is probably another situation where the numbers make sense, but considering the player, it does not. Maxwell will be an $8.5 million cap number this year, and could provide $5.5 million space if he were released. That said, the Dolphins are best with Maxwell and Xavien Howard on the field as the starters, with Tony Lippett and Bobby McCain working as the nickel cornerback/primary depth. Maxwell’s contract balloons in the future, so either releasing him before the 2018 season or restructuring the contract makes sense then, but this year, he should return and keep Miami with an experienced veteran manning one of the cornerback positions. Prediction: Remains with the team.
3. Dion Jordan, defensive end
This one is probably a flip of the coin at this point. All of the guaranteed money in Jordan’s contract has been voided because of his suspensions, and he is still on his rookie contract, so he is not that expensive. He would provide full relief of his $3.2 million salary cap number, but it really comes down to what the coaches think of him and whether or not he has shown any desire to be back with the team this year. There have been reports that the team has already decided to cut him, and there are reports that indicate nothing has been decided. This one could go either direction. Prediction: 50/50.
2. Koa Misi, linebacker
Misi has the unfortunate position of having been a solid-but-never-spectacular player for Miami as his salary cap number continues to increase, and he is coming off a season he spent on injured reserve. He accounts for $4.8 million against the cap if he remains with the team, with Miami able to get back $4.2 million if they release him. Personally, I feel Misi has the position in Miami fans where Channing Crowder once resided, someone they all want to see released so the team can upgrade his play, but not realizing how much a “solid-but-not-spectacular” player contributes to a team. Misi has never been exceptional in coverage or against the run, but he also does both well enough that Miami misses him when he is not there. The team will probably cut him, picking up the $4.2 million, and there have been indications that his neck injury could be career threatening, but, if he is healthy, he could be a bridge to a younger player who needs time to develop. Prediction: Likely release.
1. Mario Williams, defensive end
Williams was signed last offseason as a free agent, with the expectation that he could be an immediate starter to replace Olivier Vernon in the lineup, while Miami eventually added a younger player behind him to develop. Williams never really found his stride, despite expectations that he would flourish being back as a 4-3, hand-in-the-dirt defensive end, rather than a 3-4, rush linebacker. Next year, he is slated to count for $10.5 million against the salary cap, while releasing him would give Miami back $8.5 million. His release makes sense. Prediction: Release.