The Phinsider’s series of Miami Dolphins players expected to hit free agency continues this morning with another look at a restricted free agent. RFAs are players who have three years of service in the NFL, meaning they do not reach the four-year minimum for unrestricted free agency, but they have exceeded the exclusive rights threshold. Restricted free agents can be given one of three tender levels, giving the original team the ability to receive compensation if the player is signed by a new team. The three levels are a “first-round” tender, a “second-round” tender, and an “original round” tender; if the player signs with a new club, that club must send the associated compensation to the original team, with the “original round” matching whichever round in which the player was selected during the respective NFL Draft. An undrafted player would not provide compensation back to the original club if he is given the “original round” tender.
Tenders are guaranteed one-year contracts, but are relatively low-salaried amounts for the season. Basically, restricted free agents are able to move to a new club like an unrestricted free agent, but there is compensation that may restrict a new club from making an offer.
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.
The amounts for each tender have not been released for 2017, but the 2016 values were set at $3.6 million for the first-round, $2.6 million for the second-round, and $1.7 million for the lowest tender.
Today, our series moves to safety Michael Thomas.
Thomas started his NFL career as an undrafted free agent out of Stanford, signing with the San Francisco 49ers in 2012. After spending all of 2012 and part of 2013 on the 49ers’ practice squad, he was poached by Miami late in the 2013 season, appearing in three games as the season ended. He immediately made an impact for the Dolphins, breaking up a potential game-winning pass from Tom Brady in his first game as the Dolphins played the New England Patriots in Miami, then intercepting a pass in the endzone from Brady to seal the Dolphins’ victory. In 2014, he appeared in eight games with two starts, then saw his role expand to 16 games and 12 starts in 2015, filling in for the injured Louis Delmas.
In 2016, Thomas entered the season as the team’s special teams captain, a reserve safety, and a nickel cornerback option. Ultimately, he was second in the NFL in special teams tackles on the season, plus he started eight games on defense, primarily at safety, where he recorded 29 tackles, one pass defensed, two forced fumbles, and a sack, filling in for Reshad Jones and Isa Abdul-Quddus as both starting safeties landed on injured reserve during the season.
WIlliams’ expiring contract is a one-year, $675,000 contract (via overthecap.com).
The franchise tag is not a reasonable option for a restricted free agent.
The Phinsider thoughts
Thomas being a restricted free agent still seems so odd, given he has been in the league since 2012 and has been making plays with the Dolphins since 2013. No appearances in 2012 and only three games played in 2013, however, did not accrue a season of experience under the league’s collective bargaining agreement, so officially, Thomas has only three years of service, having been an exclusive rights free agent last year, and now a restricted free agent. The Dolphins absolutely need to keep Thomas, returning a strength on special teams and a versatile option on defense. There is no way they cannot afford to place a tender on Thomas for this year, with the option to negotiate a long-term deal after.
What should the Dolphins do with Thomas? Vote below and feel free to discuss in the comments.