Should the Miami Dolphins sign free agent defensive tackle Donatri Poe?
Should they pay Poe whatever price he wants to make sure they land him?
Like most fans, the idea of a Cameron Wake, Ndamukong Suh, Dontari Poe, Andre Branch defensive line, with Terrence Fede, William Hayes, and (even? possibly?) Dion Jordan rotating in at defensive end while Jordan Phillips is getting plenty of snaps at defensive tackle, is an exciting possibility to me. The Dolphins defensive line should be stout against the run with that lineup - especially with Hayes in the game in running situations to set the edge - and it would solve a lot of problems for the defense.
The question is, however, how much can Miami actually spend on the defensive line?
Suh will account for $19.1 million against the cap for this season. Wake, $7.5 million. Branch, $5 million. Hayes $4.75 million. Jordan, $3.2 million. Phillips, $1.2 million. Fede, $704,000.
In other words, the Dolphins defensive line currently costs the Dolphins $41.5 million against the 2017 salary cap, which for Miami is $174.7 million this year. That means Miami’s defensive line - without Poe - is 24 percent of the salary cap. Only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Giants have move of their salary cap tied up in the defensive line.
If you add Poe into that group, the percentage will only increase. Poe has met with the Kansas City Chiefs, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Atlanta Falcons, with the Oakland Raiders still thought to be interested in hosting a visit. It appears Poe is looking for money, trying to establish a bidding war between teams, and signing with whomever is willing to match his demands. Miami will not be willing to do that. They will want to sign Poe to a deal that matches their price point for the position, and if he does not take that deal, they will move on to their next possible candidate.
If we assume Poe wants to be paid like a top-ten defensive tackle - and that is a pure assumption, having not heard any specific numbers for which Poe is looking - that would mean a contract over $7 million per year (for a 4-3 defensive tackle - if we add in 3-4 nose tackles, that number jumps to $9.25 million). Using that $7 million number, the Dolphins could see their defensive tackle cap number rise to $48.5 million or 28 percent of the cap. Is that sustainable?
(There is a fallacy to that calculation based on the layout of the contract. If Poe were to sign a long-term contract that paid him $7 million per year, he would not necessarily have a $7 million salary cap number this year, based on signing bonus and base salary structure, but it is the best assumption that can be made.)
Miami’s selling point to Poe is the lineup he would be joining. Reports have indicated that Poe would be willing to sign a one-year contract, with the hopes that his play in 2017 would be enough to up his demand on the free agent market in 2018. If Miami can convince Poe that the best place to increase his value is next to Wake and Suh, then maybe they can bring his asking price down some.
If they cannot get the price down, the team may have to move on, and that would probably be the right move. A Wake-Suh-Poe-Branch defensive line would be incredible and fans would love the potential it would bring, but it may not be the fiscally responsible thing to do in a league with a hard salary cap. Miami still has other holes to fill and, no matter how well Poe could fill in the middle of the defensive line, the Dolphins have to weigh those other needs against the money Poe would require.
Miami should sign Poe, but they should not sign him if his demands are too high. The New Miami responsible free agency approach has to continue to be the guiding principle.