The Miami Dolphins head into the 2017 offseason with around $40 million in salary cap space, with the ability to create more if needed. It’s a testament to the team’s structure of contracts, including the massive six-year, $114 million the team signed with defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh in 2015. ESPN recently took a look at the salary cap situations of the 32 teams in the league, grading each on their “flexibility” for the 2017 offseason.
The were given a solid B-grade for their current cap situation. Author Kevin Seifert writes:
For the immediate future, the Dolphins' cap space will be limited by the decision to pay two players high-end "quarterback money." The actual quarterback, Ryan Tannehill, will count $20.3 million toward the 2017 cap. Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh will count $19.1 million. General manager Mike Tannenbaum likes to be active in free agency, and he has the space if desired, but he also has some emerging players to take care of soon. Among them: receivers Kenny Stills and Jarvis Landry and safety Reshad Jones.
Seifert is not wrong in either statement. The team does have two players in the $20 million range this year, with Suh ballooning to $26.1 million, $28.1 million, and $22.4 million the next three years. (There has to be a restructure coming, I would imagine.) Tannehill drops to $19.8 million next year, then $21.1 million in 2019 and $19.5 million in 2020. Those are big numbers that do have an impact on the contracts the team can give other players. Miami has done a good job, however, of offsetting those contracts, allowing the team to escape them if needed, and locking up players in their prime, rather than paying top dollar for players who may have already passed their prime.
Miami does also have to figure out what to do with their own players. Stills will be the immediate talk, as he hits the free agent market this offseason. Landry and Jones are both free agents after the 2017 season, and Miami will want to lock them up to long-term contracts before they get to the open market, so there is money Miami has to spend wisely.
A “B” seems about right for Miami. They are paying for some big signings, but they also have space to do whatever they want to do this year.
Just for reference, the Cleveland Browns ($105 million in space), San Francisco 49ers ($79 million), Jacksonville Jaguars ($70.2 million), New England Patriots ($62.3 million), and Tennessee Titans ($59.9 million) were all given “A+” grades in the article.