As the NFL Scouting Combine gets under way this week, we also enter the first tampering period of the year, with agents and teams indirectly discussing what it may take to sign a player in free agency when it begins in a few weeks. Around the Miami Dolphins, a lot of the talk will be focused on the potential of the team trading wide receiver Jarvis Landry, but free agency is also a big part of fixing Miami’s 6-10 team from last season.
The Dolphins do not have a lot of salary cap space, especially with the $16 million cap hit Landry’s franchise tag is expected to cost the team until they either re-sign him, rescind the tag, or trade him. That said, they have moves they can make to find money, and free agency cannot be ignored.
SB Nation has a Top 100 NFL free agents of 2018 list, which is being updated as teams re-sign or franchise tag players. Landry is listed as the sixth-player on the list, though he is annotated as having the franchise tag. While the top five features players Miami likely will not pursue players like running back Le’Veon Bell (number one), defensive end Demarcus Lawrence (second), quarterback Drew Brees (third), or quarterback Kirk Cousins (fifth), the fourth ranked player on SB Nation’s rankings could be interesting for Miami.
Carolina Panthers guard Andrew Norwell appears to be heading toward free agency. The 2014 undrafted free agent signing by the Panthers has played in 55 games in four seasons, including all 16 games the last two years. He was rated third-overall among guards according to Pro Football Focus in 2017, first is pass blocking and eighth in run blocking. He was signed to a one-year, $2.75-million contract last year as a restricted free agent.
Why the Dolphins should be interested
The Dolphins need guard help, and Norwell would immediately provide that. It would free up a draft pick from having to be used on the position, and at 26-years-old (turning 27 during the season), Norwell is young enough to lock into a long-term contract and not have to worry about the position for a long time.
He is incredibly talented - which says something about the draft process given he was undrafted out of Ohio State.
Why the Dolphins should pass
Money. Miami does not have a lot of it, and Norwell likely will be in demand. Kevin Zeitler received a five-year, $60-million contract as a free agent last year, with $23 million guaranteed. That is probably the starting point for Norwell in contract negotiations. There will be plenty of teams lining up to pursue him when the legal tampering period begins, and Miami could get into the action, but they will have to free up a lot of cap space to make it happen. Zeitler’s 2017 cap number was $8.4 million, so there are ways the Dolphins can work the contract to make sure he would fit into the 2018 cap, but it would mean a quickly escalating cap number in future years.
Miami has to at least see if there is any way they can be in the discussion with Norwell. I would guess it will quickly get out of their price range, but they have to see f there is a way to make it happen. The Dolphins have had a rotation of players at guard since Richie Incognito was released following the bullygate scandal, and now they have a chance to get a player to finally solve one of those spots.
Make a run, but it probably is not something that will work out.
Should the Dolphins pursue Andrew Norwell in free agency?
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