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Dolphins hunting for trade partners before 2018 NFL Draft

NFL: Combine Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins have been active this offseason, more active than most expected given the seemingly dire salary cap situation in which the team found itself just a month ago. After making several moves, including releasing tight end Julius Thomas and center MIke Pouncey, as well as restructuring contracts by quarterback Ryan Tannehill and safety Reshad Jones, the team found itself with enough cap space to pick up some potentially key additions.

They also got active on the trade market, adding defensive end Robert Quinn and center Daniel Kilgore while sending wide receiver Jarvis Landry to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for draft picks. Now, according to a report from the Miami Herald’s Armando Salguero, the Dolphins are not done looking to move pieces.

According to Salguero’s report, “ the Dolphins are willing to part with talent from a part of their roster that seems overloaded with players, or perhaps even draft picks for the right addition.”

Miami needs to add depth at a few positions, like running back and defensive tackle, but is likely looking primarily for a third starting linebacker and a starting tight end. The team is deep - or overloaded to use Salguero’s term - at defensive end, which brings up one obvious trade candidate for the club: Andre Branch.

Branch signed a three-year contract extension last March with Miami, giving him $24-million over the span of the contract. Included in that was $16.8 million guaranteed, with $6 million of that a signing bonus. That includes all $7.9 million of Branch’s base salary for this year guaranteed, plus the $2 million of the prorated portion of the signing bonus and a $100,000 workout bouns, which brings his salary cap number to $10 million for this year. If Miami trades Branch - which seems like a desired move now that they are paying $10 million for someone who will likely be third in the defesnive end rotation - they would have $4 million in dead money (two years of the prorated salary cap) while picking up $6 million in cap space. If that trade were to come after June 1, the team would have $2 million in dead money this year, with an additional $2 million next year, giving them $8 million in space this year.

The question is, would someone be willing to take on $8 million in cap space for Branch?

The Dolphins are, according to Salguero, “looking to play a long game rather than showing desperation because they don’t intend to overpay for any player.” In other words, unless a trade to their liking jumps out at them soon, they will be willing to continue to look for a trade partner over the next month, leading up to the Draft. They could even wait longer, letting that June 1 date arrive before they make a deal, creating more cap space for themselves.

Of course, all of this is speculation. Maybe they do not want to move Branch. He does seem like the most likely candidate if a player trade is completed. If not, the Dolphins could be looking to move draft picks - again, at a price they want, not at the price another team demands - to land a player they like.

A couple of players who could be on the team’s radar include Denver Broncos running back CJ Anderson and Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Michael Brockers. The Dolphins have attempted to sign Anderson before, signing him to an offer sheet in 2016 when he was a restricted free agent; the Broncos ultimately matched that offer. Now, there has been speculation that Denver could cut Anderson, or they could be looking to trade him.

Brockers is an interesting option for the Rams, who just signed former Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. Suh should immediately fill the starting role next to Aaron Donald, a spot previously filled by Brockers. The salary cap numbers are similar between Branch and Brockers, which could make the trade manageable salary wise. Of course, the Rams would have to be willing to give Miami their 2012 first-round pick.

The Dolphins have patience on their side at this point, but seem to want to get a deal completed prior to the Draft. If the team can fill all their major vacancies prior to the Draft, they would have the flexibility to make draft-day trades, or simply select the best player available on their board.

Miami wants to find a trade partner. Will they be successful? Will they find a deal they like for a player they want? Whatever the case, the team is at least looking.