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Miami Dolphins 2023 status: Upcoming free agents, three 5th-year option decisions

The Miami Dolphins are on to the 2023 offseason following their Wild Card playoff loss to the Buffalo Bills. We start looking ahead at what is next for Miami.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Miami Dolphins Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2016, but fell out of the win-or-go-home championship tournament on Sunday when they lost to the Buffalo Bills. Miami made a game of the Wild Card matchup, falling 34-31 despite a near-consensus write-off of the South Florida franchise and a historic 13.5-point spread in Buffalo’s favor. The loss, however, had the same result - Miami is on to the 2023 offseason now.

There will be plenty of questions and to-do items for the Dolphins this offseason. They will have to re-sign or cut players over the next couple of months; the team is one of 13 teams projected to be over the salary cap when the new league year starts in March. They also will have to make decisions on which of their own soon-to-be free agents they want to retain, as well as make a decision on three players’ fifth-year options after they were 2020 first-round draft picks.

The players Miami has to decide to either re-sign or allow to hit the free agent market this offseason include:

Salvon Ahmed, running back (RFA)
Justin Bethel, cornerback
Teddy Bridgewater, quarterback
Elijah Campbell, cornerback (ERFA)
Geron Christian, tackle
River Cracraft, wide receiver
Michael Deiter, guard
Sam Eguavoen, linebacker
Clayton Fejedelem, safety
Trey Flowers, linebacker
Eric Fisher, tackle
Myles Gaskin, running back
Mike Gesicki, tight end
Melvin Ingram, linebacker
John Jenkins, defensive tackle
Kendall Lamm, tackle
Greg Little, tackle
John Lovett, fullback (RFA)
Thomas Morstead, punter
Raheem Mostert, running back
Nik Needham, cornerback
Duke Riley, linebacker
Elandon Roberts, linebacker
Eric Rowe, safety
Adam Shaheen, tight end
Trent Sherfield, wide receiver
Brandon Shell, tackle
Andrew Van Ginkel, linebacker
Jeff Wilson, running back
Justin Zimmer, defensive tackle

Players who are selected in the NFL Draft every year, sign a four-year rookie contract under the rookie wage scale. Included in that contract for first-round selections is a fifth-year team option, with the pay based similarly to a franchise-tagged player. In this case, the fifth-year option salary is based on the average of the third through 25th highest salaries of players at the same position. Playing time and Pro Bowl selections (primary selection, not named as an alternate) can trigger escalators to that salary. When the option is exercised, the fourth- and fifth-year salaries for the player become fully guaranteed. The option must be exercised during the offseason between the third and fourth season for the player. The deadline for exercising the fifth-year option for players in 2023 is May 1.

In the 2020 NFL Draft, the Dolphins selected three players in the first round. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was the fifth-overall selection, tackle Austin Jackson was the 18th pick, and cornerback Noah Igbinoghene was the 30th selection. Miami has to chose what to do with the contract for each of these players.

Based on, the fifth-year options for each player would make their 2024 salaries:

  • Tua Tagovailoa - $22.4 million (playtime escalator included)
  • Austin Jackson - $14.8 million (playtime escalator included)
  • Noah Igbinoghene - $11.3 million

As the offseason continues, we will take a closer look at the rest of the decisions Miami has to make and start building our ideas of what this offseason will look like for the Dolphins.