The Miami Dolphins have been a mid-tier franchise for too long. The fan base has gotten fed up and it looks like the organization feels similarly. The front office is restructuring contracts, pushing money into the future, and adding established star players all over the roster. This is an exciting time for the fan base and if it leads to a championship then it will all be worth it.
For a long time, the Patriots were the standard in the NFL. There were occasional splash moves but they almost always came at a bargain. It came down to buying low on players, selling high, and keeping your core intact. A lot of franchises tried to replicate this strategy (including the Dolphins), but it didn’t work quite as well without (arguably) the greatest quarterback to ever play the game.
We should all be happy that the “Patriot Way,” is no longer a thing. Teams are stacking their rosters and finding ways to manipulate the salary cap in order to make championship runs. The Saints were one of the first organizations to ignore the salary cap, but the Rams winning the Super Bowl in 2021 is what really validated the approach. It’s worth noting that the Dolphins are bearing the fruit of that Rams Super Bowl run by acquiring Jalen Ramsey for peanuts, just so they can clear cap space and hit the reset button.
This isn’t meant to criticize the Dolphin’s move so far this offseason. In fact, they’ve gotten incredible value for almost all of their 2023 addition. This is meant to point out a shift in organizational philosophy and ask the painful question: “what if it doesn’t work out?”
The first thing that comes with this all-in strategy is a new set of expectations. Those new expectations are in place for the coaches, the front office, and the players. Anything short of a deep playoff run would be considered a failure for this group. If they miss the playoffs altogether, you can expect heads to roll. Those are some lofty expectations for an organization that hasn’t won a playoff game since 2000.
Now, to be honest, there’s no reason why they can’t make that happen. This is a stacked group and they have talent at all levels of the organization. But, there is a degree of luck that comes with success in the NFL. Players get injured (or don’t), and sometimes teams get the lucky bounces at the exact right time. Sometimes you just get beat and sometimes you just get unlucky.
The Dolphins have put together a great roster, but let’s say they have some kind of misfortune that leads to an early exit in the playoffs. How understanding will the fan base and the ownership be?
The Salary Cap IS Real
It’s real, but you can manipulate the hell out of it if you wish. That bill will come due though... eventually. We see the Saints add players year after year and wonder how it’s possible. They usually come into the offseason over the cap by some absurd figure but end up being players on several big-ticket free agents.
I’ll tell you how it’s possible: not retaining players like Trey Hendrickson, Marcus Williams, C.J. Gardner-Johnson, and Sheldon Rankins. Now no franchise retains all of its star players, but the Saints have lost a larger number than most. When some of the Dolphins’ better players come up for new contracts, keep this in mind.
It doesn’t mean they won’t be able to resign who they want, but it could make things significantly trickier.
Worst Case Scenario
Well, the worst thing that can happen is that the players you restructure contracts for, stop performing at a high level. We’ve seen this playout for the Saints with Michael Thomas, whose cap hit will be over 59 million dollars next season. The Saints have had to keep him on the roster for the past couple of years because his dead cap figure has been so high and they will be forced to eat about 14-15 million dollars in dead cap money if they decide to cut ties next offseason.
What would this look like for the Dolphins? It would mean Tyreek losing a step or Terron Armstead dealing with more significant injuries. It isn’t likely to happen this upcoming season but could be an issue as players grow older. Even the most elite dudes have to face father time, eventually.
As a fan, I am beyond ecstatic that the team is going all in. I don’t know if I can take another 8 or 9 (+/- 2)-win season from the Miami Dolphins and I’m sure much of the fan base agrees. This is the first time since I became a fan of the Miami Dolphins (since about 96) that this team really has a championship-level roster and coaching staff.
It is important to note that nothing is free and the organization is taking a series of calculated risks to make this possible. If it all works out, we could be celebrating a Super Bowl victory in the next year or two. If it doesn’t, well then we could be suffering through some more lean years. Let’s hope it’s the former.