The Miami Dolphins are going to be facing an offseason full of tough decisions as they look for ways to get under the 2024 NFL salary cap. According to OverTheCap.com, the Dolphins are expected to be somewhere around $40-45 million over the cap when the new league year starts in March. Adding in their draft picks and other obligations moves Miami to around $55 million over the cap. And now, they could be facing a massive acceleration of money from future years into this year’s cap issues.
Dolphins Pro Bowl left tackle Terron Armstead seemed to hint earlier this week that he could be contemplating retirement. He did admit he still loves the game and that he always takes some time to process the end of the season and whatever decisions he has to make, but Armstead will turn 33 as training camp starts this year and has battled through injuries every season of his 11-year career. Will his body allow him to play a 12th campaign?
The Dolphins do not have an heir apparent for the left tackle position if Armstead hangs up his cleats. It is something they likely would be considering for this offseason, and they could always look to add a veteran in free agency or select a rookie early in the 2024 NFL Draft to replace Armstead, but there is potentially a bigger issue if Armstead retires.
Miami’s cap problem immediately gets worse.
Armstead signed a five-year, $75 million contract with the Dolphins in 2022, a deal that included a $12 million signing bonus and $43.4 million in guaranteed money. Armstead and the Dolphins agreed to a restructured contract in March, moving some of the roster bonuses and base salary and turning it into an increased signing bonus.
Including the $5 million of his $13.25 million 2024 salary that is fully guaranteed, Armstead will count for a $20.8 million cap hit this year. That is the best-case scenario for the Dolphins.
If Armstead is on the roster on March 16 - the third day of the 2024 league year - his full $13.25 million salary becomes guaranteed.
If Armstead retires before March 16, the Dolphins will see an additional $12.8 million in signing bonus money, currently spread over the 2025 and 2026 season, accelerate into this season. With the $8.25 million of his salary not guaranteed, but the increase of $12.8 million into this year, Armstead’s cap number goes up if he does not play, with Miami’s cap hit coming in at $24.1 million. The Dolphins would add an additional $3.5 million to their already too high cap number if Armstead does not play this season, as compared to what they would owe if he does play.
If Armstead retires after the third say of the league year, the $8.25 million could be added on top of that - assuming no language in the contract would give Miami an escape.
If all of this happens after June 1, 2024, the Dolphins would receive $9.25 million in salary cap space, while absorbing $11.4 million in dead money. They would have to account for the remaining $12.7 million in missing salary cap accounting in the 2025 league year.
Armstead is an outstanding left tackle who solidifies Miami’s offensive line whenever he is available to play. The biggest issue for the Dolphins and for Armstead himself is his body refuses to let him play an entire season. If he is mentally to the point where he cannot justify pushing his body for another full NFL season, the Dolphins have a problem with their offensive line.
However, it would also mean they have an even worse problem with their salary cap.