By Paul Wanecski
Remember when everyone was talking about how great the Dolphins were going to be last offseason? The brought in Suh, Jordan Cameron, Greg Jennings; it was all sunshine, roses and unicorns. Whoops. One head coach (and one interim head coach) later, Miami is sitting at the top of the draft and is projected to be over the salary cap (yes, even with the increase this offseason). New general manager Chris Grier has some serious cleaning up to do.
Head Coach: Adam Gase
Offensive Coordinator Clyde Christensen
26th YPG, 19th Pass, 23rd Run
Defensive Coordinator Vance Johnson:
25th YPG, 21st Pass, 28th Run
The reality is that Adam Gase has proven nothing. He was able to parlay being Peyton Manning’s offensive coordinator in which they set lit the league on fire, into a 6-9 record with the Bears, in which the only positives you could attribute to Gase were that Jay Cutler’s Quarterback Rating (not QBR) had never been higher and that Cutler managed to only throw 11 interceptions to 21 touchdowns. Not a banner year, but apparently this is the going rate for becoming a head coach in Miami. Here is a team that is over the cap, stuffed with old talent, paying for a franchise quarterback who isn’t really a franchise quarterback, and overpaying a defensive tackle without any other significant pass rushing support on the defensive line. Oh, did I forget to mention that the offensive line was pretty bad last year?
DT Ndamukong Suh is essentially a ski mask and gun away from holding the Dolphins salary cap hostage. His cap charge for 2016 is nearly $29m, but what do you expect when Miami tried to get cute with his cap number in 2015, which was only $6.1. His entire base salary is guaranteed at over $23m this year, so they would be wise to take about $10m of that and spread it around via restructuring and turn it into a signing bonus. That puts Miami back on the rails in 2018, which is currently the first year they could consider cutting Suh without a major dead-money hit.
TE Jordan Cameron was simply awful. Cut him and you save $7.5m
DE Cameron Wake is at the end of the line with Miami as well. While his production last year (seven games, seven sacks) looks great, the reality is that they put the eggs in the Dion Jordan basket (Dion Jordan would save Miami $3.2m if he is traded, since his salary cap number is $6.2m) and they are going to give him one more chance to make it happen. Cutting Wake in the final year of his deal saves $8.4m, unless they extend and restructure this year by tagging on another year or two. The issue is that Wake is coming off a major injury and investing in an aging and previous injured player is never a good thing.
CB Brent Grimes is set to make $9.5m this season against the cap. Yes, he was effective, but not at that price. It is doubtful (because that position is so thin on this roster) that he is released but Miami should approach him about figuring something out.
For the love of all that is holy, release Greg Jennings.
RB Lamar Miller, entering his age 25 season, has quietly been one of the most versatile running backs in the NFL the last two years. He is a prime candidate for the Transition Tag or the Non-Exclusive Franchise Tag. Both come with some strings. The transition tag would mean he can field offers and bring one back to Miami to match or beat, which if they choose not to match, Miller leaves with Miami receiving no compensation. The non-exclusive tag is a bit different in that if Miller is signed away, the Dolphins would receive two first round selections. Looking at the salary for the franchise tag, estimates put that at about $11m. The problem is the Miami will need to get real creative to keep him with the other needs and commitments.
What do you do with Oliver Vernon? Any commitment you make will need to be substantial, as many other teams in the NFL will take on the risks that he brings. It is hard picturing a scenario where Vernon and Miller are retained. It is most likely that Miami will go back to the drawing board at RB if they have to make a choice between the two, even given that Vernon has been a disappoint on the whole of his career
As a writer, sometimes you will need to write things that make you want to break your own fingers. Here goes. Kelvin Sheppard led the team in tackles in 2015 and should be brought back. He wasn’t amazing, but he wasn’t awful either
Lots of options here because Miami is not a player in free agency this offseason. They have holes at guard, linebacker, and corner back and need to revise the tackle position which proved to be a health issue last season.
Clemson CB Mackensie Alexander seems to be a good target and honestly Miami could use him. The last time Miami invested a high pick on a cornerback, it was 2013 in the second round for Jamar Taylor who has zero interceptions and 4 passes defensed his entire career.
You could pick any linebacker in this class and it would be an upgrade (well, except Jaylon Smith from Notre Dame who lost his season to a torn ACL and LCL and is rumored to need to rehab the entire 2016 NFL season). Seriously, any linebacker would help. If Sheppard is unable to return in Miami, Reggie Ragland from Alabama becomes an obvious choice to step inside.
And then you have Myles Jack from UCLA. Now, if Jack had never split time running the ball and playing linebacker for the Bruins, he wouldn’t be talked about as such a high selection. If Miami wants to do the rest of the AFC East a favor (like it appears they did in the hiring of Gase), then they should pull the trigger on Jack. He is a strong tackler but he has (at best) average vision on the field. He would have to play weak side linebacker in the NFL.
Miami should not reach to grab the first guard off the boar. Two tackles will likely already be off the board (and I am not sold on Ronnie Staley as a top-10 selection, the more I watch, the less power I see). They may look at add LSU tackle Vadal Alexander in the 2nd who would likely move into fill the guard spot or Sebastian Tretola who played guard at Arkansas.
Miami will be drafting a running back. That is basically a guarantee.
They will be adding players that are mid-tier or coming off injury. Really, not too much to talk about here with the glaring needs and salary cap restrictions. Releasing Wake will mean they need to shore up that spot (not in the draft), finding a handcuff at tackle (they will be drafting a tackle, but that player will be fighting for a roster spot), and signing a backup quarterback. None of these will be major additions because they just do not have the money.
.A Quick Guide to the Rookie Wage Scale (First Round Breakdown)
On the Clock: 2015 Miami Dolphins