2016 Cap Outlook: Miami Dolphins

Through the 2015 NFL season, Pro Football Rumors will be looking ahead to the 2016 offseason, gauging the salary cap situation for each of the league’s 32 teams. The cap for 2016 hasn’t been set yet, but we can still assess the salary commitments made by a club and determine whether or not that club will be in good financial shape going forward.

In addition to evaluating each team’s overall cap situation, we’ll focus in on a few key players who may be candidates to be extended, restructured, or released by their current teams. These lists aren’t comprehensive, and depending on a player’s 2015 performance and health, he could drop off one of these lists – or be added to one – as the season goes on. For now though, these are some players to watch.

Using data from Over The Cap, we’re making our way through the 32 NFL teams in order of total salary commitments for 2016. Today’s team is the Dolphins, who currently have the third-most money on their ’16 cap.

Let’s dive in….

Top 10 cap hits for 2016:

  1. Ndamukong Suh, DT: $28,600,000
  2. Ryan Tannehill, QB: $11,640,000
  3. Branden Albert, LT: $10,150,000
  4. Mike Pouncey, C: $10,025,000
  5. Cameron Wake, DE: $9,800,000
  6. Jordan Cameron, TE: $9,500,000
  7. Brent Grimes, CB: $9,500,000
  8. Reshad Jones, S: $8,202,942
  9. Dion Jordan, DE: $6,202,377
  10. Greg Jennings, WR: $5,500,000
    Current 2016 cap number for top 51 players: $146,763,779

Nestled between Joe Flacco‘s $28.55MM cap charge and Drew Brees‘ staggering $30MM cap hit, Suh’s number for 2016 is one of the largest in the league, and contributes significantly to the Dolphins’ overall total for next year. Suh currently represents nearly 20% of Miami’s cap number for 2016, which is a huge percentage for any player, and particularly for a non-quarterback.

The rest of the Dolphins’ top 10 is populated by a combination of core contributors and players who may not be back on the roster next season, with Tannehill at the top of the list of players not named Suh. Miami isn’t necessarily locked into Tannehill as its long-term quarterback, but the team is unlikely to make a change before the end of the 2016 season — the 27-year-old’s salary for next year is fully guaranteed, and his cap charge doesn’t increase significantly until 2017, when it jumps over $20MM.

Candidates for extension:

  • Brent Grimes, CB
  • Cameron Wake, DE

Grimes and Wake are arguably the Dolphins’ two best defensive players besides Suh, and they’ll see their current contracts expire after the 2017 and 2016 seasons, respectively, which should make them extension candidates. However, it’s not clear how much longer Miami may want to keep the duo around. Grimes is 32 years old and Wake will turn 34 in January, so it’s not as if the team will be eager to tack on another three or four years to either player’s contract.

Still, both players are still very productive, and there’s some room to maneuver if the Dolphins want to lock either of them up to new deals. It probably makes sense to wait on Grimes, who remains under contract for two full years after 2015, but extending Wake’s pact by a year or two would allow Miami to reduce his $9.8MM cap charge for 2016 — the club would just have to avoid taking on a ton of dead money for any new years, since there’s certainly no guarantee Wake continues to rack up Pro Bowl appearances as he enters his mid-thirties.

Candidates for restructure:

  • Ndamukong Suh, DT
  • Mike Pouncey, C

As noted above, Suh’s $28.6MM cap number for 2016 is begging for a restructure, especially since his charge for 2017 is just $15.1MM — a pittance, by comparison. Despite the fact that Suh has yet to make the impact in South Beach that his new team expected, he’s not going anywhere anytime soon with so much guaranteed money left on his deal, so a restructure looks like the only logical move if the Dolphins need to reduce his cap hit.

As for Pouncey, he’s another player who signed a new contract this past spring that looks like a strong candidate for a restructuring. Like Suh’s deal, Pouncey’s pact features its largest cap number in year two, giving Miami the flexibility to rework it and spread some of that money out from 2017 to 2020, if necessary.

Candidates for pay cut or release:

  • Branden Albert, T
  • Jordan Cameron, TE
  • Dion Jordan, DE
  • Greg Jennings, WR
  • Brice McCain, CB

Of the players listed here, Albert is probably the least likely to be released by the Dolphins within the next few months. After all, it was only about a year and a half ago that he landed one of the top free agent contracts of 2014, signing a five-year, $47MM deal with Miami.

Still, the former Chiefs tackle has had problems staying healthy. After missing four games in his last year in Kansas City, Albert missed another seven in his first season with the Dolphins, and has been sidelined for two more this season. Assuming he finishes the 2015 campaign strong and heads into the offseason with a clean bill of health, Albert should be back in Miami in 2016, but if he continues to be plagued by injuries, that’s not quite a certainty. The 30-year-old has cap numbers exceeding $10MM in each season from 2016 to 2018, with no guaranteed salary left on his contract in those years.

Cameron and Jennings each signed two-year deals with the Dolphins that included large cap hits in year two, reducing the chances of them playing more than one year each in Miami. So far, they haven’t been a huge part of the Dolphins’ offense, combining for just 23 receptions in five games, and they’ll take up a total of $14MM on the 2016 cap if they stick around.

McCain, meanwhile, has a reasonable $3.5MM cap number for next year, but he hasn’t exactly impressed during the first few weeks of the 2015 season, and the Dolphins could create $2.5MM in cap savings by cutting ties with him in the offseason. As for Jordan, a draft bust selected by former GM Jeff Ireland, the club currently isn’t paying his full salary while he remains stashed on the reserve/suspended list — otherwise, it’s unlikely he’d still be a Dolphin. Jordan’s off-field issues and on-field ineffectiveness have all but guaranteed he’s not a part of Miami’s future.

Contract information from Over The Cap was used in the creation of this post.

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