AFC East Notes: Fins, Whaley, Bowles

The Dolphins are in the midst of a disappointing season, and although there is still time for the 3-5 club to reverse its fortunes and claw back into the wildcard race, there are some who are already looking ahead to next season. As Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald writes, the Dolphins can easily create a great deal of cap space in 2016 to address their weaknesses and restock their roster. For instance, Miami will almost assuredly release Greg Jennings, thereby saving $4MM, and it could also cut Jordan Cameron, who has not found his place in the offense and who will count a whopping $9.5MM against the cap next year.

Meanwhile, Ndamukong Suh and Ryan Tannehill have a combined $40.2MM cap hit in 2016, but Jackson notes that the Dolphins could reduce that number to as low as $15.1MM with several relatively simple restructures. Needless to say, such restructurings could hamstring the team in future seasons, but even if the Dolphins choose not to go that route, there are still plenty of opportunities for them to create cap room. Parting ways with Koa Misi and Earl Mitchell, for example, would free up over $6MM of space. The real question, then, is not whether the Dolphins will have the financial wherewithal to improve their fortunes, but whether they can find the right players to do so. Recent history, of course, is against them.

Now let’s take a quick swing around the other clubs in the AFC East:

  • We heard several days ago that even if the Bills fall out of the playoff race in 2015, head coach Rex Ryan would still return for 2016, though GM Doug Whaley‘s future in Buffalo would be much more uncertain. But as Jay Skurski of The Buffalo News writes, the club’s 2015 draft class has been crucial to the team’s relative good fortunes this season, and although Skurski does not explicitly say so, it may be that the rookies’ cumulative success could save Whaley’s job.
  • Manish Mehta of The New York Daily News believes Todd Bowles was the right hire at the right time for the Jets, but a series of questionable in-game decisions, particularly decisions related to clock management, have cast a black cloud over Bowles’ otherwise promising first season as a head coach. Bowles’ job will not be in jeopardy any time soon, but his ability to learn from his early blunders will ultimately define how successful his tenure with Gang Green will be, and how long it will last.
  • When a player signs an extension prior to exploring free agency, he is often said to have left money on the table. However, as Mike Reiss of writes, the recent case of Patriots RB Dion Lewis runs counter to that narrative. Lewis signed a two-year deal in October that led many writers to praise New England for once again securing a major contributor with a team-friendly contract. But as Reiss says, Lewis’ season-ending ACL tear shows just how fragile one’s career can be, and just how important it is for many players–particularly players who entered the league as late draft choices or undrafted free agents–to get paid as soon as possible.
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