The desire for cap space can lead some teams to consider some rather peculiar options. Obviously, the first choice that many would consider is to cut dead weight, which - no doubt - the Miami Dolphins will be doing this offseason, as they look to increase their mere $8,293,035 in cap space (according to overthecap.com).
For instance, releasing veteran tight end Julius Thomas - who never truly regained his Denver form and was a disappointment throughout the 2017 season - will save the Dolphins $6.6 million dollars and will bring Miami's cap space to a total of $14,087,613.
Then there's linebacker Lawrence Timmons, who did contribute to Miami's improved run defense (ranked 14th overall in 2017) but was ultimately a major liability due to his lack of coverage ability and sideline-to-sideline speed; he also undermined the team when he went AWOL before the team's first game against the Los Angeles Chargers. Releasing Timmons would free up a net total of $5,475,000 in cap space, which increases the salary cap to $19,562,613.
Those two moves are the ones that everyone expects to see coming, and already that frees up a lot of cap space that Miami will need - not just to make overall improvements, but to sign their incoming draft picks, whoever they may be.
But obviously, more cap space is needed even though those two moves alone would raise the cap to over $19.5 million, but the first solution that everyone seems to come up with is restructuring the contract of the team's already highest-paid player, Ndamukong Suh.
Granted, I can see the appeal in doing so; Suh is currently set to count for $26.1 million against the salary cap in 2018, and restructuring his contract and turning - let's say $10 million - of that into a signing bonus would lower his 2018 cap hit to roughly $16.1 million, and would give Miami a whopping total of nearly $30 million in cap space if they did it.
Plenty of room to maneuver with in the offseason, right?
Well, yes and no.
Keep in mind that restructuring contracts does not solve cap space issues, it only delays them. Eventually, all of the cap space that gets removed through signing bonuses will eventually be attributed to the salary cap, and it will make things even more difficult in the future when it comes times to re-sign other players who may have earned a new contract, because that cap space that would be freed up in 2018, would end up subtracting from the amount of space for the next year.
One step forward, two steps back.
As it stands, the only safe year to get out from under Suh's contract is 2020 - his final year - when Miami will finally be able to release (or possibly trade if someone is willing to take that contract) Suh for a whopping cap savings of $18,375,000. But that's only if Miami doesn't restructure his contract.
There's no denying that Suh is the best player on Miami's roster, and if anyone deserves the guaranteed contract, it's him. But no matter what happens, Suh is going to count for a lot of money against their cap in the next three years, and common sense would dictate that it's better to have the option of releasing him and freeing up cap space than being locked into a contract, even if it's on its final year.
Mortgaging the future is only a semi-good idea if the team in question is but one step away from competing for a Super Bowl. I myself have admitted that the Dolphins are not in as bad a shape as many seem to think, in fact I feel their future is quite bright...but they are not going to be taking down the likes of the Eagles anytime soon.
Miami is building a true franchise right now, drafting young and talented players and developing them to take on roles that we never would have dreamed they would be able to with the previous regime. As I said in a previous story, Miami's drafting effectiveness has gone up since Gase took command, and so far in just two years, the Dolphins have managed to draft at least nine solid players, players that will eventually make up the core of the team.
The real core, which likely will not include Ndamukong Suh.
Restructuring would be a sign that the front office is desperate to win, and desperation seldom leads to results. It takes time, patience, good scouting and development, and above all...common sense...to lead a franchise. Right now, Miami is shifting towards that frame of mind. Mistakes were made in the past, and it would be best to not repeat those mistakes.
I will not say that signing Suh was a mistake in and of itself, simply because he is still - and likely will be for at least a few more years - one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL. But restructuring him would absolutely be a mistake in my mind, because the Dolphins are building a bright future, while still potentially competing for the playoffs with the return of the team's starting QB, Ryan Tannehill.
There are other options to free up space; dead weight to trim and - admittedly - hard decisions to be made with fan favorite players (Mike Pouncey, Cameron Wake), but a restructure should be the last thing on Miami's mind to free up cap space for 2018, because by making sure the future is safe, the Dolphins will give themselves plenty of room to build and fill gaps once the team's core has been built, which we are in the process of watching happen.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
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