By: Jason Sarney
NFL Morning News kicked off Wednesday with Adam Schefter’s Tweet of the 2021 NFL salary cap.
The difference from 2020's cap of $198.2 million is staggering when looking at this upcoming season's $182.5 million number with days to go until the NFL free agent frenzy officially kicks off. As we stand currently, we are in the middle of cut-week and salary cap trimming is on the forefront of general managers minds as well as plucking through the scrapheap of available players.
All we can do is sit back and speculate and have some fun doing so as referenced in earlier pieces this week. There have been a couple of names thrown out in scenarios on this site and I am going to stick to that general mindset and try to build the roster to get to roughly a few million dollars south of that 2021 cap figure. Then there would need to be ways to leave room for the draft and the 2021 season itself after further cuts that would come in June and later in this overall process.
Let's give it a shot with approximate figures from www.spotrac.com
Take this with a grain of sea salt as this is a mock team build.
Here is the current Miami salary cap and roster breakdown accounting for the Kyle Van Noy move as well as recent addition of Isaiah Wilson’s contract after the Titans trade.
As the moment on Wednesday 3/10/21 in the AM - this would mean Miami has roughly $12,475,211 in free space to work with prior to having some mock GM fun here.
The very first thing that needs to be done is trim money right away with some veteran cuts that although may hurt for the moment we all must realize it's a business and these salaries are expendable. The following players on this list all have expend-ability and savings for the Dolphins.
Right off the bat with some veteran cuts we're looking at nearly $14 million of savings after four cuts. We now have $26,457,711 to play with and the fun is just getting started, while the realism in admittance, is taking a hit of course. Yet, there is some method to this madness.
This madness was yesterday's piece on the potential of moving Xavien Howard
Getting the heavy Howard contract off the books gives Miami plenty of options heading into free agency as well as the NFL Draft in April. Assuming this happens, their savings is huge to the tune of $9,300,000. And as mention in yesterday's article, a team to circle would be Indianapolis as well as Denver. Here is a look at what they are working with.
Current Cap Room in 2021: $50.5M
2021 Draft position – 21st
CB Room as of 3/9/2021
Current Cap Room in 2021: $35.1M
2021 Draft position – 9th
CB Room as of 3/9/2021
If the Dolphins are able to hypothetically trade Howard and obtain a first round pick giving them three top-32 selections while saving nearly $10 million would open up doors of possibilities of team building. You can get the full details of this Howard scenario at the above link, but it ends with netting Patrick Surtain II as one of those potential (3) 1st rounders in this fantasy.
Following this mock-Howard move, there is a new free cap space to the sound of $35,757,711. Adding to this dream, which it is, being able to move Ereck Flowers via trade and not cut would save Miami massive money. He can not be cut because of a huge dead-cap number and Miami should consider packaging him in a deal to simply get anything they can back, but save the money. Hypothetically, send Flowers and a 2022 6th pick for a 2021 7th. Save $8,000,000. Something to simply save money. If the dream continues, we are now at $43,757,711 to now re-sign some players, and go fishing in the open market.
As stated in earlier pieces as well, I see Kavon Frazier and Mack Hollins returning as they are viable special teamers, Frazier being the unit captain. They could each see a 1-year deal in the million dollar range, so lets assume that is so, and ink them both for $1,000,000. And while we are at it, you have to bring back Matt Haack, who could net $3,000,000 and linebacker Vince Biegel is a solid depth move. Since he is returning from injury, and staying home, Miami could likely retain him at a similar number of say, his $1,500,000 figure.
These four moves added up to $6,500,000 so we now sit at a salary cap of $138,742,295. Here is a breakdown of the moves and roster breakdown:
CAP SPACE REMAINING = $43,757,705
With this cap space available, I am focusing on three players to bring in that would immediately make Miami's offense formidable while crossing out major need for the Draft, thus allowing them to focus on other areas where the premium talent lies.
Signing 1- Joe Thuney: He plays guard naturally, and skilled enough to play tackle and even center in a pinch. It is this kind of flexibility that Brian Flores loves.
Mock-Deal- 3-years for $45M which stays true to his approximate market value of $15 annually.
Free cap now = $28,757,705
Signing 2- Curtis Samuel: The Swiss-army knife was the NFL's 2nd leading wide receiver in total touches in 2020 behind Stefon Diggs. Samuel rushed the ball 41 times to go with his 77 catches, and has a terrific 4.4 yard after reception average. A perfect player to gain much need Yards After the Catch for the Dolphins.
Samuel has a market value much less of bigger names like the $18M franchise-tagged Allen Robinson and free agents, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Kenny Golladay. The economic move is Samuel at around $13M a year. I'd sign him for 4-years.
Free cap now = $15,757,705
CURRENT CAP NUMBER = $166,742,295
Signing 3- Aaron Jones at $12M would bring the cap to around $178,742,295.
They say don't pay for a running back, but frankly, he is that good. 5.2 yards per carry on his career, 49 and 47 receptions in each of last two seasons respectively, and in his last 30 games he has scored 30 touchdowns. Worth every penny.
CURRENT CAP NUMBER = $178,742,295
CAP SPACE REMAINING = $3,757,705
We are getting a little dicey now but there are ways to further trim salary to prepare for the Draft as well as a needed cushion to head into a season. Roughly $5-8M needs to be freed, and that can be done several ways.
Restructuring veterans, some minor trades or even more cuts, and this figure is obtainable. Whether those candidates be DeVante Parker, Eric Rowe, Clayton Fejedelem or Shaq Lawson, there are paths to coming into the 2021 season with cap flexibility, and a loaded roster, and in this scenario, (3) 1st round draft picks along with a pair of 2nds.
This is simply a mock-path, but a path nonetheless.