By: Jason Sarney
The great Bob Dylan once wrote and sang, “I feel a change comin' on.” The legendary singer-songwriter wasn’t talking about football in the offseason in his classic hit, but it reminds me of a feeling Dolphin fans should get accustomed to:
Changes are coming. One way or another.
If last week’s news that Kyle Van Noy is no longer a part of Miami’s plans is any indication, the only certainty is surprise. General manager Chris Grier is clearly looking at his roster without bias of anything other than contract value and how to build this team effectively in his image.
Van Noy was among a large group of free agents signed last season. With him no longer being a part of the picture, one can wonder how many of last year’s class, along with another bunch of veterans, could also be expendable heading into what will be an offseason full of activity.
Looking at the 2020 Miami Dolphins roster, there could be an extreme amount of turnover, with at least 12 to 15 players being either expendable in trades, not re-signed as unrestricted free agents, or simply cut.
When factoring all those levels of transactions, there could be as many as 20 Dolphins from 2020 no longer playing football in Miami. If that number seems high, let’s also factor in changing roster and salary cap requirements heading into 2021; the circumstances were unique over the past year in sports and the world.
With a Salary cap at $180 Million for 2021, Miami needs to trim their roster of bloated contracts and simply maximize this year, with so many important players playing for virtual peanuts compared to their skill and value.
Here are some of the 15 lowest paid Dolphins under contract heading into 2021; the list includes:
Lynn Bowden - $824K
Andrew Van Ginkel - $850K
Myles Gaskin - $850K
Preston Williams - $850K
Mike Gesicki - $1.38 MIL
On the flip side, some of the more expensive Dolphins are those who are essential on the “Expendables” list, and they include:
Ereck Flowers - $8.97 MIL
Bobby McCain - $6.4 MIL
Jakeem Grant - $3.6 MIL
Jesse Davis - $3.11 MIL
Clayton Fejedelem - $2.25 MIL
Looking deeper into the Salary Cap, there are issues that could prevent a simple “cut” of a player like Ereck Flowers. Cutting Flowers would be a cap disaster, creating a $10.97 Dead Cap number and sending the Dolphins nearly a million into the red on that contract. Trading Flowers prior to June 1st would save them $8 Million while $2 Million would go towards the Dead Cap. This is something to watch in terms of a “contract-based-trade” in part of a larger deal, or simply a conditional late-round-pick move allowing Miami to save money and get a late Day 3 Draft pick.
Going a bit deeper and looking at the wide receivers, Miami currently has just over $26 Million allotted to their receiving corp. Roughly $9.7 Million of that heading into 2021 is taken up by Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant. With a class of phenomenal wide outs as well as an outstanding crew of free agent receivers, it’s close to a certainty both Wilson and Grant will not return to Miami.
Not so easy of a cap fix would be Allen Hurns, who is better suited on the Dolphins roster than off it.
He has arguably limited trade value, and cutting him would cost Miami nearly $500,000 in 2021 salary cap and add $3.36 Million to the Dead Cap.
Perhaps the most agonizing and simple “cap-causality” is captain Bobby McCain. This is not an endorsement to cut the veteran, who currently is the longest tenured Dolphin, rather an economic need. McCain’s potential release could save Miami $5.66 Million.
Among Miami’s unrestricted free agents, here are those who I would guess play elsewhere in 2021 and beyond.
Kyle Van Noy, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Matt Breida, Ted Karras, DeAndre Washington, Isaiah Ford, Julie’n Davenport, Adam Pankey and Elandon Roberts. Mack Hollins holds heavy special-teams value as does Kavon Frazier, and Kamu Grugier-Hill is a two-way player, so I wouldn’t be shocked to see them stick around.
Let us not forget Davon Godchaux, a very good player coming off an injured 2020, who I do not believe will be in Miami’s plans. This is not only due to the performance Christian Wilkins and Raekwon Davis, but also that Godchaux has Drew Rosenhaus as his agent. Rosenhaus is likely to get him paid elsewhere, as I can’t see Miami ponying up the dough.
With Van Noy on the way out, I would expect another injured player from 2020 being retained in Vince Biegel. A fine addition via trade from New Orleans in 2019, Beigel could pair with Van Ginkel on a lot of snaps to make a pair of Badgers ravenous in the defense’s second tier. Matt Haack, another UFA, should certainly be re-signed to keep a top-end league special teams kicking-battery together of he and Jason Sanders.
The last aspect of mass-cap-cutting would be to look at the top-end contracts that may be moved strategically, but that is a topic for another article. Miami’s most precious contracts are Xavien Howard, Byron Jones and DeVante Parker. What this piece is illustrating is the fact that by my count, we are looking at a turnover of at least 15 Dolphins who will in my guess be cut, traded or simply not re-signed.
With nine draft picks in the April NFL Draft, as well as a half-dozen candidates in Free Agency, not only are the times changing, but the good times are also about to roll. There are massively appealing free agents to match the potential savings we just went over together, on top of the current $36 Million in free cap space following the Van Noy move.
They say the only thing constant in life is change, and they also say that the NFL stands for “not for long.” These are two of the truest things you will ever hear or read.