My favorite part of any Madden game is always playing the role of a GM, making transcations, signing free agents and drafting new players who could make my already awesome team even more awesome. After all, against the computer you're pretty much guaranteed to win the Super Bowl each year.
But I digress.
Now that the playoffs have come and gone, the time has come for the Miami Dolphins to begin evaluating the roster and analyzing what changes need to be made before 2017 begins, and that's exactly what I plan to do right here and now.
Before we begin, let's check and see how much salary cap space the Dolphins will have for the 2017 offseason before any moves are made with some help from out friends from Spotrac and overthecap.com.
With the projected NFL salary cap to inflate all the way up to $168 million, that means that after factoring in Miami's $634,494 in dead cap, along with the $14,899,982 in rollover from 2016, the Dolphins will have approxamitely $43,585,657 in cap space to work with even with the 51 players currently under contract.
So is there room to work with? Absolutely there is. But there's still a lot more that can be done, and that leads us to the hitlist. First we'll list the players who Miami would probably be better off moving on from, and that list is a lengthy one.
Mario Williams - Defensive end
This is the most duh worthy move that could possibly be made. Mario Williams was signed to a 2-year, $17 million dollar contract with the assumption that he would be back to his superstar form once he was placed back into a pass-rusher role. That did not happen, and he was benched for Andre Branch around midseason and was never put back.
The 31-year old Williams only notched 13 tackles and 1.5 sacks in 2017, and it reached a point where even Marist alumnus Terrence Fede was getting snaps at defensive end over him. That alone should indicate that not only is Williams' time with the Dolphins over, his career could possibly be in jeopardy after the miserable performance and effort he put forth.
On top of all that, cutting Williams will save Miami $8.5 million in cap space with only $2 million in dead money, making freeing up that roster spot even more of a no-brainer than ever. The Dolphins can easily use that extra space to sign a depth player who will give more production at DE than Williams did, and at a fraction of the cost.
Or, they can just re-sign Andre Branch, but that's another story to be written later.
Earl Mitchell - Defensive tackle
As much as I love Earl Mitchell, it's time to move on from him. After only playing 12 games in 2015 and then only playing nine games in 2016, it's clear that the 29-year old Mitchell is best relegated to a backup role rather than a starter.
After aggravating an injury he suffered in training camp, Mitchell was taken out of the Week 1 matchup against the Seattle Seahawks, and then upon his return, he had a brief burst where he was incredibly impactful, then mostly vanished for the rest of the season, only making 18 tackles on the year.
In fairness, second-year DT Jordan Phillips had been doing a well enough job as a starter opposite Ndamukong Suh, but neither he nor Mitchell really stood out. In the end, this boils down to being a salary cap casualty. Both Mitchell and Phillips create similar production, but Mitchell is much more expensive than a young DT on his rookie deal.
Cutting Mitchell will save $4 million in cap space with only $500,000 in dead money. With Phillips and reserve player Julius Warmsley, Miami could potentially get the same production at a fraction of the cost, unless the Dolphins attempt to look elsewhere to fill that role.
Koa Misi - Linebacker
Koa Misi is a solid NFL linebacker. Unfortunately, his tendency to get injured - combined with the nature of his latest injury - leaves the 29-year old Misi in a bit of a sticky situation. In the three games he played in 2016, Misi had already accumulated 22 tackles, but is that worth paying him over $4.5 million dollars?
In my opinion, the answer is no. Misi is someone who could be an excellent backup for a number of teams, but the fact that he's a key starter for the Miami Dolphins speaks to the awful situation in Miami's linebacker corps.
Cutting Misi will save the Dolphins $4.2 million dollars, with only $578,000 in dead cap. At this price, I would definitely part ways with Misi, but if the doctors clear him and he's willing to take a pay cut, I would definitely keep him around. But, I expect that Misi won't be willing to do that.
Jelani Jenkins - Linebacker
Similar to Misi, Jenkins - when healthy - is a solid NFL linebacker, but he too is extremely injury prone and he hasn't been the same player for quite some time. He's shown he has what it takes to be a starting outside linebacker in the past, but is that worth paying him a lucrative contract as he enters free agency for the first time?
It truly depends on the price in this case. If he's looking to get paid, then Miami would be wise to move on from Jenkins and try to draft new talent at linebacker this upcoming offseason, which is sure to be very high on the priority list.
In 2016, Jenkins only played in nine games, and the games he did play he struggled to even move most of the time. He only made 29 tackles and deflected one pass as he split time with Neville Hewitt and Spencer Paysinger. If he's willing to return to the Dolphins in a backup role, then I would certainly bring him back. Otherwise, it's time to move on.
Next time, we'll look at the players Miami absolutely needs to retain. Stay tuned.
This column was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
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