By: Jason Sarney
Playing fantasy football is one of the most enjoyable aspects of being a fan, but what about playing fantasy General Manager? Obviously these days jumping on social media is basically the same thing, but there are certain websites out there that allow you to trim a roster bringing in free agents and manipulating a salary cap as easy as ever.
With that said, going over to Spotrac.com was enjoyable in constructing a fantasy-minded front office simulation. Sparked from the Kyle Van Noy news from Tuesday that saved Miami nearly $10 Million in salary cap space, here is a fun look at what the team could look like in setting up their Free Agency Bonanza and upcoming Draft-haul.
(OPINION PIECE HERE)
*All Salary Figures from www.spotrac.com
A clearer look at the cap following the Van Noy news:
This cap total and roster breakdown is Post-Van Noy, and not including players that are currently free agents like Davon Godchaux and Ted Karras who I do not believe will be resigned.
Here are the Dolphins Free Agents:
It is to be noted that cornerbacks Nik Needham and Jamal Perry are Exclusive Rights Free Agents, so Miami controls their destiny essentially. Linebacker Calvin Munson is also an EFA. I would say one of the three would certainly be back and the smart money is on Needham so let’s add him back in the mix.
Without further ado, let’s build:
There should be immediate interest in retaining and offering another contract to keep players like Vince Biegel, Matt Haack, Kavon Frazier, and Mack Hollins in town. We all know the value of Haack, and Biegel is hopefully rested and healed from last year's injury. He provides depth in a now lighter LB room now. Frazier and Hollins are valued special teamers, so it makes sense to re-sign them. Frazier is a captain on the unit, and Hollins a quality coverage gunner.
Let’s see how the cap looks re-signing them at estimated market value according to Spotrac.com and comparable players. Based on a guess-timation on salaries of these players, here is what the new cap figure looks like in this NON-PERFECT model:
After those simulated moves and the roster at familiar number of 53 players including those who will eventually be practice squad players, this formula has savings of $10+ million, giving Miami $36 to play with AFTER these mock re-signings and cuts/cap-hits.
Now it is time for fun with the free agents available, and of course not worrying about potential “franchise tags,” here is my dream scenario with some math to go with it. Although this is something to be taken with a grain of sea-salt with the estimations of salary.
Curtis Samuel – Having a Spotrac.com market value of $12.4 Million, this slot receiver and ball-carrier out of the backfield (41 rushes in 2020) is a play-maker sorely needed in Miami. He creates yards after catch and in terms of overall touches last season was a top 2 wide receiver in production. The stat I love is his 4.2 yards AFTER catch per reception. The yardage does not end when the ball hits Samuel, as he creates much need YAC.
(OTHER WRs with higher market value) - The contracts for the 2021 cap is based on the market-value on Spotrac.com of the player.
Allen Robinson - $20M
Chris Godwin - $17.1M
JuJu Smith-Schuster – $16.1M
Giving Samuel a nice round $13M works for me, and the Dolphins get a dynamic and economic, young weapon for Tua Tagovailoa.
Moving on to the running back position which is a major need, as only three Miami runners have rushed for 10+ touchdowns since the dawn of the 2000s. Lamar Smith, Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown. Aaron Jones is a touchdown maker, averaging a score a game in his last 30 games. His value is in his efficiency, and while having a $14.6M Spotrac.com market value, I think $13M is another sweet-spot to land a guy who is versatile enough to utilize in the passing game, as he is coming off a season with 47 catches in 2020 and a 2019 year with 49 receptions.
His career 5.2 yards per carry is outstanding, and while the Packers had an elite offensive line as well as Aaron Rodgers, Jones must be given credit as his production per touch is in the tier of running backs such as Dalvin Cook, Alvin Kamara, Derrick Henry and Zeke Elliott in years heading into their free agency pay-day.
While he would be a centerpiece of a relative RBBC with Myles Gaskin and a hopeful Day 2 rookie selected in April, this backfield can model that of Green Bay’s from last season. Additionally when you think about it, outside of two special Ricky Williams individual seasons, Miami has had its success with multiple runners. Dating back to the Perfect Season with the trio of Csonka, Morris and Kiick. Then the Marino-led mid-90’s teams of combinations of Mark Higgs, Irving Spikes, Bernie Parmalee, Terry Kirby and Keith Byars and of course the Wildcat of Ricky and Ronnie.
With the uniqueness of Miami’s roster in youth and salary-structure, it is OK in my mind to spend a little bit more on a free agent running back than normal. Lock Jones up and create weapons all over the field for Tua. Signing Jones could mean Salvon Ahmed is out in this scenario, which is tolerable and Patrick Laird is always valuable with his pass-blocking.
With two huge splashes and $26M spent, Miami is looking at $11.2M of cap space in this model, so a few more cuts need to be made to make room for rookies as well as a 2021 in-season cushion of cap space. This is where things get difficult as veteran Bobby McCain could be on the cutting-block, as his potential pre-June 1st release would turn this fictitious $11.2M Miami 2021 Salary cap to nearly $17M after the Jones and Samuel signings.
Moving to the offensive line, the soon-to-be 2nd-year-trio of Austin Jackson at a tackle slot, Robert Hunt and Solomon Kindley manning the guard positions leaves me wondering about Jesse Davis, who could play tackle or guard, as well as natural guard Ereck Flowers.
Flowers likely will not be cut, as his dead cap hit would hurt the Miami bottom line and cutting Jesse Davis may not be prudent, as his versatility and leadership may be more important than a few million in savings in this example.
Flowers should be a trade candidate to be dealt for a late conditional draft pick if a team can take this salary or most of it off Miami’s hands. With some linemen available in free agency and a center-needy team in the Dolphins looking to draft a man in the middle, look for Miami to move one of the big fellas.
For example, should they trade Flowers, the cap now becomes $24M and maybe they pick up a decent pick.
Now, it’s time to shop again with the Flowers "faux-trade." Bringing in said center could be the move to make and that center could travel to Miami with Aaron Jones. Green Bay free agent Corey Linsley carries a market value of approximately $10 annually. So let’s pay him just that. All of a sudden, Miami may have a young offensive line, with two veterans at its core in Linsley and Davis. With this move, the-Faux Cap is now at $14.9M with a roster that looks full of play-makers and young talent with a sprinkle of veteran leadership where needed.
These three signings come with a “quality above quantity” free agent plan with 9 Draft picks on the way. Positions have checked off like RB, WR and C with Pro-Bowl talent, and Miami can now do literally anything they want in April's Draft.
Nearly $15M in open cap, 4 top-50 selections, and more room to wiggle in free agency and the trade market, this is simply a model, and not at all to scale of accuracy in math. Yet, it is a fun look at a guess-timation of possibility over the next few weeks for this team.
A team clearly going for it and making a run at a championship sooner than later, while becoming young enough to sustain consistent success over the next several years.
The Final Breakdown:
QB- Tua Tagovailoa – Reid Sinnett (Option on table for a Ryan Fitzpatrick return but doubtful and there is always Jake Rudock)
RB – Aaron Jones – Myles Gaskin – ROOKIE - Patrick Laird (DRAFT A ROOKIE DAY 2/3)
WR – Curtis Samuel – DeVante Parker - Preston Williams – Lynn Bowden, Jr. –– Allen Hurns - ROOKIE (Draft a WR making 6 rostered pure receivers)
TE- Mike Gesicki – Durham Smythe – Adam Shaheen
Austin Jackson – Robert Hunt – Corey Linsley – Solomon Kindley – Jesse Davis
Emmanuel Ogbah – Christian Wilkins – Zach Sieler – Raekwon Davis – Shaq Lawson (KEYS)
Depth (Jason Strowbridge – Jonathan Ledbetter – Benito Jones)
Jerome Baker – Andrew Van Ginkel – Vince Biegel – Sam Equavoen
(Calvin Munson, Elandon Roberts and/or Kamu Grugier-Hill are no locks one way or the other, so the depth of this group is in the air at the moment). Miami can still draft a linebacker or seek a player in free agency.
Xavien Howard – Byron Jones – Nik Needham – Noah Igbinoghene
Eric Rowe – Brandon Jones – Kavon Frazier (ST) (Draft and/or sign SS)
Jason Sanders – Matt Haack – Blake Ferguson
Mack Hollins – Gunner
Malcolm Perry – RB/WR/Return-man
With practice squad potential players like Kirk Merritt (WR), Tyshun Render (DE) , Nick Coe (DE) and Brian Cole (S) added into the mix, this is a foundation able to build on with more bit-pieces here and there in veteran signings and of course, April’s treasure trove of draft picks.