After making the playoffs in 2016, hopes were high coming into the 2017 season for the Miami Dolphins. Unfortunately, a preseason knee injury knocked quarterback Ryan Tannehill out for the season, and while they were able to bring Jay Cutler in to replace him it was not enough to make up for the loss of their young leader.
Adam Gase’s team were a disappointing 6-10 in 2017, with Cutler hampering the offense and a lack of big plays on either side of the ball meaning the team had to scratch and claw all year to make any advance.
Coming into 2018 the hope will be that with a fully fit Ryan Tannehill they can bounce back and swipe a wildcard spot, if not mount a serious challenge in the AFC East. However, they have just $7.3 million in cap space to work with, and have a crucial part of their offense in Jarvis Landry hitting free agency. What can the Dolphins do to create more cap space?
Julius Thomas, TE – save $4.6 million
The Dolphins got Julius Thomas last year in a trade for a soon-to-retire Branden Albert, which was a nice return. Unfortunately, his production on the field has been less than stellar. He caught just 41 passes in 2017 for 388 yards., a stat-line that is remarkably similar to every year he has had without Peyton Manning throwing him the ball. Given that the Dolphins don’t have an all-time great quarterback and have invested fairly heavily in outside receivers it would make sense to cut Thomas and spend the money saved elsewhere.
Cameron Wake, DE – save $5.1 million
Cutting Wake would be a very tough call. The defensive end has played his entire NFL career in Miami, and despite just celebrating his 36th birthday he isn’t really showing any signs of slowing down.
Wake led the team with 10.5 sacks last year, as well as 12 tackles for loss, and 27 QB hits. However there is a saying in the NFL that it is better to get out of a contract a year too early than a year too late. The production cliff is looming for Wake, and the Dolphins shouldn’t want to be around when he falls off it. With big investments made in the defensive line with Ndamukong Suh, Andre Branch, and Charles Harris the Dolphins need to redistribute their assets a little, and moving on from Wake would allow them to do that.
Extend Ja’Wuan James
The fifth-year right tackle is set to make $9.3 million this year. He has been more than good enough to get an extension from the Dolphins. Were they to do it this year they could bring that high cap number down and spread the cost out to help free up a few million in 2018.
Ryan Tannehill decision
Tannehill is set to cost $19.8 million on the salary cap this season, and $21 million in 2019, but they can get out from it now with just $4.6 million in dead money, making for quite the saving. Adam Gase seems sure that the Dolphins can win with Tannehill, but history would seem to suggest otherwise. While replacing him will be a risky thing, if the Dolphins feel that they cannot put a competitive team out in 2018 then they should look closely at their quarterback situation moving forward.
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