The Dolphins must clear $37.6 million in cap space by March 13, and here are some of the team’s viable options to trim payroll

The Miami Dolphins must decrease payroll and have two weeks to balance their books.

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Before the Dolphins can begin the free agent shopping process, re-signing their current free agents and bidding on newcomers to add to the 2024 roster, they must first comply with the NFL’s wage cap on March 13.

To do so, the team’s decision-makers must untangle the tangled mess that the team’s win-now mentality has caused.

Releasing pass rusher Emmanuel Ogbah and cornerback Xavien Howard last week saves $32.2 in cap space, which will help. However, because Howard is set to be cut on June 1, the cap space created by his departure will not be accessible to the team until then.

That means General Manager Chris Grier, his contract negotiators, and cap experts will have a lot of work to do in the coming days.

Here are 12 ways the Dolphins can create cap room in the coming weeks.

Possible Extension Options

Extend receiver Tyreek Hill’s contract – The Dolphins may save almost $14 million in cap room this summer by adding two years to Hill’s contract if they keep the All-Pro receiver at his current salary of $24-26 million per season. Hill’s guaranteed money expires after this season, and his $45 million salary in 2026 is something he will never see, so it benefits everyone to extend Hill’s contract if the Dolphins are confident he will be on his best behavior and effective for another three seasons.

Extend cornerback Jalen Ramsey’s contract When Ramsey joined the Dolphins, he reworked his contract, resulting in a three-year, $55 million deal. This season, he will make $25.5 million in basic salary ($14.5 million) plus a roster bonus ($11 million), which is fully guaranteed. The simplest approach to minimize Ramsey’s $27.2 million cap burden in 2024 is to add new years to his contract, replacing the voidable seasons in 2026 and 2027 with actual contract terms that continue to pay the seven-time Pro Bowler like he’s a top five cornerback. If $24 million of his 2024 salary were converted into a signing bonus, his 2024 cap figure might be decreased by approximately $14 million, depending on the terms of the new contract.

Extend quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s contract. The Dolphins are now discussing a long-term agreement with Tagovailoa that would prevent him from exercising his fifth-year option, which would pay the Pro Bowl quarterback $23.2 million. Because this deal is likely to be the largest in team history if it is comparable to the contracts his colleagues have earned over the last two seasons, it may take some time to be finalized. However, the Dolphins are motivated by the additional $8 million in cap savings that a four- or five-year agreement with Tagovailoa would generate in year one.

Extend linebacker David Long Jr. Long, who led the Dolphins in tackles last season, was one of the defense’s most consistent players in 2023. But this was the first season in which he remained fit and played every game. Long will make $4.5 million in the last year of his two-year, $10 million contract signed as a free agent last offseason. Miami may extend the contract by a year or two to significantly cut his $6.7 million cap charge. That type of agreement would most likely provide the 28-year-old with injury protection, which is always a plus for players.

Extend Raheem Mostert’s contract – Miami’s Pro Bowl tailback will make $2.7 million in 2024, the final year of a two-year, $5.5 million agreement signed last summer. The Dolphins may extend the 32-year-old’s contract for another season or two, but it would not significantly lessen his $3.3 million cap charge, no matter how clever the Dolphins become. And image what would happen if Mostert is looking for a significant raise after just completing a career-year?

Release or extend quarterback Mike White – White, who spent last season as Tagovailoa’s backup and had a 118.1 passer rating on 53 offensive snaps, is set to make $3.5 million in 2024, and if he is released, his whole contract becomes cap space. The Dolphins may extend White, a South Florida native, for another season, converting the majority of his base salary into a bonus and cutting his $5.2 million cap charge in half, or close to it.

Contracts That Can Be Restructured

Restructure Bradley Chubb’s cap figures for 2024, 2025, 2026, and 2027, which are all little under $27 million per season. If the Dolphins restructured him for the second straight summer, they would effectively guarantee more than just this year’s $19.7 million contract, which is hazardous for a guy coming off an ACL tear sustained in December. Turning the majority of his $19.7 million base pay into a roster bonus would increase his additional cap charge to $4.5 million per season, which would be troublesome. The Dolphins have the option to release him and move on before the 2026 and 2027 seasons, according to the terms of his current deal.

Restructure the defensive tackle. Zach Sieler – Before the start of the season, Sieler inked a three-year, $30.7 million contract that guaranteed the former waiver wire find $20 million of his salary. He had 63 tackles, 10 sacks, two forced fumbles, and one interception in a breakout year, making his $8 million paycheck appear like a steal. Miami could convert $7 million of his base salary into a roster bonus, reducing his $10.6 million cap hit in half. However, Sieler and his side may want the Dolphins to sweeten his current agreement by upping his compensation somewhat and rewarding him for his career year in 2023.

Shake down or release. Linebacker Jerome Baker – Baker, a six-year starter who ranks fourth in franchise history with 587 career tackles, is set to make $11.1 million in basic pay and bonuses in 2024, but his release would free up $9.8 million in cap space. It’s feasible that the Dolphins might modify his deal, which only has two voidable years left, to reduce his salary and cap figure to around $5 million per year. The Dolphins will most likely let Baker’s agent determine how much the former Ohio State standout could command on the open market before recommending a pay cut.

Possible Players To Release

Release or renegotiate offensive tackle Terron Armstead’s contract on June 1st. The Dolphins are waiting to hear from Armstead about his future, but he is unlikely to walk away from his $14.2 million contract in 2024 – $5 million is guaranteed, and the rest becomes guaranteed on March 15. The Dolphins could release Armstead as part of their second June 1 cut to free about $9.5 million in contract space, but that decision must be made by March 15. It’s also likely that the Dolphins would approach Armstead about adjusting his contract to ensure that the 33-year-old, who has dealt with many injuries over the last two seasons, does not have to relocate again. Keep in mind that removing Armstead will create a large void.

Release tailback Jeff Wilson – Wilson, who spent the majority of last season as Miami’s third or fourth tailback, will save $2.9 million in salary space if he is released from the second year of his two-year, $5.8 million contract signed as a free agency last offseason.

Release cornerback Keion Crossen – This career special teams contributor, who spent the entire 2018 season on injured reserve due to a knee injury, would result in a $3 million cap reduction if released.

 

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