Reporting Tim Kephart
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Signing quarterback Peyton Manning is Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross’ dream for the offseason. But, doing so will require some fancy salary cap management by the Dolphins.
According to multiple reports, the Dolphins will have approximately $112 million committed against the 2012 NFL salary cap. While the exact cap number hasn’t been released yet, it’s expected to be in the neighborhood of $120-125 million.
That means the Dolphins have been $8-$13 million in cap space heading into free agency. But, the Dolphins will also be able to carry over the salary cap space from the 2011 season, $9 million, into the 2012 salary cap.
So, the Fins have approximately $17-$22 million in cap space as free agency opens in 2012. The team will have to set aside roughly $5 million for the rookie salary pool that is devoted to draft picks and rookie free agents.
When Manning is released Wednesday, the Fins will have roughly $12-$17 million in cap space to play with to sign the future Hall of Fame quarterback.
That’s not taking account any potential contract restructuring the Fins could undertake in the coming days. For example, Jake Long, Brandon Marshall, and Karlos Dansby all have cap hits above $11 million for the 2012 season.
If all three converted some of their money into other types of bonuses, it could help clear additional cap room for the 2012 season and future seasons.
But as of now, the Dolphins will have to get creative with incentives and bonuses in a contract to land Manning. The incentives could get tricky, as pointed out by the Palm Beach Post.
According to the Post, there will be two types of incentives, “Likely to be Earned” and “Not Likely to be Earned.” Likely to be earned are based on certain benchmarks achieved by the player in the previous year.
Not likely to be earned incentives are benchmarks the player didn’t achieve in the previous year. The tricky part for the NFL and the NFLPA is whether Manning’s bonuses will be paid off his 2010 season or off 2011 when he didn’t play a down.
If the league and the players association can’t come to an agreement, an independent arbitrator would make a final decision, according to the Post.
Essentially, if the incentives are considered likely to be earned, his cap hit will be much larger than if they are not likely to be earned.
Given the Fins current salary situation, if the incentives are classified as likely to be earned, they will have to do a lot of restructuring and delayed bonuses to get Manning into Miami.
But, every team has master capologists who have one job, manipulating the salary cap, and that person will be hard at work to get Manning to Miami.