Reporting Tim Kephart
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Lost amidst the hubbub created Monday night by the Miami Dolphins signing free agent quarterback David Garrard was the release of veteran strong safety Yeremiah Bell.
Bell had been the rock of the Dolphins defense over the past four years. He led the team in tackles over that time span and was the second-longest tenured Dolphin until Jason Taylor retired at the end of last season.
But Bell was also a big problem in pass coverage. ProFootballFocus.com ranked him 74th out of 87 safeties in pass coverage while giving up a 105.5 passer rating when the ball was thrown his way, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Bell was also an expensive veteran. He was entering the final year of a four-year, $20 million contract and his release freed up $4.3 million in salary cap space for 2012. Bell’s cap number for the Fins in 2012 was going to be $6.2 million.
By releasing Bell, the team now has approximately $8-$10 million in salary cap space for 2012. Roughly $5 million of that cap room will have to be saved for the rookie salary pool, meaning the Fins have between four and five million dollars in cap space for the 2012 season.
The problem again for the Dolphins is perception of the move. The move may have been expected, but the Fins waited until after free agency was a week old and Bell could have signed on with another team. It also kept the Fins from going after any good safeties in free agency as a replacement.
The Fins’ salary cap issues remain locked up with linebacker Karlos Dansby and left tackle Jake Long who both count more than $22 million against the 2012 salary cap of $120 million.