Let the games(manship) begin.
The new NFL calendar year starts Thursday, March 9 – but teams can begin negotiating with the agents of players that are unrestricted free agents beginning Tuesday (March 7).
Teams can agree “in principle” to terms with free agents between Tuesday and Wednesday, but the contracts won’t become official until the start of the new league year – Thursday.
With the 2017 NFL salary cap set to fall somewhere in the $166 to $167 million range, Miami would have nearly $40 million dollars to throw around. And, according to “capologists” the Fins could stand to free up another $10 to $15 by making a few minor roster moves.
The only caveat is that the money must stretch across Miami’s signing of free agents, contract extensions with players currently on the roster and signing drafted and undrafted rookies.
Without having to scroll through your phone to find the calculator app – suffice it to say the Dolphins will be able to re-sign the free agents that they want (key words) to keep, stash away ample funds for the draft and still be able to go after solid unrestricted free agent on the market.
Miami’s positions of need include offensive line as well as added depth along all three levels of its defense.
Today we asked Miami Sports Radio 560 WQAM’s Orlando “Big O” Alzugaray to give us his “free agents wish list”:
Position: Offensive Guard (6-foot-3, 320 pounds)
2016 Team: Dallas Cowboys (5 seasons)
Last contract: $2.5 million/1-year deal
Projected 2017 salary: $36.4 million/4-year deal
How he fits with Dolphins: Ronald Leary was the first name that Big O threw out – and rightfully so. Leary spent the past five seasons as a part of a Cowboys offensive line group that has been considered one of – if not – the best in the league for the past couple years. Leary briefly lost his starting left guard job when Dallas brought in rookie La’El Collins in 2015, but he got it right back when Collins went down with an injury. Leary has expressed a desire to leave “Big D” and Miami would be a great destination. “You can plug him right next to [Laremy] Tunsil with no need to adjust,” Big O said. Bringing in Leary would strengthen the interior of Miami’s O-Line as he would be able to work next to Mike Pouncey – if he’s able to stay healthy.
Position: Defensive Tackle (6-foot-1, 335 pounds)
2016 Team: Baltimore Ravens (4 seasons)
Last contract: $2.675 million/4-year deal
Projected 2017 salary: $64.6 million/5-year deal
How he fits with Dolphins: The word “beast” has been thrown around when describing Brandon Williams. Williams was also the first defensive player that Big O mentioned on his wish list. Don’t be deceived by Williams’ 2016 stats of only 51 tackles and one sack, he is a space-eating nose tackle that makes life easier for linebackers and his fellow defensive linemen with his size and strength. Don’t be dismayed by the fact that Williams is a “traditional 3-4” tackle, either. Bringing Williams to Miami could help change the fact the Dolphins ranked 30th in rushing defense in 2016. Baltimore was No. 5 in rushing yards allowed – largely thanks to Williams. Put Williams next to Ndamukong Suh and there will not be much room for opposing offenses to do anything.
Position: Defensive Tackle (6-foot-8, 300 pounds)
2016 Team: Arizona Cardinals (9 seasons)
Last Contract: $55 million/5-year deal
Projected 2017 salary: $33.2 million/4-year deal
How he fits with Dolphins: Bringing in Calais Campbell makes sense because he is a player that can player inside (at tackle) or outside (at end) depending on the defense’s alignment. Even at this point in his career, Campbell has started and played in all 16 games for the Cardinals over the past two seasons. He’s still productive – notching 13 sacks over his last 32 games – and he’s a former Miami Hurricane. While Campbell isn’t the space-eater Williams would be, he is a stout enough run defender and an effective pass rusher so that he can be a four-down player. The only hesitance would come from giving a multi-year deal to a player that is about to play on the “wrong side” of 30.
Position: Offensive Guard
2016 Team: Cincinnati Bengals (5 years)
Last contract: $8 million on fifth-year option of 4-year rookie deal
Projected 2017 salary: $58.1 million/5-year deal
How he fits with Dolphins: Kevin Zeitler, like Ron Leary, spent the past few seasons working along one the NFL’s better offensive lines. Zeitler’s time in Cincinnati is coming to a close because the team probably won’t want to pay his higher price tag. Big O called Zeitler his “backup” choice” – citing Leary as his primary offensive line target because Zeitler plays right guard and would have to either transition to the left side or cause Miami to still search for a left guard. Still, Zeitler would be worth the money. According to Pro Football Talk, Zeitler was the only right guard in the league with 500 or more pass-blocks and no sacks allowed in 2015.
*Projected salaries based on SportsTrac.com’s Market Value tool.