The Miami Dolphins fell well short of expectations from their perspective, as well as the fans in 2021. Turmoil struck the day after the season concluded as Brian Flores was fired, as many were surprised by the announcement. We won’t dive into everything that has come out since then, as this article isn’t about that.
Moving forward, the Dolphins brought in first-time head coach and former San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel. McDaniel plans to bring an innovative offense to South Florida with the hopes of getting the most out of third-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. There are many glaring needs on the offensive side of the ball that will look to get addressed this offseason.
The NFL has announced the salary cap for the 2022 season is set at $208.2M. A large increase from the 182M set in 2021. Teams will be looking to wheel and deal on March 16th, and the Dolphins are projected to be one of the biggest spenders.
Just like my 2021 Free Agency Plan, this article will focus on what the Dolphins may do with roster cuts, free-agent targets, and what the cap will look like when it is all said and done. We need to first take a deeper look into the cap number and cap casualties. Then I will preview where the Dolphins need to upgrade and offer an opinion on which players make sense. Thank you to Spotrac for the cap numbers and contracts that we will be discussing in this article.
Cap Space (Top 51): $61,232,642 (1st in NFL)
WR Devante Parker– The time has finally come. With a new coaching staff in place, it may be time to say goodbye to Parker. His tenure has been up and down at best. While I am personally not hoping this will happen, the money makes sense for it to happen as both sides need a fresh start. Parker has a cap hit of $8,744,110, which is quite low for a starting NFL receiver. The move will leave $5,400,000 in dead cap. He is also a trade candidate but will net the same result in savings. (Cap Space after move: $67,326,752)
WR Allen Hurns– I figured Hurns would have been a cap casualty last year. I do not doubt in my mind the team is ready to move on. Hurns finished the season on injured reserve and hasn’t been counted on his previous three seasons in Miami. His cap hit of $3.01M can be used elsewhere on this team. The Dolphins will look to make a splash at WR in free agency. The team will save $2,575,000. (Cap Space after move: $67,151,752)
OT Jesse Davis– This move should surprise nobody. Davis has been a liability on Tua’s blindside for his first two seasons. With a whole new coaching staff in place, Davis can’t possibly be kept. A starting tackle making $4,610,000 would be great to have if he was competent. The team will happily save $3,610,000. (Cap Space after move: $70,761,752)
TE Adam Shaheen– The Dolphins have important decisions to make at the TE position as Mike Gesicki, and Durham Smythe are UFA. Adam Shaheen had a few good moments back in 2020, but I believe he will be replaced in the lineup with Hunter Long. Shaheen’s cap hit of $2,184,805 isn’t worth the production he has brought. There also isn’t a ton of dead cap to be had with his release while saving $1,857,100 (Cap Space after move: $72,613,223)
DT Adam Butler– Adam Butler was a good rotational guy. The Dolphins have been getting very good production from Raekwon Davis, and Zach Sieler has been a great addition the last few years. I feel the Dolphins draft another DT at some point in 2022 and could also go after a FA. He had nine tackles in 17 games. Not good enough for his cap hit of $4,150,000, which can be used elsewhere. Team will save $4,150,000 (Cap Space after move: $76,763,223).
SS Clayton Fejedelem– Fejedelem has been a solid special team player, but not being counted on defensively is why his release makes a ton of sense. The emergence of Brandon Jones and Javon Holland, as well as having a solid vet like Eric Rowe around, makes this an easy move. The team will likely add another S in FA or the draft. The team will save $2,275,000 (Cap Space after move: $79,038,223)
CB Byron Jones– With Xavien Howard needing a new contract, Byron Jones is the perfect candidate for a contract restructure. Jones has been good in his time, but his team-leading cap hit doesn’t make sense. With Josh Boyer intact and the team planning to play more man coverage, Jones will stick around. The restructure will give the Dolphins added cap space while getting Howard locked in for the remainder of his career. (Cap Space after move: $87,874,223)
OVERVIEW: Now that the team has freed up cap space, it is more likely than not the Dolphins will look to upgrade many positions on offense. I believe they will do something with Mike Gesicki and Xavien Howard’s potential new deal, but for the sake of this article, we will leave their numbers out for the time being. As always, the contract numbers I am projected, of course, can have lower cap hits in the first year of contracts to keep cap flexibility.
FREE AGENCY: $87,874,223 available
NEEDS- OT, OG, WR, RB, LB, S, QB
QB- Sign Kyle Allen (25 years old)– Kyle Allen had a solid campaign in 2019, where he started 14 games for Carolina. Since then, he has been the backup quarterback in Washington. Allen has enough experience to bring to the table to back up Tua and start games if needed. He also will not break the bank. Trubisky is a name many have thrown around, I believe he stays in Buffalo, or he may join Brian Daboll in NY with a chance at a starting job.
Contract: 2 years, 5M ($2.5M per season), 2M guaranteed
Other names to watch for: Brandon Allen, Blaine Gabbert, Tyrod Taylor
RB- Sign Leonard Fournette (27 years old)- The Dolphins are in dire need of a significant upgrade at the running back position. Fournette has been fantastic for most of his career. He had a nice resurgence with the Bucs after getting released from Jacksonville. He is a big, powerful runner who also can catch out of the backfield. Last season he had 1,266 combined yards and ten touchdowns. Perfect fit for what McDaniel wants to bring to the table offensively while also taking a ton of pressure off Tua.
Contract: 3 years, 23M ($7.67M per season), 16M guaranteed
Other names to watch for: James Connor, Jeffrey Wilson Jr, Rashaad Penny, Tevin Coleman
WR- Sign Chris Godwin (26 years old)- This team will currently have Lynn Bowden Jr Jaylen Waddle in the WR room. Expect the Dolphins to bring in a few FA WRs. Godwin has been elite since arriving in the league and only grew more as a weapon with Tom Brady at his disposal. He finished with 98 receptions, 1103 yards, and five touchdowns. He is coming off a knee injury but should be ready to go for the summer. This is the type of threat Miami needs to pair with Jaylen Waddle, as Godwin can line up anywhere and cause match-up problems pre-snap.
Contract: 5 years, 80M ($16M per season), 45M guaranteed
WR- Sign Cedrick Wilson (26 years old)– Dallas has been loaded at wide receiver the last few years. Wilson was inserted more in his third season, playing in 16 games. He averaged 13.4 YPC, 5.5 YAC, and 6 TDs. He runs a 4.55 40 and would be a great asset to this offense.
Contract: 3 years, 19M ($6.33M per season), 9M guaranteed
Other names to watch for: Allen Robinson, Michael Gallup, Mike Williams, JuJu Smith Schuster
TE- Franchise Tag Mike Gesicki (26 years old)- This is something I constantly mention on social media. Gesicki will command big money, and the team would be foolish to let him walk for nothing. Franchise tagging him for 11M for one year fully guaranteed would continue to evolve this new-look offense. While also giving the team and Mike’s representatives and opportunity to work out a long-term deal. I wouldn’t second guess move for a second.
Contract 1 year, 11M fully guaranteed.
OT- Sign Trent Brown (28 years old)- Trent Brown has been a solid player throughout his career and would be a welcomed edition over Jesse Davis. Brown will not break the bank either. I believe Miami will give Eichenberg a run at LT, so Brown as the RT will not kill the cap. He is an excellent pass protector and is good in run blocking, which is needed on this offensive line.
Contract- 4 years, 40M (10M per season), 24M guaranteed
Other names to watch for are Terron Armstead, Eric Fisher, Morgan Moses
OG- Sign James Daniels (24 years old)- Daniels potentially hitting the market is too good to pass up. He has experience at multiple positions along the offensive line. Miami likely will need to overpay for him slightly, but he will immediately replace Austin Jackson at LG or Michael Dieter at C. He has been solid throughout his career but can get better with better coaching. McDaniel staff can deliver that.
Contract- 4 years, 42M ($10.5M per season), 20M guaranteed
Other names to watch for are Brandon Scherff, Laken Tomlinson, Alex Cappa
OC- None. Dieter was okay, but I believe the Dolphins will be looking to draft a center at some point in the 2022 Draft.
K- None. Jason Sanders is under contract. He wasn’t up to par last season, but I believe he will be back on track this coming season.
P- None. Palardy is gone, but the team won’t spend assets on a punter. More than likely, this gets filled by an UDFA.
DE- Re-sign Emmanuel Ogbah– Ogbah has been excellent in this defense the last two seasons. The Dolphins will want to bring him back, and there will be plenty of teams that will want Ogbah. He finished with 41 tackles, nine sacks, and a whopping 12 batted passes from his edge spot. It’s up to the Dolphins on value and how much it will take. In year one, I expect a very team-friendly cap number with a big signing bonus.
Contract 3 yrs, 38M (12.7M per season), 21M Guaranteed
Other names to watch for are Solomon Thomas, Derek Barnett, Arden Key
DT- Sign Sheldon Richardson– Richardson would come back to the AFC East and play a rotational role with Raekwon Davis. He is on the wrong side of 30, so assuming a one-year deal with incentives may get it done. Richardson can get after the QB (13 QB hit in 2021).
Contract 1 yr, 5M
Other names to watch for are Kevin Givens Foley Fatukasi.
LB- Re-sign Elandon Roberts- This may be unpopular, but I like Roberts in this defense. His run-stopping ability was an asset to the defense, and I believe he will be back in the fold. This move will not break the bank and will keep a piece of this defense for the last few years. They could also break the bank and bring in a big-name player—something to keep your eye on.
Contract- 2 years, 8M (4M per season), 3M Guaranteed
Other names to watch for Jamie Collins, Reggie Ragland, Rashaan Evans
DB- Re-sign Nik Needham– A player, the Dolphins, have developed since 2019 came into his own as a slot corner last year. Nik is a valuable part of the secondary and should be treated as such. He deserves a nice little extension that will keep continuity in the secondary, which is essential in this defense. They could give him an RFA round designation if another team came in and scooped him up, but I would rather just get a deal locked down.
Contract 3 years, 14M (4.7M per season), 6M Guaranteed
Other names to watch for Dontae Johnson, Artie Burns, Trill Williams
The Dolphins could spend about 90M in new salary, with a bulk coming on offense (not surprisingly). Chris Grier will need to be creative to keep cap flexibility. Xavien Howard’s potential new deal will still linger in this scenario, and I believe he will find a way to make him happy with a new deal. McDaniel will want a significant upgrade on the offensive line and give Tua and the offense a true running game that can be relied on. This team has been on the cusp the last few years of getting into the playoffs. Will this be the year they get over the hump? Stay tuned to find out. The next few weeks are going to be very big for this franchise.
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