Sunday, May 6, 2012

Cameron Wake inks $49 million extension with Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins have inked Pro Bowl pass rusher Cameron Wake to a long-awaited and much deserved four-year, $49 million extension on Sunday with a reported $20 million in guaranteed money.

Entering the 2012 offseason and the final year of his first NFL contract signed in 2009, Wake was slated to make just $615,000 this coming season—or to put it another way, roughly 24 percent of placeicker Dan Carpenter's base salary in 2012.

Interestingly, the Dolphins' official website says the deal is through the 2016 season, which would mean this is a new four-year deal that will begin in 2013 rather than replace the final year of his original contract. Such a deal would keep Wake in Miami through his age 34 season.

This could have been done because the Dolphins have limited cap space at the moment, so his 2012 salary will remain the same with the new deal kicking in after the season. He certainly received some nice upfront money to appease him in the meantime.

Originally undrafted out of Penn State in 2005, Wake was out of football before heading to the Canadian Football League two years later and winning the CFL's Most Outstanding Player award in back-to-back seasons.

Wake's CFL production, which included 39 sacks over two seasons, drew vast attention from more than half the team's in the NFL. It was the Dolphins that won the bidding for Wake's services, inking him to a four year, $4.9 million contract during the 2009 offseason.

After racking up 6.5 sacks in his rookie season as a situational pass rusher behind Jason Taylor and Joey Porter, Wake erupted as a starter in 2010 with 57 tackles, 14 sacks and three forced fumbles to earn a spot on the AFC Pro Bowl squad.

Wake's production dipped to 8.5 sacks and zero forced fumbles in 2011, due in large part to being the only capable pass rusher on the Dolphins' roster and the attention gained around the league the season before. It certainly was not a lost season, however, as Pro Football Focus graded him as an elite run defender and pass rusher with 81 total sacks, hits and pressures.

The 2012 season will bring some change for Wake, as the Dolphins are expected to largely utilize the 4-3 defensive scheme under new coordinator Kevin Coyle. In such a scheme, Wake will move down to right defensive end, where he primarily played as a rookie in 2009, after spending the past two seasons at outside linebacker in the 3-4 scheme.

No matter where Wake lines up, however, there is little reason to worry about his production. He has routinely been one of the most hard-working players on the Dolphins' roster and his drive shouldn't change after this pay day. Despite his positive 2011 season, I'm sure Wake wants to bump that sack total up and I wouldn't put it past him to do it.

The pass rush position aside from Wake remains a concern, however, as there is still no clear-cut starter opposite him. Defensive tackle Jared Odrick could potentially play out of position, or the job could go to a free agent Jamaal Westerman—a career backup with the Jets—or rookie fourth-rounder Olivier Vernon, who has the physical tools but underachieved at the University of Miami.

Up next, one would expect the Dolphins to try and work out an extension with Pro Bowl offensive tackle Jake Long, who is entering the final year of his rookie deal and carries a $12.8 million cap hit in 2012. The first overall pick in 2008 would likely command a deal of equal or greater value to the seven-year, $84 million that Browns' tackle Joe Thomas inked in 2011.

The Dolphins have a number of other impact players with expiring contracts heading into the 2013 offseason, including Pro Bowl defensive tackle Randy Starks, cornerback Sean Smith and wide receiver Brian Hartline. You can check out the Dolphins' upcoming free agents by year here.

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