Friday, January 4, 2013

Dolphins roster casualty and extension candidates

The Dolphins enter the 2013 offseason with an enormous amount of cap room (estimated right now around $45 million), but that number could increase based on what the team does before the free agent signing period begins on March 12.

In addition to re-signing some of their own free agents (the list I outlined Wednesday), the Dolphins may very well try to work out contract extensions with some players while potentially releasing others for monetary or performance reasons.

In this article, I'll take a look at some players that may not be long for South Beach, and others the team might target to keep around well into the future. I'd like to thank Jason of for the detailed salary information that he compiles for all AFC East teams. I've never seen anyone as good at keeping track of and understanding those details as him. He might be a Jets fan, but you're doing yourself a disservice if you don't bookmark his site.

Roster Casualty Candidates

Karlos Dansby

Why he'll be cut: Dansby has certainly underachieved since signing a monster deal in 2010. He's been above average most of the time but never the elite linebacker and playmaker you look for at that price. He showed up to camp well overweight in 2011, wasting a half-season trying to recover. He's had a few big injuries that have limited his productivity. Oh, and he's a complete idiot that was critical of the Chad Johnson release and would swear on his mother that he's a future Hall of Famer.

Why he won't be cut: He's a "veteran leader" and part of that ridiculous council we saw on Hard Knocks, so it's possible the team values his impact on his teammates. Cutting him now would look like an admission of yet another free agent mistake and create a chunk of dead money on the cap. The team would be creating another hole to fill in the offseason.

The financial details: Dansby has completed three years of the original five-year, $43 million contract he signed as a free agent in 2010. The deal included $22 million guaranteed and at the time was the richest deal in NFL history for a linebacker. In 2013, Dansby has a cap hit of $8.575 million. Cutting him would create $4.65 million in dead money against this year's cap, but it'd free up a total of $3.924 million. Overall, it's a net gain for the Dolphins.

The verdict: I'm guessing he won't be cut, because I'm just not that lucky. The Dolphins have enough holes without having to find a new middle linebacker as well, so it's probably easier to just keep him. If he does stick around and doesn't have a career year in 2013, he'll be someone to watch as a casualty again in 2014.

Richard Marshall

Why he'll be cut: Struggled in the four games he played with the Dolphins this season and doesn't have a very impressive track record either. Landed on injured reserve with a back injury that he's still recovering from, so durability is a concern. A bit overpaid and not a quality long-term starting option, so cutting him could free up more money to land a better corner.

Why he won't be cut: Sean Smith is a free agent and may walk, so the team might need him. Also has some experience as free safety, where starter Chris Clemons is also a free agent. Was coming off his best season in 2011 when the Dolphins signed him.

The financial details: Signed to a three-year, $16 million contract in 2012, Marshall has two years remaining on his current deal. He has a cap hit of $5.766 million in 2013 and would create $2.333 million in dead money if released this offeason. However, he would net the Dolphins a cap space gain of $5.35 million.

The verdict: My guess is he stays. With Smith possibly walking and little depth at the position, the Dolphins can't really justify cutting him at this time. That could of course change if they land a big free agent and someone through the draft, however.

Davone Bess

Why he'll be cut: He's entering the last year of his current deal and is fairly overpaid for the lack of playmaking ability he provides. He's a pure slot receiver and there isn't any upside to be anything more. Multiple offseason acquisitions at the position could make him a very expensive fourth or fifth receiver.

Why he won't be cut: He's a fan favorite and a guy you root for as a former undrafted free agent. He's a good slot receiver with excellent hands and a knack for picking up first downs. The team lacks much talent at the position right now.

The financial details: Bess is entering the final year of a four-year, $9.35 million contract signed in 2010. He has a cap value of $3.433 million in 2012, while cutting him would cost the Dolphins just $750,000 in dead money and save the team $2.683 million against the 2013 salary cap.

The verdict: This one is actually harder to call than you might think, because I do suspect he's in danger. However, given the little talent the Dolphins have right now, I suspect a move (maybe a trade?) wouldn't come until the preseason, like they did with Greg Camarillo a few years ago.

Richie Incognito

Why he'll be cut: He's an average-to-above-average starter that's probably peaked. He may not have the athleticism ideal for the team's blocking scheme. He has a bad reputation and a history of dirty plays. The team would save a nice chunk of change by cutting him.

Why he won't be cut: He graded out pretty well in 2012 and was probably the team's best lineman after Mike Pouncey. The team already has a shakeup at the tackle spots coming and could replace John Jerry at right guard as well, so I doubt they'd look to have yet another new starter in 2013. Has a great personality and is presumably well-liked in locker room.

The financial details: Entering the final year of a contract signed in 2011, which was a three-year, $12.9 million contract with a $3.25 million signing bonus. Has a cap value of $5.383 million in 2013. Cutting him would cause $1.083 million in dead money but net the Dolphins a savings of $4.3 million.

The verdict: No, he won't be cut. The team already has too much to worry about on the line (Martin starting at left tackle, Jerry at right guard, no right tackle) so I don't suspect they'll cut a quality lineman just to save some money when they already have more than they can spend.

Dimitri Patterson

Why he'll be cut: He doesn't have starting upside and struggled to stay health in 2012 with the Browns and Dolphins. He's slightly overpaid and will be 30 next season. Cutting him saves the Dolphins a good chunk of money and causes no dead money against the cap.

Why he won't be cut: Like Marshall, Patterson probably sticks around because Sean Smith is a free agent and Patterson serves as an insurance policy. He's very experienced and had his best pro season as a nickel corner in 2011.

The financial details: Patterson signed a three-year, $16 million contract with the Browns in 2012 nearly identical to the one Richard Marshall got from the Dolphins. Since he was claimed off waivers, cutting him causes no dead money to the cap and would save the Dolphins $4.6 million against the 2013 cap. Nothing is guaranteed to him unless he makes the regular season roster.

The verdict: He's safe, at least until the preseason. If Smith walks, or even if Smith stays and the team doesn't add any real competition, I would assume Patterson would serve as the nickel corner. If the Dolphins do bolster this position, however, Patterson could become expendable.

Dan Carpenter

Why he'll be cut: He's entering the final year of his deal at a very hefty salary. He missed some crucial kicks early in the season and is three years removed from his best year in 2009.

Why he won't be cut: Overall he's very reliable and only missed one kick after Week 4 in 2012. He's got a great rapport with holder Brandon Fields and long snapper John Denney. It would create another hold on the Dolphins' roster and his replacement would be no sure thing to replicate his success.

The financial details: Carpenter is entering the final year of a four-year, $8 million contract signed in 2010. He has a 2013 cap value of $3.012 million, but cutting him would create just $312,500 in dead money and a net gain of $2.7 million in cap space for the Dolphins.

The verdict: Safe for now, but may face competition. Considering he is entering a contract year at a high salary, it wouldn't surprise me to see younger competition brought in, perhaps in the form of an undrafted free agent. However, I'd have to think Carpenter keeps his job in 2013 barring a disastrous camp and preseason.

Roster Extension Candidates

Reshad Jones

Why he's earned it: Did you watch this season at all? Jones was all over the place, stuffing the run, making hard hits and creating turnovers. He finished his career year with 96 tackles, a sack, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, four interceptions and nine pass deflections. After Cameron Wake, Jones was easily the Dolphins' defensive MVP in 2012.

What he's making now: Jones is entering the final year of his four-year rookie contract signed in 2009. He'll earn a base salary of $575,000 and has a cap hit of just over $615,000. He'll be an unrestricted agent in 2014.

What he deserves: He deserves much more than the four-year, $18 million contract the Bengals gave Reggie Nelson in 2012. Unfortunately, I suspect Jones will push for something in the neighborhood of Eric Weddle's 2011 extension with the Chargers, which was for five years and $40 million with $19 million guaranteed. If Jones can keep up his level of play, that's not unreasonable, but it's scary to give him such a deal after only one great season. I'd still try to lock him up this offseason so he doesn't get to anxious to get to the market in 2014.

Paul Soliai

Why he's earned it: After spending his early years in Miami in the doghouse with motivation and weight issues, Soliai kicked things into gear in 2010 and has been a dominant nose tackle ever sense. He's earned a solid extension after a team-friendly two-year contract signed in 2011.

What he's making now: After playing under the franchise tag for just under $12.5 million in 2011, Soliai re-upped with the Dolphins in 2012 for just $12 million over two years. He has a base salary of $5.7 million in 2013 and a total cap hit of $7.875 million.

What he deserves: After taking a well-below-market deal in 2012, I'm trying to get every penny I can and then some if I'm Soliai. He still has plenty of good football left at age 29 and has earned a long-term extension. If I'm his representation, I look for a five-year deal someone between that of the Saints' Brodrick Bunkley (five years, $25 million, $9 million guaranteed) and the Seahawks' Red Bryant (five years, $35 million, $14.5 million guaranteed). Perhaps a four-year deal worth $6 million or so would do the trick.