Ndamukong Suh will be a Dolphin – probably on Wednesday.
Plus Mike Wallace remains on the roster – and has an excellent chance to stay there – after much speculation that he would be cut Tuesday.
As for Charles Clay? Now that is a legit concern.
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For that reason, a day that began with great anticipation for Dolphins fans – Suh could finally sign his reported six-year, $114 million contract – ended with frustration and growing apprehension.
Suh didn’t actually put pen to paper – but he surely will. It’s just a matter of when.
The Dolphins know they are in the league’s crosshairs after terms of a contract with Suh leaked two days before the two sides were even allowed to talk numbers.
So Tuesday was by the book; they didn’t sign anyone but their own pending free agents. But all signs still point to Suh inking a record-breaking deal – and soon.
As for Clay? His run in Miami might be over sooner than anyone in the organization expected – or wanted.
The Bills are all-in on stealing Clay – which is only possible because the cost-conscious Dolphins tried to keep the restricted free agent on the cheap. Dennis Hickey and Mike Tannenbaum tried to save a little more than $1 million by applying the transition tag on Clay instead of franchising him last week.
In doing so, they allowed Buffalo the opportunity to sign Clay without sending any compensation Miami’s way. The Dolphins could have all but assured Clay remained on their roster by paying an additional $1.2 million for the franchise tag. They didn’t – a decision that led to second guesses in front offices around the country Tuesday.
Given the opening, the Bills have pounced. According to the Buffalo News, Bills owner Terry Pegula flew Clay to town in his private jet. Clay was said to be shopping for homes during his visit to Western New York.
And the Bills, with gobs of cap space, can offer Clay a contract that they know will be next to impossible for the Dolphins to match (which is Miami’s right under the transition tag).
Left unclear: what exactly Clay wants. If he meant what he said in December, when he told the Miami Herald he wanted to spend his career here, he can make it happen. But probably not if he signs whatever contract the Bills present to him this week.
Buffalo knows Miami’s cap situation limits how much they can allocate to Clay’s contract this year. So they’ll surely package a deal that exploits that vulnerability.
But Clay could probably get a deal from the Dolphins that’s structured differently but still provides the same amount of guaranteed money. The question: Would he sign it?
The Dolphins created a bit more space Tuesday when they cut guard Shelley Smith and linebacker Philip Wheeler, and restructured Brandon Fields’ contract to keep him on the team. The team is open to bringing Smith back at a discount; Wheeler’s time in Miami is probably over after two disappointing seasons.
“I’ve played 129 games in a row as a Miami Dolphin,” tweeted Fields, who despite taking a pay cut is still among the 10 highest-paid punters in the league. “Happy to be able to keep the streak going.”
In the coming days, the Dolphins are also expected to release linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and defensive tackle Randy Starks, moves that would clear nearly another $11 million in cap space.
The Dolphins did keep three of their own free agents Tuesday, locking up defensive tackle Derrick Shelby, linebacker Kelvin Sheppard and safety Michael Thomas for 2015.
Sheppard and Thomas signed new contracts; Shelby was given a second-round restricted free agent tender, worth roughly $2 million.
Still unclear: the team’s plans for Wallace, who told ESPN this week that he wants to return to the Dolphins and would be willing to restructure his contract to provide cap relief.
“I’m happy,” Wallace said of remaining a Dolphin. “It’s a nice place to play football, so yes I am happy.”
Mega Miami Millions
When the Dolphins sign free agent defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh to his reported six-year, $114 million contract, the city of Miami will employ three of the highest-paid players in their respective sports:
Ndamukong Suh | Dolphins
6 years, $114 million
Note: Suh will become the fifth non-quarterback in NFL history to sign a deal worth north of $100 million, and the $60 million in guaranteed dollars is only second to San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick’s $61 million.
Chris Bosh | Heat
5 years, $118 million
Note: Bosh signed his max deal with the Heat just hours after superstar LeBron James decided to return to Cleveland. His average of $23.7 million per year is behind only Carmelo Anthony and Kobe Bryant.
Giancarlo Stanton | Marlins
13 years, $325 million
Note: Stanton became baseball’s first $300 million man, completely shattering Alex Rodriguez’s 10-year, $275 million record deal with the Yankees in 2008. The deal averages $25 million a year through 2028.