The Dolphins’ decisive playoff loss on Sunday reinforced what the team’s decision-makers already knew: They must augment the front seven on defense and bolster an offensive line that couldn’t generate nearly enough push against Pittsburgh.
Unless the Dolphins move on from Branden Albert — who’s under contract for 2017 and who’s valued internally - the offensive line changes might be limited to procuring a new right guard to replace free agent Jermon Bushrod.
Solving the defensive front seven issues will be more complicated. The Dolphins want to keep Ndamukong Suh and Cam Wake and restricted free agent linebacker Kiko Alonso, but most everything else is in question.
The good news: The Dolphins have the resources necessary to strengthen the roster.
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The Dolphins have $137.5 million committed for 2017 cap purposes, with the cap expected to rise from $155 million to the $165 million range.
Factoring in $8.4 million in carryover space (according to NFL players union figures), the Dolphins will have $36 million in space.
Two expected moves - cutting Mario Williams and Koa Misi — will save another $8.5 million and $4.2 million respectively, pushing cap space to nearly $49 million. Cutting Dion Jordan ($3.2 million savings) brings the total to $52 million.
Releasing Earl Mitchell would save another $4 million, bringing the total to $56 million. If the Dolphins cut left tackle Branden Albert, which would be a surprise, that would add another $7.2 million.
But keep in mind that Miami must allot around $6 million of that cap space for draft picks, several million for its restricted free agents and keep a few million in reserve for a practice squad and in-season needs.
Beyond that, the Dolphins’ will have the 22nd pick in the first, second, fifth, sixth and seventh rounds of April’s NFL Draft and also are expected to be awarded at least two compensatory draft picks for free agent losses last offseason.
Those picks, according to cap expert Jason Fitzgerald, could include selections at the end of the third and fifth rounds, as compensation for losing Olivier Vernon and Lamar Miller, respectively. Fitzgerald said Miami possibly could be awarded another fifth-rounder for losing receiver Rishard Matthews.
Miami dealt its third- and fourth-round picks in the 2017 draft to Minnesota in order to acquire the 86th pick in last year’s draft that was used on receiver Leonte Carroo.
For a look at where Miami stands at each position, with a list of impending free agents, please click here for my other post from this morning.