Apparent draft bust Dion Jordan can’t even apply for reinstatement until late April.
And the Dolphins don’t seem inclined to talk about him until they have to.
In a wide-ranging news conference at the Senior Bowl here Tuesday, Dolphins football czar Mike Tannenbaum and general manager Chris Grier did their best to avoid the issue of their suspended first-round pick.
But when asked whether Jordan — who missed the entire 2015 season after his third violation of the league’s substance abuse policy — needs to prove something to have a place on this team, Grier responded:
“I think everyone needs to prove something. We talk about creating a competitive environment with guys that want to be a Miami Dolphin and want to be here and love the game and compete. Obviously, what happens whether he gets reinstated or not from that point we’ll make that decision once we see him and get him in the building.”
Added Tannenbaum: “We’re going to run a meritocracy. I know [Dolphins owner] Steve feels that way, [coach] Adam [Gase] feels that way. Once he’s reinstated it’s another opportunity for us to improve the team. But ultimately the best players will play.”
After serving his suspension, which runs a full calendar year, Jordan’s reinstatement is at the discretion of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Jordan has stayed mostly quiet since receiving the punishment last spring, so it’s unclear whether he even wants to play football again.
Once he’s reinstated it’s another opportunity for us to improve the team. But ultimately the best players will play.
They have nearly $162 million in 2016 salary cap liabilities, which would already put them well over the projected cap (somewhere around $150 million).
But they can clear out millions in space by making a series of relatively straightforward moves (including parting ways with Jordan).
The likely top priority: restructuring Ndamukong Suh’s contract, which, if not modified, would count $28.6 million against the cap next season.
“That’s certainly one of the levers we’re going to take a close look at,” Tannenbaum said. “We haven’t made any decisions as it relates to strategic planning or salary cap, budget, things like that. I think Dawn [Aponte, the Dolphins’ cap manager] has done a really good job, when these contracts were constructed, that we have a lot of flexibility.”
Tannenbaum added: “By the time we get to the first day of the league year, we should have plenty of room to address the needs that we have and certainly we’ll be looking at Suh’s contract.”
Some decisions aren’t so simple, however. For example: what to do with Brent Grimes, who would count more than $9 million against the cap this coming year?
Grimes this week was named to his third straight Pro Bowl, but it’s clear he’s a diminished player.
Then there’s Cameron Wake, who will be coming off a torn Achilles’ tendon at age 34. Wake would be the team’s fifth-priciest player, at least in salary cap terms, so he probably will be asked to take a pay cut.
“We’ve got to sit down with coaches get their thoughts on the scheme, how each player fits, not just Cam and Brent but countless others and then we’ll go from there,” Tannenbaum said. “We want to pay people fairly and appropriately so we’re not quite there yet.”
The Dolphins also have decisions to make on their pending free agents, particularly defensive end Olivier Vernon and running back Lamar Miller.
“We drafted them, we know them,” Grier said of Vernon and Miller. “We’d love to have them back. But the discussion is once the coaching staff evaluates and see how they fit, but they’re certainly players that we have great affection for and have done a great job for us.”
Vernon is likely seen as a higher priority than Miller inside the building, but Tannenbaum wouldn’t entertain a question about possibly franchise tagging either.
One player certain to be on the roster in 2016 is DeVante Parker, Miami's first-round pick in 2015 who missed time due to a recurring foot injury he sustained in college.
But the organization is not concerned that it will be a chronic issue that will affect Parker’s career going forward.
“I think we feel really good about that,” Tannenbaum said. “I think we got a good result. I think the way he played towards the end, he was obviously in our opinion an ascending player and didn’t miss practice, knock on wood. I think his future’s bright, his love of football is there and hopefully that’s in the past.”