Miami Dolphins

Brice McCain, Quinton Coples released as Miami Dolphins begin shedding salary

The Miami Dolphins freed up roughly $10 million in salary cap space by releasing cornerback Brice McCain, above, and defensive end Quinton Coples on Friday, Feb. 12, 2016.
The Miami Dolphins freed up roughly $10 million in salary cap space by releasing cornerback Brice McCain, above, and defensive end Quinton Coples on Friday, Feb. 12, 2016. AP

At first glance, the Miami Dolphins’ books look bleak. The NFL has yet to announce the 2016 salary cap, but insiders estimate it will be around $154 million.

Between currently liabilities and accounting credits from 2015, the Dolphins were already some $5 million over that figure entering Friday. At the very least, they were right against the cap.

But at close of business Friday, they had already begun getting their house in order.

NFL Network first reported that the Dolphins cut defensive end Quinton Coples, who was owed $7.8 million in 2016. (He was a nonfactor in six games with Miami.)

But that wasn’t all. They also parted ways with nickel corner Brice McCain, who never lived up to expectations.

Combined, the two moves freed up roughly $10 million in space.

But more is needed. Much more.

With these eight relatively easy moves, the Dolphins can clear tens of millions in space to attack free agency next month.

1. Restructure Ndamukong Suh’s albatross: This is inevitable. The Dolphins can do it without Suh’s consent. By green-lighting an easy bookkeeping maneuver, Suh’s salary cap figure in 2016 will go from $28.6 million to something in the neighborhood of $10.5 million.

2. Cut Cameron Wake if he doesn’t take a pay cut: Cut Wake, the cornerstone of the Dolphins’ defense? Unthinkable. Well, not entirely. He’s 34, coming off a torn Achilles and the Dolphins can save $8.4 million by parting ways. Wake returning at a reduced salary is more likely.

3. Do the same with Brent Grimes: Don’t believe the Pro Bowl hype. Coaches and even Grimes acknowledge his play slipped last year. New defensive coordinator Vance Joseph wants him back. But probably not at his $9.5 million cap figure.

4. Part ways with Jordan Cameron: The Dolphins tight end is due $7.5 million in base salary in 2016 — which all would come off the books if he’s cut. Cameron caught just 35 passes for 386 yards and three touchdowns in his first year in Miami.

5. Pull the plug on Dion Jordan: Not even the Dolphins know what to expect from Jordan. They haven’t seen him in a year; he was out the entire 2015 season after a third violation of the league’s drug policy. The team would save around $3 million by releasing him.

6. Ease Greg Jennings out the door: Jennings was a great locker room influence in 2015, but in truth, he didn’t add much out of it. He caught just 19 balls in his one year with the Dolphins. Jennings is due $4 million this year. He’ll surely be cut if he doesn’t retire.

7. End the Koa Misi era: Former coach Joe Philbin often said that Misi was the model for his linebackers. But Philbin is gone and Misi — who while solid, was never spectacular — might follow Philbin out the door. Misi counts $4.9 million if he’s on the team, but just $1.2 million if he’s not.

8. Cut or trade Jamar Taylor: Taylor spent the last quarter of the season in the doghouse, and after pointed comments critical of the coaching staff, it appears the cornerback’s days are numbered. The savings are modest ($900,000), but a fresh start is probably needed.

▪ The Dolphins mutually parted ways with Eric Stokes, who was the team’s assistant general manager the past two seasons. They also hired Daronte Jones from the University of Wisconsin coaching staff to assist defensive backs coach Lou Anarumo.

Miami Herald sportswriter Barry Jackson contributed to this report.

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