Armando Salguero

What the Miami Dolphins are doing as the NFL trade deadline nears

Miami Dolphins general manager Chris Grier and executive vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum have been burning the phone lines as the NFL trade deadline nears.
Miami Dolphins general manager Chris Grier and executive vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum have been burning the phone lines as the NFL trade deadline nears.

The Miami Dolphins are among the teams active in trade talks as the NFL trade deadline looms Tuesday at 4 p.m., according to multiple league sources.

The sources did not wish to discuss specifics of what the Dolphins are doing other than to say the team is willing to be both a seller and a buyer -- both willing to part with certain players currently on the roster and willing to add players to its roster.

One source said the Dolphins are seemingly focused on addressing their offense.

This makes sense because the Dolphins offense has been the focal point of troubles and inconsistency through seven games. Although the Dolphins have managed a 4-3 record -- better than the record they had after seven games last year when they went to the playoffs -- the offense has been shut out twice and is dead last in the NFL in points per game and yards per game, which is the league’s measure for total offense.

Another source said it was unlikely the Dolphins would be able to make a deal before Tuesday’s deadline because most NFL teams are reluctant to exchange players at this stage in the season. Teams are more willing to exchange draft picks in return for a player or as compensation for a player -- and mostly very low-round picks.

The Dolphins apparently are trying to exchange players.

So what does this mean?

It means everyone on the Miami roster on the offensive side of the ball should be on notice: You might be gone or replaced before the team practices Wednesday.

Obviously there are some players who seem untouchable or unlikely to be moved. The Dolphins aren’t going to trade starting quarterback Jay Cutler and, really, no team is probably going to want him anyway. They’re not going to trade away center Mike Pouncey. Receiver Kenny Stills, a favorite of coach Adam Gase, is not going anywhere.

But might the Dolphins want to add a wide receiver? Absolutely. Gase has complained some unnamed receivers don’t always carry out their assignments as drawn up by coaches.

Might the Dolphins want to add a running back? Yes. The depth behind starter Jay Ajayi is questionable and, frankly, Ajayi is not having the kind of season he had last year so he could use a little competition.

(Last season Ajayi averaged 4.9 yards per carry and this year is down to 3.4 yards per carry. Last year Ajayi had eight touchdowns and so far in 2017 he has none.)

Might the Dolphins wish to address their offensive line? Definitely. The unit tries hard. Gase has said so in press conferences. And that’s a plus. But Laremy Tunsil is performing poorly his first season as the starting left tackle, and the left guard spot has been troublesome because projected starter Ted Larsen went out with a biceps injury in August, backup Anthony Steen required surgery recently but was on his way to being benched anyway, and the starter now is first-year player Jesse Davis.

So the Dolphins could use a starting left guard now and perhaps even a future right guard replacement for Jermon Bushrod, who is playing well but is in his 11th NFL season.

And then there’s the elephant in the room: Receiver Jarvis Landry.

No one has said Landry is on the trade block so one must assume he is not.

But it would make sense if the Dolphins want to get a quality player to add playmaking skills or blocking up front, that they would have to give a good player in return.

And Landry, who leads the team with 50 catches for 398 yards, is obviously a good player. The intriguing thing is no one knows if he’s in the Dolphins’ future because the team this year had the opportunity to extend Landry’s contract and chose not to do so while addressing multiple other contract issues.

The Dolphins actually signed safety T.J. McDonald to a four-year, $24 million contract extension in September. And McDonald, serving out the last weeks of an eight-game NFL suspension, has never played a regular-season game for the Dolphins.

So the Dolphins have addressed multiple other contract issues ahead of Landry. And that begs the question whether Landry is in the team’s long-term plans.

To be fair, however, the Dolphins last season did not extend Stills or Andre Branch until after the season was over and free agency loomed this past spring. Eventually both re-signed with Miami.

It’s possible the Dolphins, who don’t really have significant cap space now, have to wait until the offseason to address Landry’s contract. Landry is scheduled to be a free agent after the season, which by the way, decreases his trade value should the team wish to include him among the players it’s willing to deal.

Finally, another factor working against the Dolphins striking any sort of a trade that adds help now is their current salary cap situation. The Dolphins have $631,043 in cap space now, according to the NFL Players Association records.

It’s hard to fit on a new player’s salary onto a salary cap already lacking significant room to make such a move.

Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

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