A look at the NFL Players Association website Tuesday offers a glimpse as to why the Miami Dolphins are officially bargain hunting in free agency now.
The Dolphins have 61 players under contract and have $9,166,140 salary cap space to deal with today. Only seven other teams have less cap space than the Dolphins, none of them in the AFC East.
And Miami’s figure is actually an overstatement because 61 players under contract don’t include Williams Hayes, who has agreed to but has not officially signed a one-year contract, which is expected to be around $1.75 million to $2.5 million — all of which would subtract from the Dolphins’ cap space because he would be included in the team’s top 51 contracts.
But things are not as dire as the current number suggest.
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Although the Dolphins have to restrain themselves from paying Saks Fifth Avenue prices for the remaining free agents they might be interested in, there’s good news:
The remaining available free agents the team currently has in its sights are Walmart caliber and thus not all that expensive.
Secondly, the Dolphins will get a $17 million cap credit after June 1 when the fiscal benefit from cutting Pro Bowl defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh kicks in. The Dolphins will use that space to sign their draft class prior to July training camp, budget for their practice squad and stash some away for emergencies and possible carryover into 2019.
So that’s the snapshot of Miami’s current cap picture.
And that picture is coming into focus as contracts get reported to the NFLPA.
The contract for receiver Albert Wilson was reported by the players union Monday. He signed a three-year, $24 million deal. That averages out to $8 million annually.
But it won’t be distributed that way and won’t count against the cap that way. In fact, you should probably think of Wilson’s deal as a two-year audition with a nice reward in the third year if he makes it that far.
Wilson this season collects a $4 million signing bonus and a $2.65 million roster bonus — both of which already has. His base salary will be $790,000.
So although Albert Wilson is collecting $7.44 million from the Dolphins this season, he will cost the Dolphins $5.02 million in salary cap space.
That cap number jumps to $8.55 million next season when Wilson gets a $6.975 million guaranteed base salary. That guarantee effectively means Wilson will be on the team next year unless he does something bizarre this year like going AWOL. (It has happened).
Anyway, the third season of the Wilson contract will require some significant production from the player if he is to actually collect its treasure. Wilson’s cap figure in 2020 is scheduled to be $11.05 million.
And the thing about that is $9.475 million of that comes in the form of a base salary. So if the Dolphins cut Wilson before that season, they will cut the base salary and a $50,000 workout bonus from the cap — nearly a $10 million cap savings.
Wilson must produce to keep the team from wanting to save the money and cap charge in 2020.
Obviously Wilson is betting on himself. Obviously the Dolphins are protecting themselves.
The deal, which has $14.4 million in guaranteed money, initially seems to favor Wilson while the back end protects the Dolphins.
The Dolphins are inheriting center Daniel Kilgore’s contract that he signed with the San Francisco 49ers in February unless they rework the deal. (They have done that in the past as well — last year with Hayes).
Kilgore’s deal is for three years and $11.75 million. The deal includes $7.05 million in guarantees, of which $4.825 million Kilgore is collecting this season.
If Kilgore is on the roster on April 1, 2019, his $2.225 million base salary becomes guaranteed.
Kilgore’s cap numbers are $5.375 million in 2018, $2.775 million in 2019 and $3.625 million in 2020.
The center’s cap numbers see easy to absorb, especially in ‘19 and ‘20. But here’s the thing: He has to play well this year because the Dolphins can cut him either April 1, 2019 or before the season in 2020 and that would save the entire cap charge.
Said another way, the Dolphins can cut Kilgore next spring and save $2.775 million in 2018 and $3.625 million in 2020 with no dead money left on the books.
That’s a good situation for the team. Kilgore has to play well in 2018 to protect his future with the team.
Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero