Armando Salguero

Cam Wake issues — whether he returns for ’19, his defined role — shouldn’t be so complicated

It’s pretty obvious that Cameron Wake wants to return to the Miami Dolphins in 2019 when he’ll be 37 years old.

It’s pretty obvious the Dolphins would like their most consistent pass rusher of the last decade and best defensive lineman on this year’s team back next season regardless of his age.

But each side spent the past week or so being coy and saying the decision is basically up to the people on the other side.

“I think that’s going to be really up to him,” coach Adam Gase said Friday. “...If he wants to go another year, I don’t think anybody is really going to be up in arms with him wanting to go another season, or another two seasons, or whatever it ends up being.“

To which Wake responds minutes later ...

“I would like to be,” he said when asked if being in Miami would be his preference. “It’s probably a little bit out of my hands, a little bit in my hands. So stay tuned, I guess.”

And right about now you’re wondering what’s going on?

Why is the player that is No. 2 on the team’s all-time sack list and is still productive in his 10th season, including on running plays, being coy? And why is the team being coy right back?

Well, I’d say you’re witnessing something of a negotiation without it being announced as such.

Let’s cut to the chase: Wake is good. The Dolphins should want him back as a part-time edge rusher and good work ethic example for younger players. The Dolphins are Wake’s team and he’d probably like to finish his career with one team and he’s in a comfort zone with the team, so sticking with them makes sense for him.

And then we have the issue of what’s it going to take?

As in money.

The Dolphins will not want to overpay for a 37-year-old part time player.

Wake will not want to sell himself short because he’s still the team’s best defensive lineman.

Yeah, interesting.

Wake signed a one-year extension in Feb. 2017 worth $9.125 million. That was when the cap was $167 million. Next year it will be $190 million. Folks are going to get paid.

So I assume Wake wants to be one of those folks -- or at least his agents want him to be.

And amid all this the Dolphins are trending toward diminishing Wake’s role even as the season winds down and there’s really no reason to save him.

Last week, Wake played 30 snaps against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Andre Branch played 40. Robert Quinn played 32. Charles Harris played 33.

Personally, I don’t think those numbers make sense.

In a perfect world, I’d like Quinn playing the most, then Wake, then Harris, then Branch. But it was what it was.

Except I’m not sure what it was.

Defensive coordinator Matt Burke said Wake is free to enter and exit a game as he decides.

“There’s a fine line, I think, with Cam in terms of the number of plays and what we’re trying to get out of him,” Burke said. “To be honest with you, to some extent Cam informs us of kind of where he’s at and if Cam wants to be on the field, he’s going to be on the field.

“We’re trying to keep him fresh and obviously I’m sure those 30 snaps, every single one of the third downs, he was on the field. We try to spot him at other places.”

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Gase said the Dolphins saved Wake earlier in the season and have been increasing his snaps the past six weeks or so -- kind of like a late-season push for the playoffs.

“Yeah, I mean once you get to these last six games, it’s just how is his body is feeling and then if he’s healthy, you just roll,” Gase said. “You try to keep him on the field as much as possible because he’s probably one of our best run defenders. He does the best job setting the edge. Obviously he still does a great job as a pass rusher. You still see guys just struggle to even try to keep up with him, especially at home, getting off the ball.”

Burke doesn’t quite see it that way, with that late-season push stuff.

“I’m not sure that necessarily because it’s the end of the season we’re ramping him up,” Burke said. “I think there’s a give and take with, at some point, there’s two many snaps for all of those guys, not just Cam. We try to keep those guys fresh and rotate them through.

“Obviously Cam’s a guy we want on the field on critical situations and keep him fresh towards the end of the game and on third downs and the stuff that we’re trying to get him loose on.”

Look, fellas this shouldn’t be that complicated:

On Sunday, Cameron Wake should play as much as he can because it might be his last game with the Miami Dolphins. Rotation or no rotation.

Next season, the two sides should agree on a number that makes both sides comfortable and does not kill the Dolphins on the salary cap. For cap purposes the contract will likely have to be a two-year deal with an easy exit after one year.

That done, the Dolphins need to figure out what Wake is. In a perfect world, he’d be a specialist edge rusher. But because the defensive line is not what it should be, Wake has somehow ended up as its best edge run defender and the guy you want on the field more than anyone -- even at 36 years old.

Yeah, addressing the Cam Wake issue is not the only work the Dolphins have to do along the defensive line. This group needs significant upgrade. And, oh yes, all this assumes the Dolphins are playing a base 4-3 next year.

Yeah, there’s that -- albeit for another day.

Armando Salguero has covered the Miami Dolphins and the NFL since 1990, so longer than many players on the current roster have been alive and since many coaches on the team were in middle school. He was a 2016 APSE Top 3 columnist nationwide. He is one of 48 Pro Football Hall of Fame voters. He is an Associated Press All-Pro and awards voter. He’s covered Dolphins games in London, Berlin, Mexico City and Tokyo. He has covered 25 Super Bowls, the NBA Finals, and the Olympics.