Barry Jackson

Dolphins, on upswing, have substantial cap space to improve

Miami Dolphins Mario Williams sacks Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson in the first quarter at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, WA, Sept. 11, 2016.
Miami Dolphins Mario Williams sacks Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson in the first quarter at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, WA, Sept. 11, 2016. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

A bunch of Saturday Dolphins notes as we await Dolphins-Cardinals:

• Not only does the Dolphins’ future look brighter now, but they will have the financial wherewithal to augment the roster.

The Dolphins have $136.5 million committed for 2017 cap purposes, with the cap expected to rise from $155 million to at least $160 million. The Dolphins are doing their internal numbers at $160 million, but cap expert Joel Corry projects a $168 million cap.

Factoring in $13 million in carryover space (according to a team source), the Dolphins will have $36 million to $44 million in space.

Two expected moves - cutting Mario Williams and Koa Misi --- will save another $8.5 million and $4.2 million respectively, raising the Dolphins’ cap space to $49 million to $57 million.

For those who have asked about Mike Pouncey, not only are the Dolphins determined to find a solution for Pouncey’s hip, but cutting him doesn’t help; his 2017 cap hit is $8.9 million if he’s here, $5 million if he’s not. So Pouncey remains part of the team’s future.

Some longterm money will be allocated for an extension for Jarvis Landry, who’s due $893,850 next season in an expiring contract, plus re-signing Kiko Alonso, Dion Sims, potentially Kenny Stills, among others, and filling multiple needs (two linebackers, another tight end, right guard and more). The Dolphins have indicated they won’t do extensions until after the season.

• Impending free agent linebacker Jelani Jenkins, who isn’t expected back as a starter if at all, said he might need another knee procedure after the season and this has been the most frustrating season of his life.

“It's tough for all of us, because he's a starter for us, and he hasn't been able to play consistently,” defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said. “When you do have him, he's half of what he is. Until he gets healthy, we can't play with him.”

Matt Moore said one thing Adam Gase quietly has done since the 1-4 start is using fewer plays from his call sheet, less than 20 a game.

“We’ve tried to home in on the stuff we do well,” Moore said.

Jakeem Grant said several opposing coaches and players have told him before games that they simply will not kick to him.

Seahawks coach “Pete Carroll shook my hand and said I’m a great returner.”

He’s seventh in kick returns and 15th in punt returns but knows the fumbles must stop.

• Sunday’s Bobby McCain/Larry Fitzgerald matchup is worrisome, with the Cardinals future Hall of Fame receiver, at 6-3, holding a four-inch height advantage.

"He's a great receiver who has done great things in this league. He's a bigger guy, so you need to make sure you be physical too and put your hands on him early," McCain said, adding he hopes to use his quickness to his advantage. “You just can't let him use his strength, which is his size, to body you out of catches."

Fitzgerald has 88 catches for 880 yards and five touchdowns.

The Dolphins signed 6-0 former Carolina starter Bene Benwikere to help but he hasn’t demonstrated to coaches that he’s worthy of promotion from the practice squad.

McCain said he’s not frightened by Fitzgerald because “I see one of the best slots in the league in Jarvis [Landry] every day” in practice, adding “Fitzgerald has lost maybe a step or two but he’s still a good player.”

• Teammates respect how guard Laremy Tunsil is playing through a shoulder injury that is “hurting bad” every time he lifts his arm. He hasn’t allowed a sack in 566 snaps this season.

Branden Albert told Tunsil that “even at 60 percent, you’re one of the best talents in the league.”

“He did a good job fighting through his injury,” Albert said. “That shows what he has in him.”

Tunsil told me that he’s proud of how his run-blocking has improved.

• Gase had two choices after Sunday’s 38-6 drubbing: Rip the heck out of his team or be positive. He opted for the latter.

“He’s been very motivating, and encouraging,” Jermon Bushrod said.

That was smart approach by Gase, linebacker Donald Butler said, because “chewing young guys out wouldn’t help with a young team.”

Jay Ajayi, who leads the league in broken tackles but feels “great physically,” is averaging 5.2 per carry.

Only two Dolphins (minimum 150 carries) have averaged at least that much for a season: Larry Csonka in 1971 and 72 and Mercury Morris in 1972.

Ricky Williams’ averages in four seasons in Miami: 4.8, 3.5, 4.4, 4.7.

• Playoff odds are stacked against Miami. Even if Miami goes 4-0, it loses a tiebreaker if Denver goes 3-1 against a tough schedule (at Tennessee, Patriots, at Chiefs, Raiders).

If the Dolphins go 3-1 but the one loss is in their final three games, Denver would need to go 1-3 for Miami to overtake the Broncos.

For a lot more Dolphins nuggets, including an update on Dion Jordan, injury updates and something interesting from Jakeem Grant, please click here. And please follow me on Twitter (@flasportsbuzz) for quick links.

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