Barry Jackson

With cap issues looming, five Dolphins under particular pressure this season; Fins notes

Miami Dolphins Bryon Maxwell blacks a pass intended for Los Angeles Rams Kenny Britt in the second quarter at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California, November 20, 2016.
Miami Dolphins Bryon Maxwell blacks a pass intended for Los Angeles Rams Kenny Britt in the second quarter at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California, November 20, 2016. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

Some on-field Dolphins talks while bracing for the fury of Hurricane Irma:

• There’s pressure on every high-salaried veteran in a league without guaranteed contracts, but more so on some than others.

With the Dolphins needing to clear cap space next spring (they have essentially no 2018 space at the moment), there are a handful of players who must play particularly well – and be durable this year – to avoid Miami cutting or restructuring them.

The top five to keep in mind as you watch games this season:

1) Byron Maxwell. He has a $10 million hit in 2018 if he’s on the team and no cap hit if he’s not. Unless he’s a Pro Bowler, he’s unlikely to return, certainly not under his existing contract.

That’s why the Dolphins need a read this year on Cordrea Tankersley (who graded out best in preseason of any Dolphins defender who made the team, according to Pro Football Focus) and one-year project Alterraun Verner.

2) Tight end Julius Thomas. He has a $6.6 million 2018 cap hit if he’s on the team next season, no hit if he’s not. So if this doesn’t work out this season, he’s gone.

3) Right tackle Ja’Wuan James. He a $9.3 million 2018 cap hit if he’s on the team next season, nothing if he’s not. So if James is merely average this season, a release or restructure is likely.

4) Center Mike Pouncey has a $9 million 2018 hit if he’s on the team then, $2 million if he’s not. So he can’t again miss significant time with injury if he expects a long-term future here.

5) Defensive end Cam Wake. He has an $8.6 million 2018 hit if he’s on the team next season, just $500,000 if he’s not. So if his play declines dramatically, he’s a likely cap casualty.

Cameron Wake, Miami Dolphins DE, is impressed with the performance of the younger players in the team's first preseason game and also says it feels good hitting another color uniform.

By contrast, keep this in mind: Miami’s cap hits for Kiko Alonso, Ndamukong Suh, Reshad Jones and Andre Branch are higher if they’re not on the team than if they are on the team.

Incidentally, Ryan Tannehill remains very much in the Dolphins’ plans, according to multiple people in the organization, and even a good year by Jay Cutler wouldn’t necessarily change that.

In the unlikely event that Cutler was absolutely brilliant and wins big this season and the Dolphins wanted to deal Tannehill (after guaranteeing his $17.5 million for 2018), what could they get?

Adam Gase, Miami Dolphins coach, talks to the media about injured quarterback Ryan Tannehill's surgery on Aug. 28, 2017.

Former NFLfront office executive Mike Lombardi told me Tannehill could net two second-round picks, like Alex Smith did in the Chiefs/49ers trade.

The idea of letting Tannehill walk is almost unfathomable, because he would be an asset even in the unlikely event that Miami sticks with Cutler instead. Tannehill has a $19.8 million hit if he’s on the team next season, $4.6 million if he’s cut before the fifth day of the 2018 year.     

• The Dolphins canceled practice through at least Sunday.

• It appears unlikely that Fox-7 will air football on Sunday because of Irma, but in case it does, Fox assigned the station Atlanta-Chicago at 1 p.m. and Seattle-Green Bay at 4:25 p.m. Channel 7 has no sister station to carry alternate programming.

But NBC-6 does have a sister station and could opt to place its NFL game on My-33 if it chooses on Sunday. If it does so - and the station didn’t say if it would - then the game would be Buffalo-New York Jets at 1 p.m.

Here’s my Thursday post with an inside look at what happened when Derek Jeter met with Marlins officials this week, and what happens next.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

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