Miami has $45.7 million to spend this season, not accounting for the money that will be necessary to sign its draft picks. However, one consequence of having such a huge void in the Dolphins' salary cap is the fact that they have huge voids in their roster that must be filled with said cap space.
How will Miami spend it? Mainly by retaining some key free agents while making a big splash on the open market. So whom will Miami sign? How much will it sign each player for?
Most importantly (and to be answered in January 2014), will it be enough to save Jeff Ireland's job?
Numbers predicted are rough estimates and not to be taken as exact, based off of the player's position, age, injury history and similar salaries at said position.
The Dolphins know that they will have to upgrade their receiving corps in 2013, and one step toward doing that is retaining their best wide receiver from 2012.
Brian Hartline posted a career year last season, grabbing 74 catches for 1,083 yards and one touchdown, with the one touchdown being a very glaring statistic and one that isn't indicative of a team's No. 1 receiver.
However, Hartline also developed great chemistry with the rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill, as he posted these numbers despite missing most of training camp and the entire preseason due to various injuries. Retaining Hartline will be important for Miami, and it will pay to make sure it does just that.
CONTRACT: 5 years, $28 Million, $20 million guaranteed.
It might be unfair to include Randy Starks on this list as there is still the chance as of the publishing of this slideshow that Starks will get the franchise tag, paying him $8.45 million in 2013.
If that's the case, disregard this slide and move onto the next one; however, I don't see Starks getting the franchise tag. Instead, I see him working out a more palatable deal with the Dolphins that could be longer than one would think.
The reason for the length of such a deal is the fact that fellow DT Paul Soliai's contract will expire after next season, whereas this season the Dolphins will likely try out Jared Odrick as a defensive tackle. Expect plenty of rotation for the Dolphins along the defensive line, and they will need the personnel to pull it off.
Which is why Miami will hold onto Starks for not just 2013, but beyond.
CONTRACT: 3 years, $18 million, $10 million guaranteed.
UPDATE (03/04/13: 12:08pm): The Dolphins have officially used their franchise tag on Starks (per ESPN's Adam Schefter), however they will still have until June to work out a long-term deal with the 29-year old defensive tackle. Here's my breakdown of what it will mean for the Dolphins offseason going forward.
You don't hear the name Derek Cox thrown out too much in rumors; however, that doesn't mean the Dolphins won't pursue the fourth-year corner from the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Cox—who in the past has had some injury issues—is likely Miami's cheaper free-agent alternative to impending free agent Sean Smith, and likely a better choice for Miami as well.
While he will be cheaper than Smith, Miami will still have to pay big money for him; however, it will reach a price point with Cox and bring him into the fold.
CONTRACT: 3 years, $12 million, $7 million guaranteed.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end turned in a good 2012 thanks in part to 34 tackles and nine sacks; however, he still will be allowed to hit free agency as the Buccaneers continue to get younger.
Bennett (whose brother Martellus is himself a free-agent tight end and could actually wind up being a part of a package deal with Michael), will still likely be allowed to hit free agency, where there will likely be a major run for his services.
Pass-rushing is a need for Miami, a need that will likely be addressed during free agency as opposed to the draft. While I couldn't say whether Miami will make a run for Martellus (who, like Michael, played for Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman while at Texas A&M), Michael will get some looks and potentially be Miami's second biggest free-agent haul of 2013.
CONTRACT: 4 years, $38 million, $28 million guaranteed.
Well, Dolphins fans, this is the name you most want to see (likely), and Miami's top target of the offseason.
I feel fairly safe in assuring that the Dolphins will sign Mike Wallace. They will be very aggressive in pursuing him, and for good reason: He's exactly the kind of receiver that the Dolphins need at this point in time.
Yes, I could go on with every adjective used to describe Wallace: burner, playmaker, speedster, etc. But Wallace will do more than that: His signing will actually sell tickets for the Dolphins.
The idea of Tannehill connecting with Wallace down the sidelines for a 75-yard touchdown at any time is something that this offense both wants and needs. It will not only free up whichever wide receiver Miami picks up in the draft (and it will draft at least two wide receivers if Wallace is signed, three if he's not), but also Miami's current receivers in Davone Bess, Marlon Moore and Brian Hartline (see first slide, Hartline will be back).
It will also help each of Miami's tight ends as well, including Anthony Fasano (who will be brought back for a one-year deal worth about $4.5 million), Charles Clay and either Michael Egnew or whichever tight end Miami goes after in the draft.
We also can't forget how much Wallace will help the running game by keeping opposing safeties honest.
The Dolphins have a very recent history of failing to get "their man," whether it was Jim Harbaugh, Jeff Fisher or Peyton Manning—but this time they can feel confident that with the cash they have to spend, they will succeed in their mission.
CONTRACT: 5 years, $60 million; $45 million guaranteed.