Before embarking on an offseason adventure, the new Miami Dolphins' general manager (whomever it will be) will have to be aware of Miami's salary-cap situation.
Miami's cap situation will likely determine which direction they will go in in terms of signing (and re-signing) players, which will set up what they will do in the draft.
But how much money do the Dolphins have committed in 2014, and where is this money committed?
Read along to find out.
The next general manager of the Miami Dolphins finds himself in a fairly good salary-cap situation.
Going into the 2014 offseason, the Dolphins have only $99,780,978 committed to salary, while the cap is expected to be $126.3 million, according to a report from Tom Pelissero of USA Today.
This would give Miami about $99.7 million in committed salary for 2014. But where is the salary spread out to, and how can Miami possibly make more cap room?
Pat Devlin is a restricted free agent, which is why he's not listed here.
Miami likely will re-sign Devlin for training camp next season, and it is possible that they also draft a quarterback late in the draft as well.
Other than that, no further money needs to be spent, but it could help the Dolphins out a bit if Matt Moore can agree to a contract restructuring.
I can already see a $1 million-plus that I'd trim from here if I were the Dolphins, as Daniel Thomas and the Miami Dolphins would better serve each other by mutually parting ways. This would save the Dolphins $816,386 since by releasing Thomas, the Dolphins would only owe him his $213,435 signing bonus.
Marcus Thigpen might be someone else on the chopping block. If released, the Dolphins would owe him $2,500, saving them $570,000.
In total releasing both players would free up $1,386,386 for the Dolphins to spend.
Miami would then draft replacements for both late in the draft, where there are plenty of gems to be found that can exceed the production of Thomas and Thigpen.
There's not a lot of fat roster-wise with the Dolphins at this position, as they have their top four wide receivers on the roster for next season, while Armon Binns is a restricted free agent.
Money-wise, there is plenty to trim, especially from the salary of Mike Wallace. How much will the new general manager be able to trim in a restructured deal is up in the air, as is the question of whether Wallace will accept such a deal (I'd guess that he would as long as it doesn't take away too much).
Since Gibson missed the final nine games of the season, it wouldn't surprise me if his deal was restructured as well, especially since Gibson isn't owed any money beyond the 2013 season due to how his deal was structured (per the Palm Beach Post).
This is the final year of Charles Clay's contract with the Dolphins, which might garner him a long-term deal by the new general manager.
That might come after he proves he can do it for a second straight year, though, which means that there's nothing to really add to this total, and nothing to take away, either.
I would add another tight end to the roster via the draft if I were Miami, but that would take up a slot already reserved for that draft pick.
We have found a position where the Dolphins must spend more money.
The offensive line must take up at least $15 million in order to bring in at least one quality free agent, a new deal for Mike Pouncey (who has earned it) and two draft picks in the first three rounds.
The Dolphins will definitely find a place to trim money from this position, as they hope to trade the more than $1.3 million owed to Jonathan Martin. If a trade partner isn't found for the tackle, Miami will owe Martin $959,734, which means it saves Miami a paltry $345,066 if he's released.
Hope a team is interested in trading for Martin, and not just for the late-round pick.
You know what's crazy about that $15.2 million figure along the defensive line? Miami will likely have to spend another $10 million this offseason to get it to the level it was on this season by re-signing either Paul Soliai or Randy Starks, then drafting a defensive tackle.
The only player on this list who's overpaid is Dion Jordan, but I don't see how you can ask a rookie to restructure his deal heading into year two. Jared Odrick is likely due for a new deal with his contract expiring after the season, but the majority of the money being paid to him is based off of an option bonus combined with a workout bonus he receives every year that was agreed to in 2011 (his base salary is $765,000).
That money is guaranteed, which means even if Odrick gets a new deal (which will likely be a priority going into training camp), it won't save the Dolphins too much money.
Restructuring Cameron Wake's contract might be something to look into, even though he might actually deserve more than the $7.285 million he's getting paid. His contract runs through 2017.
The Dolphins have more money committed to their linebackers than any other defensive position in 2014.
Let's let this sink in considering that this was the weak link on the Dolphins defense in 2013.
If I were general manager, I'd get really creative with the salaries of Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler.
It's not beneficial for the Dolphins to cut either player. Both players are signed to long-term deals with at least $10 million guaranteed left on the deal, which makes cutting these players a costlier move than just keeping them (the Dolphins would have $10.6 million in dead money counting against the cap if they cut Wheeler, and $11.6 million in dead money if Ellerbe is released).
That guaranteed money can be used to help out their salary-cap situation, though, provided the Dolphins get somewhat creative and restructure both deals to lower the base salaries for each player (Wheeler's base salary is at $5 million, while Ellerbe's is at $6 million).
Outside of that, the only salary I'd add with the linebackers would be by drafting one if one is available.
Slapping Brent Grimes with the franchise tag will come close to doubling the amount spent on the secondary in 2014.
According to these unofficial projections by former agent Joel Corry on CBSSports.com, Brent Grimes would get $11,256,000 if he's slapped with the franchise tag.
Grimes however will likely take long-term security over the big $11.256 million pay day, so once the Dolphins tag Grimes, I'd expect both sides to negotiate that long-term deal, which will bring his cap number down.
As for the rest of the secondary, the only way that number will go down will be if players are released (a possibility with Jordan Kovacs and Michael Thomas) or by restructuring Reshad Jones' deal.
It's also possible for the Dolphins to release Dimitri Patterson, then re-sign him to a more favorable deal. Patterson is due $5.4 million in 2014, but he carries no dead money, meaning releasing him won't cost the Dolphins anything.
Either way, that number will go up as the 2014 offseason drags on, as will the numbers for offensive line and defensive line.
The only way to save money on special teams is to ask a Pro Bowl punter to take a pay cut.
Should any punter ever get paid more than $2 million? I don't think so, but Jeff Ireland apparently did.
Now Brandon Fields is probably the best punter in the NFL, and he was important to the Dolphins this season (and has been since joining the Dolphins). However, based on his position, he's overpaid.
Restructuring the deal might be a good idea but keep this in mind: Fields is under contract until 2016 and gets a pay raise in each season that follows.
I wouldn't try to replace him, either, simply because he is the best punter in the AFC, and his guaranteed $1.93 million would count against the cap as dead money.
This is likely best left alone.
But overall, the Dolphins are in pretty good shape salary-cap wise, and with some savvy moves, they can get into even better shape.
Now let's just find the person to do it.
All salary cap information provided by Spotrac.com unless otherwise noted.