Much like last season, the Dolphins will have plenty of money to spend, with plenty of holes to fill with said money. Here's everything you need to know about the Miami Dolphins salary-cap situation this offseason.
Last season, the Dolphins had plenty of room under the salary cap and used said room to get younger (but not necessarily better) at linebacker, as well as upgrade the wide receivers and tight ends with Mike Wallace and Dustin Keller, and upgrade at cornerback with Brent Grimes.
This season, Miami goes in with $39.1 million in cap space, which is the fifth most in the NFL. The salary cap set by the league, according to Dan Hanzus of NFL.com, is $133 million.
The $39.1 million in cap room will be used to help fill some holes on the Dolphins roster, but it will also be important in regard to retaining top free agents.
Impending Free Agents
Before the Dolphins start looking around for their next left tackle, there is some business at home that must be taken care of.
Miami's top impending free agents are cornerback Brent Grimes and the two defensive tackles, Randy Starks and Paul Soliai. All three players are either north of 30 or will turn 30 during the season and are looking at what will likely be their last big payday.
The Dolphins have been in negotiations with Grimes, and based off of this report by Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, the Dolphins are not expected to slap him with the franchise tag. It's believed that more likely than not, they will sign Grimes to a new contract to remain in Miami.
This good news will save Miami plenty of money, as Grimes would be due $11.3 million had the Dolphins applied the tag to him.
Even better news is now Miami is free to use the tag (if it chooses to) on either Starks or Soliai—who have both been franchise-tagged in the last three years.
According to Barry Jackson and Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald, Miami has interest in signing both players but hasn't made an offer toward any of them yet. Jackson later reported that the Dolphins will make an offer to Soliai before free agency officially begins. The Dolphins can afford to lose one of them, but not both.
Other impending free agents on the Dolphins include tight end Keller, guards Richie Incognito and John Jerry, tackles Bryant McKinnie and Tyson Clabo, and cornerback Nolan Carroll. Out of this group, it's safe to assume that Incognito and Jerry will be out.
Either McKinnie or Clabo (or even both) could come back to have depth on the offensive line. Carroll could be brought back for a good price due to his play in 2013, while Keller might be a possibility to come back after missing the entire 2013 season due to a knee injury suffered in preseason.
Chris Clemons could possibly be back for the Dolphins if they don't see a legitimate upgrade on the horizon at safety, but as ESPN.com's James Walker had said, he's not a priority for the Dolphins.
Miami will go heavy after offensive linemen this offseason, but those players aren't the only targets.
So far, that has been the only free-agent visit (Delmas can speak with any team he chooses to because he was released before the start of free agency) and would potentially serve as an upgrade to Clemons in the secondary.
As for the offensive line targets, Miami is expected to go after Branden Albert, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (h/t Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com).
Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun reports that the Ravens are unlikely to use the franchise tag on Monroe, and in an interview with 1570am WNST in Baltimore, Monroe said he would not give the Ravens a hometown discount, stating:
"You have to get the absolute best because you put forth your best effort all the time, every single day in this league, so there are definitely no discounts, and you have to have you and your family's best interests at heart in terms of negotiating these deals."
Thus far, those are the only confirmed targets of the Miami Dolphins going into the offseason, but many more will be sure to emerge.
The Dolphins have plenty of money to play with in order to keep key veterans while adding impact players on offense and defense. A good start in free agency could potentially lead to a better draft for the Dolphins with the team being able to focus more on the best player available due to addressing their needs in free agency.
Dennis Hickey has his work cut out for him in his first offseason as Dolphins general manager, but he will have the funds to do so. His judgement in talent and how said talent fits on the Dolphins will be the real challenge ahead for Miami this offseason.
Salary-cap figures provided by Spotrac.com, unless otherwise specified.