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Big Changes Coming to Miami Dolphins in the Form of Salary-Cap Cuts

Erik Frenz@ErikFrenzSenior Writer IDecember 24, 2015

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross walks the field during the second half of an NFL football gameagainst the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Dec. 6, 2015, in Miami Gardens, Fla.  (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

Big changes are coming.

Black Monday is just nine days away, and once the 2015 season has come to a conclusion, the Miami Dolphins will start bringing the ax down on many of the key individuals responsible for this debacle of a season.

From general manager Dennis Hickey to interim head coach Dan Campbell to everyone on that roster, no one should feel entirely safe in the Dolphins organization. With the Dolphins gearing up to build in a new direction, there will obviously be sweeping changes all over the roster, but when rebuilding a roster, the easiest place to start is with the biggest contracts.

That's especially true for the Dolphins, who are already sitting roughly $5.8 million over the 2016 salary cap. According to sports contracts website Over The Cap, the Dolphins have more cap money invested in their roster next season than any other team in the NFL right now.

Joel Corry @corryjoel

Miami has NFL high $154.6M in 2016 cap obligations with 38 players under contract after claiming Quinton Coples (top 51 count in offseason).

Whoever is the general manager, they're going to have to find ways to trim the fat. Looking at the Dolphins' cap sheet, there are at least a couple of easy places to start:

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  • Tight end Jordan Cameron is due $9.5 million against the salary cap in 2016, but the Dolphins can save $7.5 million of that by releasing him.
  • Quinton Coples has a $7.75 million salary cap it for 2016, but the Dolphins can cut him and escape all of that.
  • The Dolphins can save $4 million by cutting wide receiver Greg Jennings.

Those are just the easy decisions, though. There will also be some very difficult decisions.

For example, defensive end Cameron Wake is due $9.8 million against the salary cap in 2016, but the Dolphins could save $8.4 million of that money by cutting him. Wake is coming off a season-ending torn Achilles tendon, and will be 34 years old at the beginning of the 2016 season.

Do the Dolphins really want to take such a heavy financial gamble on Wake? He has proved he can be one of the most productive pass-rushing defensive ends in the NFL when he is at his best, but it's hard to say for certain—at least $9.8 million worth of certain—that Wake will be the same player.

Dolphins biggest salary-cap hits in 2016
PlayerCap number
Ndamukong Suh$28,600,000
Ryan Tannehill$11,640,000
Branden Albert$10,150,000
Mike Pouncey$10,025,000
Cameron Wake$9,800,000
Jordan Cameron$9,500,000
Brent Grimes$9,500,000
Reshad Jones$8,202,942
Quinton Coples$7,751,000
Dion Jordan$6,202,377
Source: OverTheCap.com

One player who has already started to show signs of regression is cornerback Brent Grimes, who is due $9.5 million against the salary cap in 2016. The Dolphins could save $6.5 million of that money by cutting him, but while Grimes has struggled, he is one of very few capable cornerbacks on the roster.

These are all decisions that the Dolphins have to make, whether or not they want to engage in the pursuit of the free-agent prize pony as they have done several times in the past few years. The Dolphins have several key free agents they need to sign, including defensive end Olivier Vernon, running back Lamar Miller and wide receiver Rishard Matthews. 

Losing those players would only add to the Dolphins' laundry list of holes on the roster: linebacker, cornerback and offensive guard, just to name a few. 

The Dolphins have already taken a step back this year, but they might need to take another step back if they want to get back on the right track in the near future. Whoever is leading the organization in the future, these burgeoning salary-cap constraints are only going to make their job more difficult in the long run.

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