Warren Sharp of Sharp Football offered an eye-opening assessment of the Dolphins’ trajectory with the dead cap since the start of the Flores/Grier regime in 2019: The Dolphins’ salary cap outlook is a terrific example of this — and we’re not talking about the spending power or room to sign players. Rather, we’re looking at the Dolphins’ dead cap: salary cap space that has been reserved for terminated contracts and players no longer on the team. NFL contracts can be tricky business, but the long and the short of it is that teams can pay players guaranteed money up front in the form of signing bonuses — that money can then be split up over several years of salary cap so long as that player remains on the roster. But if a team trades or cuts a player that they’ve paid more money to than they’ve had accounted against their past salary caps, the remaining balance gets advanced into the current season’s cap as “dead money”.
2019 was all about one thing for the Dolphins: clearing out bad contracts that were signed by the previous regime to older players who would not be a part of the team’s long-term forecast. It resulted in the highest figure in the league. Source sports.yahoo.com
These Dolphins don’t do that. And now, entering year three of a new era, the team is finally free of the restrictions that bad habits of the past.
Over the last two seasons, the Dolphins accounted for over $100M in cap space that went to players no longer on the team. So when you hear the Dolphins talk about attacking building a team with a “sustainable winner” in mind, this is why they operate they way they do. Paying big money up front and then deferring the balance to years down the road and having to foot the bill only part-way through the original financed window can create crippling backlogs of salary cap space that you can’t spend. 2020 was more of the same, only to a lesser degree. Miami, in 2020, still owed dead cap for the past contracts due to safety Reshad Jones ($10.1M), safety Minkah Fitzpatrick ($5M), linebacker Kiko Alonso ($2.2M) and many others — all signings or selections from a past regime under Adam Gase, Mike Tannenbaum and (to a degree that is debated) Grier.
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- The rebuilding progress is clear to the Dolphins in a financial area
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