Money must grow on palm trees, because the Miami Dolphins are set to own the league in 2020.
According to Brian Flores and Chris Grier, “tanking” isn’t occurring, but if you believe the Miami Dolphins are exclusively planning for 2019, you’re falling for the trap the front office wants you to believe.
How gullible do they expect us to be?
If the 2020 quarterback class (mixed with the sub-par 2019 QB class) wasn’t enough enticing evidence that the Dolphins were planning to obtain their franchise quarterback at the turn of the decade, the trades of Ryan Tannehill and Robert Quinn for 2020 draft picks, as well as allowing Ja’Wuan James to sign with the Denver Broncos for a 2020 compensatory pick, further teases us with Miami’s plan.
A roster that needed to be expunged of expensive contracts, paired with an ever-increasing 2020 draft capital, tied together with a group of quarterbacks that rivals the 2004 draft class (that yielded Eli Manning, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger), and you have all the makings for a team that has formulated a plan directed at 2020.
Now, for the final piece of the puzzle. I present to you, Dawn Aponte‘s dream come true, a football team with minimal contractual obligations and a boat load of money to play with (or was that Mike Tannenbaum‘s dream…?):
Current Roster Situation:
Since 2014, the salary cap in the NFL has grown between $10m-$12m per year. With the salary cap currently sitting at $188.2m for 2019, let’s go ahead and assume that the cap increases another $12m and gives us a pretty $200m to work with for 2020.
At this very moment, the Miami Dolphins have ~$100m tied to the 2020 salary cap – giving us another $100m in cap space.
Their 5-biggest cap hits in 2020? Might not be on the 2019 roster let alone the 2020 squad:
If the Miami Dolphins are able to get anything for Reshad Jones before the beginning of the 2020 season, Chris Grier can consider himself Gandalf’s most formidable opponent, because that would be some kind of magic.
But frankly, even with Jones’ contract on the books for 2020, let’s look at how much more money Miami can remove from their cap:
- Albert Wilson may be Miami’s 2018 offensive MVP (behind Frank Gore), but his season-ending hip injury raises enough cause for concern. While I expect Wilson to return to Miami in 2019 and perform, I’m not sure how much the Dolphins are willing to wager on a player we don’t currently know the status of.
- $10m in salary cap space for any receiver is a lot. The dead cap space tied to Wilson’s 2020 salary ($1.33m) is extremely manageable, and much more appealing than the $10m roster option.
- Depending on how Chad O’Shea views Wilson, he might choose to restructure his contract and remain with the team at a reduced rate. If he’s released prior to 2020, it’s a $9.5m cap savings for Miami.
- Looking at the differential between Wilson’s cap hit and dead cap hit, it appears as if the original contract was essentially looked at as a two-year deal. I don’t think Miami ever expected to pay Wilson $10m in 2020.
- Kenny Stills has been a professional workhorse and an off-the-field role model for children everywhere, but how valuable is a 28-year-old receiver entering his 8th NFL season?
- In a vacuum, as a player, Kenny Stills is worth that $8.75 salary cap hit. But for a team looking to get younger and rebuild, are they going to retain Stills at an increased rate for his leadership qualities, or are they going to utilize the 2019 and 2020 draft to replenish their receiving corps?
- With a $1.75m dead cap hit versus a $8.75m salary cap hit, Miami can save $7m in cap space by releasing Stills prior to 2020.
- Kiko Alonso is simultaneously a fan favorite and a source of fan frustration. Set to cost $8.2m against the salary cap in 2020, the decision on Kiko may have already been made, and it’s just a matter of getting through the 2019 season before he’s off the roster.
- Lets get a few things straight, Kiko’s durability and reliability are two things we thoroughly like about the linebacker, but with that reliability comes inconsistency, coverage liability, and average run defense.
- With Raekwon McMillan and Jerome Baker set to cost $1.5m and $1.05m against the salary cap respectively in 2020, the Dolphins are able to afford Alonso, but would also be able to utilize the ~$6.4m salary cap savings to spend on any potential free agent they desire.
- If Kiko is willing to renegotiate his contract and accept a salary cap hit that is under $6m, I think it’s more likely he stays. Anything above that $6m mark is best utilized elsewhere, even if it creates a hole at the position (a hole I expect them to fill in the 2019 or 2020 draft).
- T.J. McDonald‘s dead cap hit in 2019 ($6.5m) is higher than his regular cap hit next season ($6m), but that shouldn’t keep the Dolphins from dealing the team’s other strong safety if they receive an offer. With McDonald, it almost doesn’t matter if the draft pick is in 2019 or 2020, the Dolphins are looking to purge his contract rather than pay a player to be a roadblock for Minkah Fitzpatrick at safety (since Reshad Jones isn’t going anywhere anytime soon).
- The hope with McDonald, similar to Alonso, is that Flores’ defensive influence and an entirely new coaching staff will maximize their strengths rather than try and evolve their pitfalls. Cameron Wake should never drop back into coverage, but it was something he was asked to do on numerous occasions under Matt Burke‘s defense. Likewise, having Alonso cover a running back on a passing route is asking for an automatic first down.
After these top-5, your next-most expensive Miami Dolphins in 2020?:
Bobby McCain is one roster move away from becoming one of the top-5 most expensive players on the team. Poor contract or great cap management? Guess that can be viewed both ways – especially with his inconsistent performance last season after he was awarded with the new contract.
The only other player on this list that looks daunting is Minkah Fitzpatrick, and that’s only because cutting him would accelerate all of his bonuses and cause a heavy dead cap hit in 2020. I think it’s fairly obvious that Miami will not only retain Fitzpatrick at that rate, but he will be viewed as a bargain for that price.
The rest? Are almost a take-it-or-leave it skeleton crew of players that would only cost $1.5m in dead cap space between the 3 of them.
Miami’s cap space throughout Mike Tannenbaum’s tenure was always minimal, but it just shows that no matter how much hell one person voluntarily tries to create, it only takes a single season to undo all of the mistakes.
Granted, who here is enjoying a lost season while we have friends and family cheering for other successful franchises, but when you look at 2018 as a year in which the Dolphins tried to make a playoff push and “bought” towards it, it’s amazing how one offseason later they can be free from all of those restraints.
For an interesting reference, below is Miami’s salary cap space by year (since Mike Tannenbaum officially took over in 2015):
- 2015: $8.05m
- 2016: $14.21m
- 2017: $38,597 (that’s $39k…)
- 2018: $6.92m
Buying a Supporting Cast:
If you were envious of the New York Jets‘ spending spree this past offseason (where they landed Le’Veon Bell, C.J. Mosley, and Jameison Crowder), then be ready for a similar offseason from your Miami Dolphins in 2020.
Barring any crazy signings over the next few months, the Miami Dolphins will go into 2020 with $100m in available cap space, and that’s before they carry over any additional money from 2019.
As of this moment, the Miami Dolphins are set to carry-over $28m from 2019. Granted, Miami is going to have to sign injury-replacements, draft picks, various veterans that other teams cut as well as field an overall 90-man roster for training camp (they currently have 58 players on their roster…).
Expect that number to dwindle down to somewhere near $12-15m when the 2019 season is said and done, but that’s still a decent chunk of change to add to 2020. Essentially, that’s Le’Veon Bell savings right there.
Now the question is, would you be content with the Miami Dolphins utilizing their cap space to extend current players like Laremy Tunsil, Xavien Howard and Kenyan Drake? Or do you want to dip your toe in the free agency pool?
We all know how much we’re going to have to pay Tunsil and Howard – and if Drake breaks out in his contract year, you can expect him to sign a contract similar to Lamar Miller‘s 4-year, $26m ($14m guaranteed) contract back in 2016.
Outside of their own free agents (restricted, unrestricted or otherwise), the Dolphins would have the ability to sign potential 2020 free agents such as:
- Russell Wilson
- Michael Thomas
- Amari Cooper
- Melvin Gordon
- A.J. Green
- Hunter Henry
- Kyle Rudolph
- Eric Ebron
- Allen Hurns
- Nathan Peterman
- Josh Gordon
- Jadeveon Clowney
- Leonard Williams
- Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
- Kevin Johnson
- Ronald Darby
- Bradley Roby
- Marcus Peters
- Grady Jarrett
- Michael Brockers
- Kyle Van Noy
- DeMarcus Lawrence
- Frank Clark
- Dante Fowler Jr.
- Bobby Wagner
- Trae Waynes
- Vic Beasley
- Brent Grimes
Who needs to draft defensive linemen in 2019 when you can buy an entire defensive line in 2020 – and still have money to spare!
What Miami needs to ensure is that they don’t sign the wrong players.
Mike Wallace was the wrong player. Ndamukong Suh was a very good player, but signed to the wrong contract. Branden Albert was a good player, but what exactly did we get from that signing?
Similar to what the Jets are doing now, the Dolphins are set to build a roster around a young quarterback. The team already has a formidable group of core, young players that they can plug into various spots on the roster (McMillan, Baker, Fitzpatrick, Tunsil, Kalen Ballage, Jesse Davis, Davon Godchaux, Vincent Taylor).
What the team needs to do is utilize the 2019 and 2020 drafts to supplement the roster with more young, cheap talent and then use free agency for its intended purpose which is to patch any holes your roster might have – not to be the solution for your overall roster problem. Until 2020 hits, we’ll be impatiently waiting to see who the Dolphins future franchise quarterback is, but once they have their selection, you can bet he’ll have a proper supporting cast around them.
It will be really hard for the Miami Dolphins to get this wrong – especially after doing everything right this current offseason to set themselves up. Then again, another failed rebuild would be the most Miami Dolphins’ thing they could do.
(contract statistics courtesy of Spotrac)
Taco Charlton: New Acquisition Analysis
Dolphins go back to the 2017 first round defensive end well, claim Charlton from waivers
The 2017 Dolphins were, sadly, one of the more anticipated teams this organization has assembled in recent memory. Fresh off a surprise 10-win season, heading into year-two of the new system, and bevy of players returning from injury had fans feeling optimistic.
Patching up the perceived holes on the roster — like the defensive end position — started with an atrocious Andre Branch extension, and ended on the draft’s opening night with a handful of edge rusher prospects ripe for picking.
Derek Barnett came off the board before Miami could pluck the future Super Bowl hero, but everyone else was available. Jonathan Allen was selected five picks ahead of the Dolphins, but he was billed more as a three and five-technique inside player, not a true edge rusher.
That left Charles Harris, Taco Charlton, Tak McKinley and T.J. Watt. Two of those players are off to sterling starts in their young careers — the other two are nearing their respective last legs, and both are now Miami Dolphins.
Charlton received his release from the Cowboys earlier this week after an under-whelming 34-game stay in Big D. Taco’s snap count is revealing of the feeling about the player among the Dallas staff.
|Year||Taco Charlton Defensive Snaps Played (% of Cowboys’ Defensive Snaps)|
A 40-percent snap-taker is typically indicative of one of two things for an edge player. He’s either a situational savant — whether that’s to support the run game or pin his ears back and get after the quarterback — or that he’s the second option in the rotation, A.K.A. a backup.
Charlton’s production suggests that he was the latter, and only because of his draft status. His descent into a game day inactive signaled the end of his time with the club that drafted him.
Rumors of a trade were speculated as the reason Charlton was a healthy scratch for the season’s first two games, but Head Coach Jason Garrett referred to the numbers game. “We have 10 guys on the active roster on the defensive line and we dressed eight for the game. It felt like the guys we had up there gave us the best chance,” Garrett said via a report from Bloggin’ The Boys.
Still, we have 800 reps to look at to figure out where it went wrong for Charlton, and if he possesses a legitimate shot to fit this scheme and carve out spot in the future plans of the NFL’s most steadfast rebuild operation.
First, let’s start with the type of player Charlton was supposed to be coming out of Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan program.
The Dolphins are a team that adheres strongly to prototypes all over the field, but particularly in the trenches. Explosive metrics aren’t nearly as important as length, strength, read-and-react skillsets, intelligence to process and execute a variety of roles (stunts, twists, slants, picks), and most importantly, playing with heavy hands.
His fit begins with his build. At 6’6’’, 270-pounds with 34.5-inch arms, Charlton looks like plenty of defensive ends in a Brian Flores (Bill Belichick defense) before him. Charlton doesn’t check off all those boxes from the previous paragraph, but he hits enough of the buzz words to justify a flier.
This from Lance Zierlein of NFL Media.
That immediate get-off and quickness would’ve suited him better in Miami’s wide-9 alignment under Matt Burke. The length will benefit him, especially as he forces tackles to quickly get into their pass sets. The challenge will be developing a secondary move to work back inside and underneath the tackle.
The glowing praise for his twist, bend, and lower-body control will serve him well in a defense that will stunt, stunt, and stunt some more.
Most of all, the length will help him excel in this scheme as a run defender. To lock out and hold the point of attack are keys, and those are areas that put Charlton on the map as a first-round prospect.
The weaknesses from that blurb are alarming. Getting washed out of his gap by power and allowing blockers into his frame will earn him a quick ticket right out of town — those are the departments where the surprise cuts in Nate Orchard and Dewayne Hendrix struggled.
Lack of consistency, takes plays off, needs a coach that will push him — those are the final takeaways from Zierlein’s conversation with an anonymous AFC Executive.
If there’s any one thing you can point to with Flores as far as his football acumen — this excludes leadership and communication — it’s his ability to coach football (novel idea, huh?) This feels like a Flores pet project.
Let’s get into some of Charlton’s Dallas tenure, starting with his metrics from Pro Football Focus.
Charlton has 38 total pressures in his two years as a pro (4 sacks, 8 hits, 26 hurries). He compiled those numbers on 464 pass rush reps, a pressure on 8.2% of his pass rush snaps — not good. His 4.1 weighted pass rush productivity mark in 2018 ranked 132ndamong all edge rushers.
Charlton missed four tackles on 34 opportunities — an 11.8 missed tackle percentage, also not good. He made 23 run-stops on 346 snaps against the ground game. That mark — 6.6% — landed Charlton at 73rd among edge defenders in 2018, and 143rd in 2017.
The majority of Charlton’s work came from the right side of the defensive line (position vacated by Robert Quinn, currently held by a cast of many in Miami). Charlton lined up for pass rushing situations on the right side for 67.3% of his total reps.
Now, for the tape.
Quick Taco Charlton film thread. Looking at the applicable traits that make him a potential fit in Miami’s scheme, where he needs to get better, and why coaching can make a difference.
First, the get-off paired with lateral agility will suit him well in a stunt-heavy defense. pic.twitter.com/Qgd0kzPzlp
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) September 19, 2019
If Charlton can piece together the finer points of his game and develop a better arsenal or rush moves, he’ll stick as a building block. The decreased workload this year, his lack of production dating back to college, and inconsistencies makes one wonder about the drive and work habits.
We’ll quickly find out about the character of Charlton. If he embraces this opportunity, it’s a great landing spot for him. If not, he’ll be back on the unemployment line in short order.
Josh Rosen Named Starting QB vs Cowboys; Claim DE Taco Charlton
Only minutes after the Miami Dolphins’ Week 2 loss against the Patriots, Head Coach Brian Flores maintained that Ryan Fitzpatrick was the starting quarterback… “Right now”.
By Thursday afternoon, it became clear that “right now” had passed as Josh Rosen was announced to take over the starting QB position ahead of Miami’s first road trip this Sunday against the Cowboys.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 19, 2019
Fans had caught intermittent glimpses of Rosen’s abilities through the preseason and he has seen the field during replacement duty in Weeks 1 and 2, so far completing 8/21 passes for 102 yards, 2 INTs and a 38.1% completion percentage.
While Rosen has not yet led the Dolphins to regular season points, the second year passer will find his opportunity to do so in Dallas and the Dolphins will be able to make further evaluation of 2018’s tenth overall pick.
Ryan Fitzpatrick’s veteran standing and experience had given him the early advantage, but the time has arrived in for the Dolphins to see what the future may bring – if anything – for Josh Rosen in Miami.
Whilst the national attention seems to be focused on Chris Grier’s rebuild of the roster, the Dolphins have claimed former first round pick, DE Taco Charlton, released by the Cowboys on Wednesday.
Dolphins have claimed former Cowboys DE Taco Charlton, source confirms. Charlton was Dallas 2017 first-round pick who the team waived Wednesday.
— Cameron Wolfe (@CameronWolfe) September 19, 2019
The Dolphins are getting Taco Charlton for a bargain: 2 years, $2.5M.
— Adam Beasley (@AdamHBeasley) September 19, 2019
Charlton was the Dallas Cowboys’ first round selection in 2017, having played in 27 games (7 starts) and registered 4.0 sacks and 47 combined tackles.
Dolphins Cowboys Week Three Preview
Dolphins Search to Stop the Bleeding in Big D
Who: Dolphins (0-2) at Cowboys (2-0)
When: Sunday September 22, 1:00 PM East
Where: AT&T Stadium — Arlington, TX
Vegas Slant: Dolphins +21
The hits keep coming for Miami. Another prominent fixture of the roster has been jettisoned, and another loaded team is on the docket for the downtrodden Dolphins.
This current iteration of the Dallas Cowboys is akin to what Miami hopes to build in a couple years’ time — stout trench play, emerging young quarterback, and star-studded skill positions.
Three touchdown underdogs for the second consecutive week, the Dolphins are introducing college point-spreads into the National Football League. Miami’s 19-point home handicap last week was the biggest such spread for a host team since the 2007 season, and the Dolphins are now channeling the 2013 Broncos-Jaguars game that climbed up over 25 points before betting closed.
The Dolphins were far more competitive last week, even if the scoreboard didn’t show it. Contributions from star Cornerback Xavien Howard, upstart Linebacker Jerome Baker, and surprising recent addition Vince Biegel were the silver linings in the 43-point thrashing; we’re looking for more of those in Dallas.
The switch from Scott Linehan to Kellen Moore might’ve been the biggest upgrade in the NFL this offseason. Moore, a coach’s son that made it to the NFL for his cerebral prowess at the quarterback position, is dressing up Dallas’ offense with disguise, misdirection, and tendency breakers.
Dallas varies it’s running scheme, but the talent to execute simple gap-schemes and power concepts allows Moore to get creative with the play action game. Cowboys players praise Moore for his nuance and emphasis on getting players in position to exhibit their best traits.
Scheming chunk-plays in the passing game, running the football to keep the offense on schedule, and devising red zone concepts to free up pass catchers in the condensed area already has Moore’s name circulating as the next hot head coaching candidate.
On top of impeccable front-seven talent, the Cowboys borrow concepts from some of the most accomplished, revolutionary defensive schemes in the history of the league. Rod Marinelli still carries the title of Defensive Coordinator, but it’s a co-op with he and the up-and-coming Kris Richard.
With elements of the Tampa-2 from Marinelli’s days with the Bucs — and more recently in Chicago — fused with Richard’s rendition of the wildly popular scheme originated by Pete Carroll, Dallas is successful in a multitude of packages and pre-snap disguises.
Creating one-on-one rush opportunities from their elite pass rushers, while playing a variety of cover-3, 2, and 1 on the back-end, the Cowboys can apply pressure while dropping seven — the ultimate goal of every NFL defense.
Look for Chad O’Shea to attack this defense with more in-breaking routes. That means high-low and drive concepts (designed to displace zone coverage and attack the middle of cover-1 and Tampa-2 defenses) and seam shots with the Cowboys drop two deep.
Dak Prescott is off to an MVP-caliber beginning to his 2019 season. Prescott handles pressure in two ways — the type of pressure applied by ferocious fronts, and the pressure of big moments. He’s accurate, creates opportunities off-script, and allows Kellen Moore to utilize designed runs.
Then there’s Zeke Elliot, who’s just getting rolling. Zeke, behind arguably the NFL’s best offensive line with the healthy Travis Frederic, Zack Martin, Tyron Smith and La’El Collins, Dallas can line up and push teams off the football.
The Dolphins must get big showings from Davon Godchaux and Christian Wilkins to hold the point-of-attack and free up Jerome Baker and Raekwon McMillan to meet Zeke in the hole.
Amari Cooper is one of the game’s best route runners, and he pairs that with size and speed. He’ll be a tough matchup for Miami, unless Xavien Howard wants to travel with the Cowboys play maker. That opens up another bag of worms, especially as Miami will be working in a new safety alongside corner-convert, Bobby McCain.
Jason Witten is back, but he serves mostly as an additional lineman and the forgotten man in the red zone (as far as the defense is concerned, Witten has two touchdowns already on plays that schemed him wide open). Michael Gallup will miss this game while the resurgent Randal Cobb will help keep the Miami defense honest horizontally in the misdirection game.
Jaylon Smith leads the defense with his instinctive, urgent playing style that pairs well with uncommon physical traits. He and Leighton Vander Esch set the tone in the middle of the Dallas defense, and a lot of the scheme is designed to free these two up to wreak havoc. Smith’s athleticism allows Marinelli to keep the Tampa-2 concept alive.
Demarcus Lawrence is set to have a field day. Miami haven’t been able to block anybody this year, and now will have to handle one of the game’s best pass rushers against deafening crowd noise.
Byron Jones has fallen out of favor in Dallas. The dependable Jeff Heath, and the underrated Xavier Woods make it so, while Chidobe Awuzie locks down the opposition’s number one receiver. Dallas’ vulnerability in this position group from the perimeter corner position opposite Awuzie. Jones has been playing corner to pair with slot specialist Jourdan Lewis and Awuzie.
If Miami can create one-on-one passing opportunities into the boundary, look for O’Shea to attack vertically and hope to steal some points — the best bet here is likely Preston Williams.
— Jeff Kolb (@JeffKolbFOX4) September 20, 2019
Quite literally all over the football field. Dallas can line up with power and milk the Dolphins defense dry. They can attack vertically, or in the controlled passing game with well-timed shot plays built into the offense, all on top of exceptional red zone production in the early going of 2019.
Demarcus Lawrence leads the team in pressures, but he’s only pulled the quarterback down once — that ties the team lead. This Cowboys pass rush is going to be champing at the bit to pad those stats, and there’s no reason to think Miami can handle the relentless pressure, even without blitzing.
Special teams might be the one area Miami can spark some magic. The Dolphins are off to a slow start in this department as well, but Jakeem Grant’s big-play ability will be needed if Miami are to pull the miracle upset.
Finding vertical shots — whether it’s Mike Gesicki splitting the Tampa-2, Preston Williams winning an outside release into the boundary without safety help, or getting a fly-by from Grant, Miami needs some fireworks.
The Projected Outcome:
The game plan came together defensively in the first half against the Patriots, but it’s a challenge for even the league’s best stop-units to carry a lifeless offense. Unless the Dolphins can finally sustain some drives and convert in the red zone, this game will get out of hand. It’s doubtful Miami can do that, so look for an aggressive offense that tries to hit the big play.
Dallas just has too much star power and excellent coordinators for Miami to pick them off — or even cover.
- Taco Charlton: New Acquisition Analysis September 19, 2019
- Josh Rosen Named Starting QB vs Cowboys; Claim DE Taco Charlton September 19, 2019
- Dolphins Cowboys Week Three Preview September 19, 2019
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