Every NFL team has a salary cap specialist. These people are highly educated, highly specialized sorts that normally have many degrees and many hours of training in all things NFL salary cap.
So how the heck could the Dolphins so royally screw up the termination of Joey Porter on Friday?
I mean, seriously, talk about adding stink to a pile of trash.
The club announced Friday afternoon it had terminated Porter's contract, ending three interesting years with the enigmatic linebacker.
Routine. After all, a handful of teams cut a handful of players last week with zero problems or issues.
But two hours after announcing Porter's termination, the Dolphins had to basically eat their press announcement because the NFL determined the termination to be invalid. Seems the Porter termination would have violated the 2009 salary cap as it would have cost more than Miami has the ability to handle in cap space.
And this one arose out of one of several possibilities:
A. Somebody in Dolphins management messed up when figuring Porter's cap acceleration as it pertains to 2009. This is hard to do because it really is a simple math issue. The responsible party here would have to be the team's capologist.
B. Somebody in Dolphins management didn't know or fully understand the league salary cap rules as they currently stand. The responsible party here would have to be the team's capologist.
C. Somebody wasn't fully up to speed on the Dolphins salary cap situation. Again, the responsible party here would have to be the team's capologist who is supposed to be able to recite the team's cap situation from memory if need be
D. Somebody in Dolphins management took it upon themselves to release Porter without consulting the team's capologist. The responsible party here would be whomever didn't work with the capologist.
Although it is possible, it is hard to fathom D. Somebody doesn't just get a hankerin' to cut Joey Porter one Friday afternoon and simply do it without consulting anyone. The Dolphins pore over decisions such as these (I hope) and plan the steps to carrying them out. One of those steps is typically to check with the capologist to see what salary cap ramifications the move has.
I'm more inclined to think A, B or C betrayed the Dolphins on this matter. And that points directly to new senior vice president of football operations Dawn Aponte.
Aponte is Miami's new capologist. She started only three weeks ago after Matt Thomas, Miami's capologist the past dozen seasons, left to go to Cleveland. Thomas was hired in Cleveland by former Dolphins president Bryan Wiedmeier, who left to go to Cleveland in January.
Aponte, incidently, came from the Browns.
Call it a capologist trade of sorts.
[Quick aside: When Thomas was hired 12 years ago, I quizzed Wiedmeier about the hiring because I had gotten wind of it through league circles. He couldn't understand why I would be curious because, as he put it, "Your readers care about players and coaches, not administrators." I mostly agreed with him and still do today, which is the reason I only reported Aponte's hiring on my twitter page which you should follow. But when the work of administrators drifts into the lane of competitive advantage, I become interested.]
So now I'm interested.
Friday's error -- and don't be fooled, it was an embarrassing one noted around the NFL -- will be glossed over by the fact Porter will eventually be released or traded as I've been reporting for weeks.
But it nonetheless calls into question not only how much Miami will miss Thomas, but also to what degree Aponte is reliable. I don't want to sound harsh here, but if she can't get the routine termination of a veteran right, how can we be confident she can maneuver the coming maze of capped-uncapped-possible lockout issues facing the Dolphins, and every team, the next two years?
The NFL's horizon is littered with uncertainty about labor issues. We don't know what the new rules will look like in 2011, but every team wants people in place that will gain an expertise on the new issues virtually on the fly.
How can the Dolphins have confidence they will successfully navigate and, indeed, master those new issues in the future when they couldn't successfully cut a player under the old system on Friday?