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Salary and contract status to affect some Dolphins in 2011

I was looking through the NFL Players Association database on salaries recently and noticed a couple of interesting little nuggets that I want to share with you.

First of all, I would point out that several notable players on the team will be entering their final contract year in 2011 so, obviously, there will be a hyper-focus from the team on how they perform and they will be under a self-imposed desire to produce at their highest level in order to ensure a big payday following or inside their contract year. (The Dolphins typically try to stay ahead of the curve so they try to sign players they deem worthy before they actually hit free agency.)

In 2011, whenever the season begins given the current labor uncertainty, the Dolphins will be looking at Channing Crowder and Phillip Merling in the final seasons of their contracts.

Crowder is a starter and Merling is currently not, but I would tell you the pressure is much greater on Crowder to perform if he wants to stay in Miami.

Crowder, simply, has been a good but not great player for Miami.

When he's healthy, he's typically reliable. But he's never rarely a game-changer. Interceptions, forced fumbles, recovered fumbles, bigtime tackle for losses are curiously absent from Crowder's resume. Last season, Crowder was 10th on the team in tackles. He missed four starts at the beginning of the season and another late in the year due to injury.

So Crowder is under the microscope in 2011 if he wants to show the team he deserves a new deal. The fact A.J. Edds is coming back from the injury that ended his 2010 rookie season before it even began is another factor that could push Crowder.

Merling?

Similar story only, well, different.

Merling is in the final year of his contract in 2011 and like Crowder has been unspectacular after being selected with the 32nd overall selection in 2008. But the guy is a beast. The guy is young. The guy plays a more valuable position (yes, 3-4 DEs are harder to find than ILBs). So Merling probably is not playing for the right to stick around. No one typically dismisses a 6-foot-4, 300-pounder who can eat up snaps, even if they are played while coming off the bench.

Merling, however, will be playing for bigger money if he can win a starting job and finally, finally play up to his potential. So the player coaches in the past have worried isnt' always engaged or motivated in practice or training camp, has good reason to be exactly that in 2011. We'll see.

Lousaka Polite, Benny Sapp, Tyrone Culver and Lionel Dotson are others in the final year of their contracts.

OT Vernon Carey is facing a big season as well. Yes, he's signed through 2014. But I believe he needs to improve on what was an average 2010 because his salary grows substantially this season and is scheduled to continue rising for 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Carey, as you can see in the chart below, is scheduled to make $4.15 million in 2011. That is a sharp increase from the $950,000 base salary he made last year. Yes, the Dolphins are still on the hook for the prorated portion of the $12 million bonus he got after 2008 when he signed his new deal.

But as the deal and the player age, and the salary takes a hike, the room for mediocre seasons shrinks. Carey needs a better-than-solid season in 2011 to make sure the team doesn't think long and hard about cutting him after next season to avoid having to pay $5.05 million in 2012, $5.65 million in 2013 and $4.95 million in 2014.

Think about it: The Dolphins could easily weigh finding a cheaper option with higher upside at a cap cost differential of $1 million ($6 million hit minus $5 million savings) in 2012 if Carey once again fails to impress. That assumes the entire remaining proration accelerated to 2012. That also doesn't even account for the $5 million cap savings in 2013 and $4.95 million savings in 2014 if the Dolphins cut Carey.

So Carey has work to do to avoid the possibility altogether.

Finally, the numbers below represent handsome base salary raises to LT Jake Long ($475,000), C Joe Berger ($700,000), P Brandon Fields ($260,000), DE Kendall Langford ($845,000), and Polite ($100,000). All met play-time or other incentive clauses that kicked in escalators in their deals, affecting their 2011 base salaries.

 

Player Name Position Team Compensation
Alama-Francis, Ikaika DE MD 640000.00
Allen, Will CB MD 1500000.00
Amaya, Jonathon S MD 405000.00
Baker, Chris DT MD 480000.00
Baker, Ryan DE MD 480000.00
Barbre, Allen OL MD 640000.00
Bell, Yeremiah S MD 3700000.00
Berger, Joe OL MD 1500000.00
Bess, Davone WR MD 1013333.00
Brandstater, Tom QB MD 405000.00
Carey, Vernon OL MD 4150000.00
Carpenter, Dan P/K MD 1005000.00
Carroll, Nolan CB MD 405000.00
Carter, Patrick WR MD 330000.00
Clemons, Chris S MD 480000.00
Crowder, Channing LB MD 2500000.00
Culver, Tyrone S MD 1250000.00
Dansby, Karlos LB MD 2700000.00
Davis, Vontae CB MD 676250.00
Denney, John DE MD 700000.00
Dobbins, Tim LB MD 1700000.00
Dotson, Lionel DE MD 555000.00
Edds, A.J. LB MD 330000.00
Epps, Dedrick TE MD 405000.00
Fasano, Anthony TE MD 1900000.00
Feinga, Leimoni OL MD 405000.00
Fields, Brandon P/K MD 986000.00
Foster, Brooks WR MD 330000.00
Hartline, Brian WR MD 480000.00
Henne, Chad QB MD 555000.00
Incognito, Richie OL MD 1050000.00
Jerry, John OL MD 405000.00
Jones, Reshad S MD 405000.00
Kopa, Matt OL MD 405000.00
Langford, Kendall DE MD 1400000.00
Long, Jake OL MD 11200000.00
Marshall, Brandon WR MD 6500000.00
Marten, James OL MD 555000.00
Mastrud, Jeron TE MD 405000.00
Merling, Phillip DE MD 700000.00
Misi, Koa LB MD 405000.00
Moore, Marlon WR MD 405000.00
Ness, Nate S MD 405000.00
Odrick, Jared DE MD 405000.00
Polite, Lousaka RB MD 1350000.00
Pruitt, Julius WR MD 330000.00
Restelli, Mark LB MD 330000.00
Rivera, Mike LB MD 330000.00
Rose, Robert DE MD 405000.00
Sapp, Benny CB MD 1900000.00
Shuler, Mickey TE MD 405000.00
Smith, Sean CB MD 480000.00
Spitler, Austin LB MD 405000.00
Starks, Randy DT MD 3625000.00
Wake, Derek Cameron LB MD 480000.00
Wallace, Roberto WR MD 405000.00

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