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An insider's view of the Soliai-Dolphins negotiations

The deadline came and went on Tuesday but the Dolphins and nose tackle Paul Soliai were not able to reach agreement on an contract extension that would have effectively replaced the franchise tag number on the big fella, helped the Dolphins clear cap space, locked the player up for at least three more years, and settled an issue both sides will now have to revisit in the future.

It didn't get done.

Solia, who is making $12.476 million this season with every bit of it counting against the cap, cannot sign an extension now. He can become a free agent at the end of the season unless the Dolphins use the franchise tag on him again. Putting that tag on Soliai in 2012 would cost Miami a whopping $14.971 million -- crazy money for one year.

So why didn't the sides come together?

Well, this morning on my radio show, Armando and the Amigo on 640-AM in South Florida, agent David Canter broke what he termed as a self-imposed media silence on the matter and peeled back intricate details of the negotiation from his viewpoint. (I'd love to get it also from the Dolphins viewpoint, but I dropped my Iphone in the pool so I've been without ability to send or receive calls or texts for a week now. I also doubt the team would be much interested in exchanging either phone calls or texts on this matter with me anyway.)

But I digress.

Canter said on my show that he and the team were, "basically in completely different mindsets" as it relates to the negotiations. That's bad.

I asked him how far apart he was with the team and after asking how far Earth is from one of the outer planets, he got much more specific:

Ultimately, Canter said, the Dolphins wanted to pay Soliai "$8 million and change" per season to extend him to 2014. Their offer included $6-$8 million in "new guaranteed money." Understand Miami's thinking here. The team obviously viewed the $12.4 million this year that is guaranteed as part of the overall guaranteed money on a four-year deal.

Canter didn't see it that way. He was initially asking for $24 million in new guaranteed money before lowering that to around $18 million in new guaranteed money for three more years beyond this one. That would be on top of the $12.4 million his client is making this year.

So while the Dolphins were offering Vince Wilfork money, Canter was asking for a deal that falls above the three-year, $27 million contract extension Cleveland nose tackle Ahtyba Rubin signed on Sept. 11. Rubin got $18 million in guaranteed money for three more years and is locked up through 2014.

The problem? The Dolphins were willing to give $18-$20 million as the total guarantee for four years. Canter wanted to treat this year at the club's current structure -- with $12.4 million guaranteed --  and then get $18 million in guarantees for the next three years, just like Rubin got.

Contrary to a published report, neither side was ever talking about the Haloti Ngata deal the Pro Bowl player signed with Balitmore this week. That deal is worth a reported $61 million for five years -- over $12 million per season. That deal pays Ngata $27 million guaranteed money this year and $13 million in guaranteed money next year. Ngata is now signed through 2015.

"The Dolphins were more interested in getting us to take $40 million over five years for Paul Soliai," Canter said. "And that's a big divide, unfortunately."

Canter said the club made him the "Vince Wilfork contract" offer several weeks ago. He said he responded with a counter-offer but didn't hear back for a long time. As the deadline approached, he said he called general manager Jeff Ireland and capologist Dawn Aponte and the sides haggled back and forth.

"I made massive concessions," Canter said, "down at least $5-$7 million in guaranteed money and overall structure and they never once upped their original offer one dollar."

But ultimately the Dolphins and agent weren't able to get past the enormous gulf in guaranteed money they were discussing.

Don't ask me who is right here. Both sides obviously think they are. Both sides can make compelling cases why they are being fair and right.

The bottom line is Soliai may well be playing for another team next year or playing for nearly $15 million for Miami if the club franchises him again. If the Dolphins franchise Soliai, they clearly admit being wrong because for a mere $3 million more in guarantees they could have had him for two more years beyond 2012.

If Miami doesn't use the franchise tag again, Soliai will possibly walk.

Might Soliai get less on the open market than he's asking. "That's possible," Canter said. "We're willing to take that gamble and live with whatever happens." But Canter knows someone will sign Soliai. 

For now, meanwhile, nothing got done. And that should disappoint both sides.

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