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Ireland, Dolphins deserve praise for cap situation

Some of you guys are going to hate this post.

As the new league year and free agency nears -- it begins on March 12 at 4 p.m. -- teams must be prepared to be under the salary cap that is estimated to be around $121-$123 million, depending on what source you believe. The NFL will divulge the actual cap ceiling number in the coming days.

[Chris Mortensen of ESPN reports the number will be $123.9 million.]

[Update: The actual figure is $123 million. Mort's math isn't great, apparently, but what's $900k among friends?]

And with that number and March 12 looming, multiple teams have been scrambling either cutting players or restructuring contracts to get under the cap.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys, Oakland Raiders, Philadelphia Eagles, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Buffalo Bills, Detroit Lions, and New Orleans Saints all either cut players or restructured contracts to help create cap room for themselves in the coming weeks.

Other teams, such as the New York Giants, might be ble to do little by way of re-signing their own players because they expect to be knocking their helmets on the cap's ceiling.

Meanwhile, all is well with the Miami Dolphins. All is quiet. Nothing to see here.


Well, because Jeff Ireland has done an excellent job saving his (or owner Stephen Ross's) pennies the past couple of years and the savings have added up to a boon in cap space this year.

Obviously, the idea that Miami will have major cap space this offseason is not new. I've been telling you about it for months.

But the idea that it truly is not happenstance -- that is took work, foresight and planning by Ireland and executive VP for football administration Dawn Aponte and their staff -- seems to have gone unappreciated. That isn't fair.

Look, when the Dolphins spent wildly after the 2008 and 2009 seasons and at one point had the most expensive offensive line in football and got minimal return on that investment, I pointed it out. Often.

Well, fairness dictates that Miami amassing approximately $48 million in cap space for this offseason -- the third highest total behind Cincinnati and Cleveland -- get equal attention.

It creates a grand opportunity to remake a mediocre team into a winner. And that opportunity didn't just mosey into the picture. It was every bit as planned as a group Harlem Shake.

(Peanut gallery: But Mando, the reason the Dolphins have so much cap space is because they're just a mediocre team that didn't make the playoffs for the fourth year in a row. If you're not in the playoffs, you should have cap space the next offseason.)


Let us refer back to the list of teams above that had to do invasive surgery on their contract structure to get out from under their salary cap ailments. The Bills didn't make the playoffs. Neither did the Jets. Neither did Dallas, Oakland, Philadelphia, Detroit or New Orleans.

Indeed, several had records comparable to Miami. So their rosters last year led them to basically the same results as what the Dolphins got on the field, but then took them to a much rockier path this offseason.

That's not getting optimal bang for the buck. Or quid. Or peso. Or yen. Or euro, which I predict will collapse within five years.

(Peanut gallery: But Mando, having no cap space is not a big deal. All those teams did restructures and they are fine now.)

Wrong again, gallery of nuts.

Restructuring a contract typically treats the symptom but doesn't cure the disease. It alleviates the pain short-term but because the cap burden is piled upon future years that are already burdened, it often creates a dire situation in the future. Some teams that continually delay the inevitable reach a point of saturation that leads to a cap dump.

The Dolphins of the mid 1990s had to do this when Don Shula added lots of players in 1994 and 1995 for what was billed as a final run at a Super Bowl. The franchise found itself in cap heck in 1996 and '97.

The San Francisco 49'ers did the same thing later in the decade and when the bill came due it led the franchise down the losing road from which it only recently detoured.

The point is there is no way to cheat the salary cap. It must be managed wisely to keep a team in position to enjoy its benefits.

Jeff Ireland and his team have done that for 2013. I recognize many of you don't like the idea of giving Ireland credit for much of anything. Those folks understand why I started saying you might not like reading this post.  


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What, are you crazy? Are you implying that the Harlem Shake was somehow orchestrated?

Also what few people won't give Ireland credit for either is that the 'Phins are not only one of the best positioned teams in terms of being under the cap, but in having draft picks as well.

Ireland and company definately deserve kudos for the salary cap situation. In my opinion he deserves to stay because of that alone.

But Mando,

the reason why they have all this space in money is becuase they've signed and only lived with mediocre talent which is why the last four seasons have been 7-9,6-10,6-10,7-9. I mean four losing seasons, you've figured they would've had some kind of money saved up from all the bad products Ireland was somewhat responsible for selling to the 1/4 qtr of fans who actually attend the games at dead life stadium.

Hoorah miami!

Keeping the cap in good shape for 2014 and beyond means NOT going on any wild spending sprees.

That vfactor shouldn have been mentioned.

your reference of the Jets and Saints not making the playoffs 'this year' shows that be at the top of the cap doesn't work is not a true reflection!! The Jets have been in playoffs+championship games the last few years and the saints have been in the playoffs AND won the superbowl. dallas and philly historically make the playoffs regularly. So that leave just 2-3 teams that have not enjoyed much success in recent years.

I think ireland has done a good job since beingin the driving seat of adding the core of the team, reducing the cap for a year like this. However, my only concern is the year we have a good chunk of spare cash and plenty of draft picks there may not be the talent to match what we need/want.

sorry about some of the wordings - predictive text for you


Are you joking with Jets not being a true reflection? They overpaid and restructured for their whole team! This was a train wreck that anyone with eyes could see coming. It was like some sort of reverse Ponzi scheme where Tannenbaum kept spending more and more for less and less talent. The bottom fell out with the big deal he gave Mark Sanchez.

Yeah great...Atlanta and SF were in same boat as us five years ago. Check their rosters, cap space, and results on the field then tell me what a great situation we are in.

Right Mando....The Browns, Bengals and Dolphins are three of the smartest franchises in all of football. Only problem is they dont give awards or trophies for cap space. It's about assembling a winning franchise....something that has not been done in a long long time

Jeff Ireland is an asset stripper!

The dolphins don't his much cap savings because he's saving pennies, it's because a lot of KEY players were allowed to have their contracts end at the same time. The best offensive play maker, the best Olineman on the team, the most consistent dlineman, the best wr, the best TE and the best CB on the team are all schedule to be free agents. I would call that mismanagement for a myriad of reasons.

He also have a ton of cap space because of another failed deal by Ireland where they paid $10's of millions of money, 2 second round picks and got back 2 third round picks....so the majority of Marshall's cap hit have come off the books after another failed acquisition by the team.

No, the reason the Dolphins have so much cap space is previous bad decisions, the inability to find top rate talent and constantly having to settle for lesser players because they can NOT find enough good players they are willing to spend their own money on to re-sign. Plus, having all those contracts coming up on the same year. Equals tons of open money.

You are right Mando we don't like Ireland because we want a winning team and he has yet to build one and most likely won't because he is more worried about money than winning on the field. 4 straight years of 7-9 or 6-10 makes Ireland below average GM and you are giving him credit, THE FANS DON'T CARE ABOUT MONEY THEY WANT TO SEE A WINNING TEAM ON THE FIELD, WHEN HE SAID LAST YEAR WE HAVE NOTHING BUT 3'S AND 4' FOR OUR WR HE SHOULD HAVE BEEN FIRED BECAUSE HE IS IN CHARGE OF THE ROSTER.I love the Dolphins but they need a new GM, I see this coming year like last year 7-9 at best our schedule is tougher and Irleand 's history of adding playmakers is not all that wonderful, letting Bush go will be a big mistake, just like Marshall.

Armando we had allot of money under the cap last year and Ireland did not spend hardly anything in free agency. Where coming up to the 1 year anniversity of the Brandon Marshall trade. When every Dolphin fan felt that we would get a big time free agent wide reciever to add another weapon with Brandon Marshall and instead he trades Marshall away and dosen't get anybody.

Getting us in position Ok good job!!! What he does with it is a totally different subject. In my opinion he has 20% of the work done. Lets see what he does with the other 80%. The 80% is the real work of identifying and executing the talent to win

Yeah Armando tell the gallery of nuts the way it is. Ireland deserves praise so there take that trolls. Armando's post is very funny today and agree that this is a grand opportunity.

Marshall proved not to be a difference maker in Chicago so he was no great loss.

uh, the euro collapses within 2 years.....maybe 18 months

I don't get it. I'll give credit where credit's due but the cap space talked about is a product of 19 Dolphin player contracts expiring on March 12, 2013. Many starters and backups who share rotational duties comprise the dollar bulk of these contracts.

Since the Dolphins don't have adequate positional replacements among the 40-odd players remaining on the roster, this means that the Dolphins must sign most of the 19 players back in order to field a competitive team; or sign 19 new players; or sign a combination of the two.

Isn't this kind of like you or I, not paying bills for a month or two, just so we can gaze at our bank account and call ourselves good money managers? Of course, as soon as we pay those bills, we are broke again.

Here we are, praising yet another Dolphin, for not screwing up- like the Jets GM.

If Ireland did a good job, we'd have replacements already on the roster for most of those players leaving. There would be excess cap money which could then be used to secure a valuable piece or two in FA. Instead, we have to spend the money in order to fill a bunch of holes left as our own FAs vacate- and then HOPE we have an improved team.

assuming they have to overpay to get Wallace (12 mill+?) to come here over the Pats or other better teams that might be interested, keep Long for a more reasonable but still expensive contract (8-9mill?), tag Starks (8?), Hartline (5?)......thats 33-35 mill and Clemens & Fasano and the rookie class still unsigned......Smith gone (so need prob 2 CBs)--Long is obviously the wild card but that cap space gets spent pretty quickly.

Ireland has the opportunity to go from the most hated man in Miami to most tolerable with great results this offseason...Only a Super Bowl trip would raise him above that..

ericatl- u said it best.. lets see what he does with the cap space and draft picks. Evaluating talent is not his best asset as a GM

beyond the obvious answers/responses that they're much better run franchises (no argument), very hard to figure out how teams like the Ravens, NYG, Pats, Steelers, Pack (and Niners, recently) have so many good players on their roster and consistently win/compete--a most of these teams have excellent (ie. expensive) QBs too, so big expense there......amazing.

Its not going to be about Ireland in the end. Its going to be about Joe Philbin. Ireland is just getting Joe's groceries.

thank u very little, dont forget to tip your waitress.

I'll say it again fellas, Ireland&Philbin loves this capspace !! Many of you guys are going to be very disappointed in the way Ireland will spend this money in 2 weeks !! If you guys really believe big name f.agents, you're going to be terribly disappointed !!! Don't get me wrong, Ireland will sign some good players no acorns or stars either !!

absolutely ridiculous post mando

he tried to sign manning last year, the fact that noone wanted to play here for fireland is why the cap is so low

Count me as someone who likes the way that Jeff Ireland has run this team, post-Parcells. I think it was obvious that Sparano was protected under Parcells. And once the Tuna was gone, Ireland has systematically weeded out Parcells' hand-picked guys (Pasqualoni, Henning, and, lastly, Sparano).

Now, he's got to lost the stigma that he doesn't know how to find talent in the draft. It's a big year for him.

All hail Jeff Ireland! Long live the King!

Mike gentile, we did not have a lot of money under the cap last year. We had in the 6-8 mil range while teams like buffalo, Tampa and others had 60-70mil to spend. You can't seriously compete for premium players wih what we had to work with last year. It is a good thing we have allowed this group of players to reach free agency. With the possible exception of Starks and maybe hartline, this is an average group of players. Why wouldn't you see if you can find upgrades or similar talent for less money via the draft and FA? The only way to make the team better is find better players. If you don't believe you can get the upgrade or talent for less money, you resign the player. Whether Ireland makes the right decisions is questionable but to be in the position we are in is a very good thing.

The guys that walk in FA(so called holes on the team)are doing so because we want them to due to them wanting too much money or not being a good fit with the team.

I will be surprised if Wallace comes to Miami. Everyone assumes that he is automatically going to be a dolphin. Just like they assumed Manning would be a dolphin. Just dont get your hopes up too high. This is Irelands last chance to prove that he deserves to keep his job. Hold off judgment until after free agency and the draft.

Mando, remind me again when the Dolphins start winning games, going to the playoffs every year, and competing for championships. If we are talking about organizations that made money last year I think Apple and google did better. This is FOOTBALL! I want to see a product that wins on the field. WHAT GOOD IS CAP SPACE IF YOU CAN'T RECOGNIZE TALENT! Ireland should have been ran out of town with Parcells. Mando, you are defenitely in Irelands corner. Write about all of the players the Dolphins didn't draft for Mediocre players that we've gotten with Ireland. Cameron chose not to pick Brady Quin and was never forgiven. Yet Ireland gets pass after pass, excuse after excuse...Yeah whatever man.

Armando, please...I usually agree with you 99% of the time but this time, I don't...So what, Ireland is suddently a genius because we have some money to spend??? He's the one who put us in this position in the first place...How about those 2 high draft picks he used on DBs and soon we'll have nothing to show for it...How about trading the only decent WR we had and not having a plan B??? How about 4 years to build an o-line?? How many impact free agents?? 1?? 2 tops...The only way Ireland should get credit for anything is IF THIS OFFSEASON IS A SUCCESSFUL ONE...That would be his first one by the way...So far his batting average is below .200...Not good...

My odds at Wallace coming here are 20% chance of it happening. I'm not optimistic it works out in any case. Too many variables beyond our control in FA.

That means all the people that are acting like this is done deal are in for a big surprise.

Ireland has done a good job putting the team in a position that will challenge for the playoffs for the foreseeable future.

But this year is a one off for him given the combination of cap space and draft picks he's got. So he needs to deliver this year because he's unlikely to be in this position again for the foreseeable future.

So best of luck Jeff, or you'll be fired.

I think Ireland has much to prove, but FA isn't the end all be all. The draft is more important. I see the Dolphins landing two great FAs and being aggressive in the draft. By now getting weapons for Ryan Tannehill is the priority. Ireland saved this franchise from having to pay Vontae, and regret paying Marshall. This is a potential playoff team if they score big in both FA and the draft.

I agree with "Yousaywhat" above. A lot of the cap space is created by not signing our own players. If we had good players that we really want to retain, we would not have that much cap space. I'm glad that we have cap space to work with for next season but I think you are giving Ireland way too much credit. BTW, you make a very good point despite my disagreement. I love your column. I read it religiously. Keep up the good work.


I think I read in your comments today that you think Barkley throws the ball better than Tannehill. Honestly? I really think you need to go back and look at tape of Barkley. His arm is NOTHING like Tannehills. That's the knock on this guy.

You talked about the hype surrounding Barkley. Respectfully, I think you've already bought into it.

Posted by: Craig M | February 28, 2013 at 07:32 PM

Craig M.....

I never mentioned Barkely's arm strength...

I said (IMO)....I believe that Geno is a better pure passer than Tanne right now.....

Barkely's (IMO) I will be over-hyped and over drafted.....

Ireland has only done half the job, he now needs to add talent. As Pete Carroll likes to say "you can't win anything at halftime". So I shall wait before forming an opinion on Ireland.

To that end, I wonder if the Dolphins would consider Denario Alexander if the Chargers don't keep him (which they probably will). He's only 24, was great in teh last 4 games last season and would cost far less than Wallace...

You're right Armando....


Jeff Ireland's best attribute is really a gift and a curse. It's a gift because he holds firm in his belief that he doesn't want to overpay (generally) for talent. Therefore, he doesn't spend on long shots (i.e. Matt Flynn). That's the gift. He makes players offers they can take or leave, but won't act like a weight around the team's neck.

The curse is that can also turn around and bite you in the arse if you don't acquire talent that WILL be beneficial to the team (see Ryan Clark, Tony Gonzales, etc.). Now, he's tried (Dansby/Marshall) and that success rate is a mixed bag.

Looks like this year he will try again (Wallace). And honestly, the chances of that working out are more dependent on what the coaches do with the talent than what Ireland does bringing the talent to the team.

So, ultimately, yes, I give Ireland lots of credit for creating this much CAP space. BUT, if he doesn't use that to bring in quality talent (enough to have a winning record at least), he'll shoulder lots of the blame too.

Good article Mando BUT with all this space and draft picks, do we become the next dare I say it, Patriots or do we become the Jets?? This is a huge opportunity to turn this mess around and it's all on Ireland. I pray he is up to it.


"Or euro, which I predict will collapse within five years".

With respect, please stick to football rather than currency forecasting.

It is because the Dolphins do not have 9 of their starters under contract. The better question might be how do you let that happen??

Marshall wasn't a difference marker in Chicago.....lol......

If you're not a Marshall fan...that's cool....but to say he wasn't a difference maker....well that's ludicrous.....and only shows your bias....

Kris... Marshall is a good player, but he doesn't exactly fit in with teams. Look at all the success he has had in the playoffs and how he supports the coaching staff. Look at all the help and leadership he gives the rest of the receivers...

Oh wait...


He gets ZERO credit in my book....who gives a "f" about cap space when you're in the midst of 4 straight losing seasons....

We had better have a crap load of money...cause our players suck.....and aren't worth keeping.....

Anybody can CUT players to save money or get out of a bad deal....

GOOD GMs....draft and sign players that they have to FIGURE out wys to manipulated the CAP to keep.....

When Ireland has THAT PROBLEM.....then he can get some credit.....

I agree with the earlier post, we're in good shape because we don't have alot of good players worth paying well and our "stars" contracts are up. This isn't genius Ireland manuvering at all, it's indicative of our poor drafting for almost a decade.

Cincy had more cap space than us and a two year playoff run. San Fran has 14 picks an made it to the Super Bowl this year. That's the bar Ireland should be compared against.


The Bears didn't miss the playoff because of Marshall's lack of skill...or trying....

Dude left it all on the field....and his stats will back that up.....,

I get that he is an a hole.....and he is easy to dislike....but his effort is always there....


Let me give you an example. I think you and I would both say Brandon Marshall was a good FA signing by Ireland (he brought talent to a position of need). Correct?

Why didn't it work out? Well, some had to do with Marshall's character, but we'd probably both agree a large part had to do with the crap that he was surrounded by and the way the outdated philosophy of the coaching staff.

That's not ALL on Ireland. Part of that blame has to be given to the coaches. Oh, and by the way, Brian Daboll took his philosophy to another team which was the worst team in the league last year. And Dan Henning is in retirement, as is Bill Parcells. Sparano is back to being a position coach.

Ireland can't be blamed for the failure of all those important pieces to creating a good team (never mind a great team).

You may not want to give him any credit, but if you were honest with yourself (as I know you like to be a clear-eyed fan) you would see he doesn't deserve all of the blame.

But we're of the same mind about Ireland, whatever we disagree about in the past, if he can't make it happen this year, then he goes.

Personally I like Marshall, he is a great player. I just don't think he really helps a team. For whatever reason, he seems to become the entire offense. Just the point is with the Bears the year before Marshall if not for big injuries they would have made the playoffs. This year without major QB/RB/etc injuries they didn't make the playoffs with him. You can't say he had a positive impact.

Kris I'd be interested to see Marshall's drops count and how many penalties he took this year. He didn't look like he wanted to be in Miami at times and it showed on the field during games. Probably Sparano's fault for not finding a way to motivate him properly.


Yes Ireland did a good job with the cap situation. I have many times alluded to Ireland doing a good job showing patients with the CAP in previous posts. However most fans want to see what he does this offseason regarding positions of dire need. A GM's job is more than just administrative. Jeff has to identify skill position talent and get those players in a Miami Dolphins uniform. Until he does that he will continue to be the guy people most want to see fired.

DC Dolfan I keep having the irrational fear the Ireland has convinced Ross he has a long term rebuilding plan that will only be realized after 5-6 seasons and that Ross needs to be patient.


If he does, Ross can look forward to buying tickets to sellout the stadium for the next 5-6 Seasons. One thing I know about billionaires, they don't like throwing away their money. Really can't see that being practical. Now, if it's steady improvement, then maybe. But we can't be sub .500 next year. I don't see how that happens and SOMEONE doesn't lose their job.

Darkoak and CommonSense.....

Good points....and yes...Marshall will drop a few balls on you....most of the great one due nowadays......lack of concentration I think......they don't seem to strive for perfection like Jerry Rice did.....

Hahahahahahaaaaa when is it going to be understood that Ireland is incompetent GM, has produced ZERO...yeah Miami has cap space numbers and tons of draft picks this year but as long as Ireland is GM it doesn't matter as he will screw up these opportunities as one only need look at the past four seasons of mediocrity of us being the laughing stock....Owner Ross & Ireland need a one way ticket out of Miami...


I have the see the same nightmare scenario.....

Look those who says ireland suck and should be fired you sound like an a-hole because if u were the gm you probably will be known to overpay rather than actually keep your team in a good situation we have talent but are missing so little to be a playoff team. Also some of you get mad when we dont sign big name free agents which is nowhere near irelands fault it depends on where that player and what he wants to be paid some people ask for ridiculous contracts leading to ireland looking toward a veteran role player instead why overpay an average player because they feel elite? With the talent we do have and free agency coming up we dont spend to heavy this free agency but we must make key pick ups for our future also we have 5 picks in the first 3 rounds thats 5 of the top ten players at everyposition in this years draft class considering that this draft class is deep. And not only that next years free agency we can still be in a good position to make moves in addition to our first 3 dradt picks. Ireland isnt stupid enough to overpay certain player because there truly. Is no player worth overpaying because one or two people dont make a team.

Marshall??? Marshall???? Marshall????

Kris I could eb wrong but didn't you dump on Dan Marino for not winning a super bowl? If I'm wrong, I apologize.

But if you did, I find it odd that you dump on Dan despite actually doing SOMETHING in the postseason yet praise cancer who got three coaches fired, hasn't appeared in a playoff game, runs his mouth, punches his teammates and women in a club, got one teammate killed, and has banked over $50M in the process...


Some of pointed it out already, the problem with Marshall is that if he doesnt feel like hes getting enouch pass thrown to him he'll start b i t c h i n g and moaning. The NFL is a team game and Marshall somewhat selfish.

I really want Wallace, the biigest issue I worry about is that will he be content after his big contract or does he want to be considered the very best at what he does. Its the drive that he has after getting the big contract. Im hoping when Ireland chats with him he can sense whether or not Wallace wants to be a top WR in the NFL, if he does pay the man. We "playmakers" and you cant argue 32 TD in 4 years. Just Cant!

I did Mark.....

But Marshall's career isn't over yet...so he still has a chance.....


No diva WR has ever won a SB.....not that I can think of....so he get the benifit of the doubt.....

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