So here are the Dolphins sitting on more than $19 million in cap space (according to the NFLPA web site), with needs to fill, but apparently no great urgency to burn through much of their remaining financial resources.
Part of the reason is simple: The list of remaining free agents at guard and tackle isn't impressive, and the Dolphins aren’t going to spend money if they don’t have a conviction about the players available or aren’t comfortable with their contractual expectations. Miami can try to fill some of those needs in the draft, including right tackle, presumably.
But there’s another incentive for the Dolphins to sit on some of their cap space: They will get needed financial relief by carrying a chunk of their cap room over to the 2015 offseason, when the Dolphins will have far less space than the past two offseasons.
Consider that for 2015, the Dolphins already have $129.78 million in cap commitments, according to overthecap.com, a figure that doesn't include an option for Mike Pouncey or allotments for Jared Odrick and Charles Clay, who will both be free agents after next season. This year’s salary cap is $133 million, a $10 million increase from a year ago.
If next year’s cap settles in at $140 million or so, that wouldn't leave Miami with much room unless the Dolphins can shave off a substantial amount by cutting players or restructuring contracts --- both of which likely will be very much in play next offseason.
Look at some of the Dolphins’ cap numbers for 2015:
Mike Wallace: $12 million
Branden Albert: $10.7 million
Brent Grimes: $10 million
Dannell Ellerbe: $9.8 million
Cameron Wake: $9.7 million
Reshad Jones: $7.8 million
Brian Hartline: $7.3 million
Cortland Finnegan: $6.4 million
Randy Starks: $6 million
Dion Jordan: $5.6 million
Earl Mitchell: $4.5 million
Koa Misi: $4.4 million
Philip Wheeler $4.4 million
Brandon Gibson: $4.2 million
Ryan Tannehill: $4 million
Brandon Fields: $3.9 million
Shelley Smith: $3 million
Nate Garner: $1.8 million
Some of those players would carry high cap hits if they’re cut. For example, if the Dolphins part ways with Wheeler after next season, the 2015 cap hit would be $4.2 million --- barely below the $4.4 million hit if he’s on the team.
But in the case of a few players signed this off-season, it wouldn’t be difficult to part ways. For example, if Finnegan bombs, Miami would sustain only a $1 million cap hit by cutting him. (Not great, but it could be much worse.) Same for Starks, if --- for some unexpected reason --- his play falls off. Shelley Smith’s hit would be just $250,000 if he’s cut after this coming season.
Notable from Miami’s 101-96 loss Wednesday night in Boston:
### On a night LeBron James sat out to rest a sore back, the Heat hardly could afford Dwyane Wade shooting 2 for 9 in the second half on a 17-point night, or Chris Bosh shooting just 3 for 11 on a six-point night.
Nor could Miami afford Boston shooting 13 of 28 on threes, including 6 for 9 from Avery Bradley and 3 for 7 from Jeff Green. The Heat, conversely, shot 4 of 17 on threes. Even without LeBron, this was a disappointing loss, considering the competition, with the rebuilding Celtics entering on a five-game losing streak.
### And so Miami lost for the 11th time against a team with a losing record, lost for the sixth time in its past nine games, and for the 11th time in its past 12 regular-season games in Boston. The Celtics closed the game on a 9-4 run, including a three by Green that put Boston ahead for good (97-94) and two crafty baskets from Rajon Rondo, who had 15 assists.
“They started to get some open jump shots… in the second half, and our execution down the stretch was not where it had been,” Erik Spoelstra said.
### This one started so promisingly, with the Heat scoring 34 in the first quarter and 59 in the first half. But Miami mustered just 37 points in the second half. And it’s troubling to allow 101 points and 50.6 percent shooting to a team that’s usually offensive-challenged.
The Heat entered 17th in the league in field goal percentage against, uncharacteristic and somewhat worrisome for a franchise that typically finishes in the top 10 in that category.
### Udonis Haslem, who had started the Heat’s first six games and none since, started in place of Greg Oden, who sat out the second game of a back-to-back. By midway through the first quarter, Haslem already had established a season high in points with eight. He scored 10 of the Heat’s first 20 and closed with 14 points and 5 rebounds in 27 minutes.... Haslem surpassed Glen Rice for second place on the Heat's all-time games-started listed.
“He’s been terrific, incredible bottled up energy and toughness,” Spoelstra said. “That’s what this group needs.”
### Mario Chalmers had eight first-quarter assists (one off a franchise record) and 11 for the game. Thousands of miles away, he was being inducted in the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame. The Heat outscored Boston by 12 with Chalmers in the game.
### Conversely, Miami was outscored by 21 with Wade in the game. He shot 5 for 8 in a 13-point first half, but his jumper was off in the second half and he played with a bloody nose throughout after being hit inadvertently early in the game.
“I didn’t feel right the whole time I was out there,” he said. “I felt like a boxer. I was just off. My nose was bleeding the whole game.”
### Bosh had seven first-quarter rebounds and closed with 11 boards but could never get untracked offensively, shooting 0 for 4 on threes.
### Chris Anderson scored 10 in the fourth quarter, and 16 for game, with eight rebounds in 20 energy-packed minutes, before being replaced by Haslem with two-plus minutes remaining.
### Michael Beasley started in place of James and had 12 points (5 for 11 shooting) and four rebounds and four assists --- but also four turnovers --- in 28 minutes.
### Spoelstra said James' back "was a little sore in the walk-through today, and it just didn’t get better by game time. It was a pretty easy decision. We’ll see how we feels when we get back to Miami.”