WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN
As we mentioned last night, the Dolphins have been discussing making a serious attempt to sign All-Pro free agent defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. And we received additional word today that at least one key front office member is in favor of it, according to two people in contact with the team.
Suh would cost a bundle (ESPN floated a six-year, $100 million contract), and if the Dolphins go ahead with an offer as expected, they will face stiff competition. But it’s something they are ready to explore.
As most of you know, ESPN’s Mark Dominik, who was Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey’s boss in Tampa and remains close with him, already has said the Dolphins have a “real shot” to get him.
If you include Charles Clay's current $7.1 million cap hit (which comes with the transitional tag but can be reduced as part of a longterm deal), the Dolphins are about $15 million below their $153 million cap, based on numbers from overthecap.com. The Dolphins' cap number is about $9 million above the league cap because of carryover cap space and other adjustments.
If the Dolphins cut Mike Wallace (whose fate remains unresolved), Dannell Ellerbe, Phillip Wheeler, Randy Starks and Brandon Fields, that could save an additional $23.6 million (using post-June 1 designations for Wallace and Wheeler, though that additional savings won't go on their cap until after June 1). That would add to up $38.6 million in space -- at least $5 million of which is needed to sign draft picks.
Even more could be created with a longterm deal that brings down Clay's hit and Mike Pouncey's $7.43 million hit. The Dolphins like Koa Misi, but cutting him would save another $2.7 million. Restructuring Cam Wake or Branden Albert is another option, but there's no indication if the Dolphins are considering this.
Bottom line: Despite Suh’s price tag, it would be possible --- by cutting additional players and creatively structuring contracts --- for Miami to add Suh and be able to upgrade at several other need areas through resourceful spending and the draft.
One way to do it is making sure Suh’s cap hit is fairly modest this year but rises substantially in 2016, when the Dolphins will have ample cap space. The Dolphins have only $102 million in cap commitments for 2016, when the cap is expected to rise to at least $150 million.
That doesn’t include a big payout to Ryan Tannehill --- about $16 million if he doesn’t sign a longterm deal before then. But that $102 million includes a lot of cap commitments that will be substantially lessened by then --- including $14.2 million combined for Ellerbe and Wheeler (neither of whom is expected to be with the team) and $13.7 million for Wallace.
Cam Wake ($9.8 million) and Brent Grimes ($9.5 million) also could be at risk, in another year, with those 2016 numbers.
The Dolphins have left impending free agent Jared Odrick and Randy Starks (who’s under contract) in limbo while mulling Suh and other defensive tackles that intrigue them, including Terrance Knighton, Corey Peters and Tom Johnson. Though they told Odrick they want to keep him and plan to make an offer, there hadn’t been one presented as of early this week.
Though Suh is reportedly in South Florida this week, the agents for free agents can’t legally speak to outside suitors until Saturday. And Suh can't visit a new team until Tuesday, the first day he can also sign with a new team.
So if you can create at least $40-$42 million in space (quite do-able), the Dolphins could sign Suh (if he's willing to structure it in a way with a relatively low 2015 base salary) and a reasonably priced veteran cornerback and a linebacker and a receiver, re-sign Louis Delmas to a reasonable deal off his knee injury, re-sign Derrick Shelby and then use the draft to address receiver, competition at guard (with the thought that Shelley Smith, Billy Turner and Dallas Thomas could compete for two starting jobs) and a slot cornerback (if Jimmy Wilson, who the Dolphins want to keep, is priced out of their market) and a backup defensive tackle.
Would this permutation and a bunch of others be challenging and awfully ambitious? Yes.
Possible? Certainly, but Miami might not get the quality it wants at middle linebacker and cornerback and receiver if it spends big on Suh.
It's all fascinating to consider and at least this Dolphins brass is thinking big.
Dominik, by the way, calls Suh “a generational type of free agent, one of the most significant ever to hit the market.”
### Stephen Ross certainly has the money for Suh. Forbes said Tuesday that Ross, with a net-worth of $6.5 billion, is the NFL’s second-richest owner behind Seahawks/Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen ($17.5 billion). The Heat’s Micky Arison ($7.1 billion) trails only Allen among NBA owners.
### Among the Dolphins’ three restricted free agents, they want to keep Shelby (with a moderate to high draft tender), conveyed interest in re-signing linebacker Jonathan Freeny but aren’t tendering cornerback R.J. Stanford.
Among their exclusive rights free agents, they want to keep Jordan Kovacs, and Michael Thomas said late last season that the Dolphins told him they are interested in keeping him.
### How unusual was it for Goran Dragic to score 21 points playing just 15 minutes against Phoenix on Monday? Elias Sports Bureau tells me no Heat player had ever scored at least 20 points playing 15 minutes or fewer. It has been done only two other times in the past 15 years in the NBA (Kyle Lowry, Charlie Villenueva).
### Dragic awoke Tuesday with this nifty distinction: He’s the NBA’s only guard shooting at least 50 percent from the field (50.1). One reason is he’s the best finisher in the league, percentage-wise, among guards, inside of five feet (68.2 percent), nearly identical to LeBron James. Of his 372 baskets, 57 percent are layups.
“Back in Europe when I was a kid, I was basically too fast for everybody [so] I was always penetrating,” he said Tuesday. “I’m not afraid to get a body on the big guy, get contact. That’s my game. I never developed a jump shot in Europe. You start to develop your jump shot [as he has in the NBA] and everything is much easier.”
### ESPN reported the Heat has a "level of" interest in signing free agent center JaVale McGee, who was bought out by Philadelphia this week. A bunch of other teams do, too.
### With the Marlins coming up short in their late bid for free agent Francisco Rodriguez, they will open the competition to determine who will get first crack at the eighth inning set-up job, among Bryan Morris (“did a great job with that” last year, Mike Redmond said), ex-Royal Aaron Crow, AJ Ramos (7-0 last year) or Mike Dunn (against lefty-heavy lineups).
Carter Capps, who the Marlins viewed as an ideal set-up man when they acquired him from Seattle, hopes to crack that mix after being limited to 17 games by an elbow injury last season.
He’s the Marlins hardest throwing reliever, with triple figure readings at times on the radar gun and 119 strikeouts in 104 career innings. But “I need to be a reliable guy. At times, I can be really good. At times, really bad.”
Rafael Soriano, who had 32 saves for Washington last season, remains unsigned, but the Marlins aren’t sure how well he would fit into their clubhouse.
### With the transfer of Antonio Crawford and graduation of Ladarius Gunter, UM is down to three experienced cornerbacks, one inexperienced one (Ryan Mayes, who has had a good spring but “has a long way to go,” Al Golden said) and three freshmen summer arrivals.
“We’ll probably be one short; we’ll see if there’s someone available,” Golden said. Expect UM to investigate adding a transfer who’s eligible immediately. Golden said Deon Bush could play cornerback if needed, but he's UM's best safety.
### The UM staff believes it will be just as good at tight end, even with losing NFL-bound Clive Walford, not only because of the emergence of Standish Dobard (the staff calls him “dump truck” because of his toughness), but the intriguing upside of Chris Herndon, David Njoku and Jerome Washington.
Tight ends coach Larry Scott said Washington’s “ceiling is through the roof. You look at yourself and shake your head and say, “We’ve got a special one here.’…
“Njoku looks the part. He had the toughness of a linebacker did but some things as a receiver that made you go, ‘Hmm.’ He’s a 6-4 kid that’s a 7-foot high jumper. Where are you going to find that in big people? He’s another one we’re super excited about. And [Herndon] is so smooth in everything he does. There’s no wasted movement.”
### Of Crawford's decision to transfer, defensive backs coach Paul Williams said: “Antonio’s a great kid. We love him. We wish him well.”