We expect to see the actual true and complete numbers to the Charles Clay contract today.
They will be ugly for the Dolphins, I'm sure, because that's what the Buffalo Bills intended when they gave the restricted free agent tight end a five-year, $38 million offer which Clay reportedly signed Tuesday.
But if, and this is a huge if, the Dolphins are of the mind to absolutely not lose Charles Clay to a divisional rival, they probably could match the offer. It can be done.
Obviously we are working off reporting and not the numbers filed to the NFLPA yet but it is clear the Clay offer from Buffalo is meant to be a salary cap nightmare for the Dolphins this season and more importantly in 2016.
That's a huge year for the Dolphins and everyone in the NFL knows it because that's when the onerous portion of Ndamukong Suh's record $114 million contract comes into play. Suh is scheduled to cost the Dolphins $28.6 million against the cap that season.
That's not good.
Add to that the fact the Dolphins will also be dealing with the added costs of a new contract for Ryan Tannehill, a new contract for Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey, and a new contract for defensive end Olivier Vernon and you see the Dolphins are carrying Suh at a premium in 2016 and must do major business with three other very good players as well.
So how does one handle those four significant deals, plus Cameron Wake, plus Brent Grimes, plus Reshad Jones -- all of whom have cap numbers north of $8 million in 2016 -- and also carry the expected $12 million cap hit the Bills put on Clay for 2016?
Well, if the Dolphins are of the mind to absolutely not lose Clay, they could conceivably opt to restructure the source of the pain, which is the Suh contract, and make it more salary cap friendly.
Yeah, this can be done.
The Dolphins could simply convert $22.7 million of Suh's $23.4 million base salary in 2016 into a new and guaranteed signing bonus before next spring. Doing that adds to the prorated portion of Suh's cap number in 2016, '17, '18, '19 and '20. It effectively raises his cap numbers in 2017-20 by $4.5 million each year.
But it lowers Suh's cap number next season, the all important 2016, from $28.6 million to $10.5 million. This, combined with an expected rise to the salary cap the Dolphins believe they have a good handle on suggests the math may work.
(Plus, there are again next offseason a number of contracts that Miami can jettison if the players don't perform at an extremely high level in 2015. led by tight end Jordan Cameron's second year of his two-year deal).
The math can work.
More or less.
The question is and will remain, for a couple of days at least, whether the Dolphins want to institute such a plan -- mortgaging their future despite, you know, not winning a Super Bowl -- to keep a player they themselves didn't value so highly during last season, as I reported here?
The question is to what level of desperation the Dolphins are willing to go to keep Clay?
And make no mistake, all these cap modifications and gesticulatons are desperate measures when the team doing them isn't a championship team trying to keep together some sort of dynasty.
Remember, the Dolphins are doing this and they've been 8-8 the past couple of years. They've not been one player from a title at any point since, well, probably 1984.
So there is sound logic to simply not bust the cap and move on.
One final thought: The University of Miami is less than 40 miles from the Dolphins training facility. The U has a football team. That team had a tight end the past couple of years named Clive Walford. He's raw. He's not as fast as Clay. But he has the makings of a solid NFL tight end once he learns to follow instructions and learns the game better. He'll probably be available in the second or third rounds. He could replace Clay for about 25 percent of the price.