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Defensive line is the epicenter of Miami Dolphins salary cap moves

The Miami Dolphins expect to do a lot of work with agents between now and the end of the Indianapolis Combine (Feb. 23-29) and hope to get much work finalized by that time. I expect they'll want to have Ndamukong Suh restructured by then (easy), they want to know whether they can have a new deal with Olivier Vernon or have to use the franchise tag on him, and they want a new deal with defensive end Cameron Wake.

Yes, the defensive line is the epicenter of much pre-free agency work for this team.

And that is because much of the 2016 cap space the Dolphins will enjoy (or won't) is tied to the defensive line.

Suh, the highest paid player on the team, is easy. I reported weeks ago, he already agreed to restructure his deal for cap purposes in his initial contract. The Dolphins will see his '16 cap number go from $28.6 million to around $10.8 million. That has to be done.

The Dolphins want a plan with Vernon. He is a pending free agent so negotiations of some sort need to begin to get a new deal between now and the start of free agency at 4 p.m. on March 9. Either that, or the team will put the franchise tag on Vernon.

Yes, I'm presenting only two options here because I do not believe the Dolphins will let Vernon walk. Good teams simply do not let good 25-year-old pass rushers out of their building unless that player is reviled, or injured, or a criminal of the highest order and Vernon is none of those. And because the value of pass rushers is at an all-time premium, it makes no sense to let Vernon go to market and negotiate a deal with another team and come back to Miami with an opportunity to match -- something Vernon has made no secret he would do.

(That option allows other teams to negotiate your contract, which is not good business).

So I believe this will either lead to a multi-year deal or a franchise tag -- neither of them cheap, both of them overpaying, but one or the other necessary.

By the way, notice I said both options will overpay Vernon. I believe the Dolphins should have worked last year to sign Vernon. They could have had him for $10-$12 million per year. Now the price is approximately $15 million guaranteed on a franchise tender (all hitting the club's cap in full) or around $14-$15 million per year APY on a multi-year deal with a much lower cap value coming in around $6-$8 million.

Olivier Vernon is not worth that. He's not Reggie White. But that is the market. He'll likely get that from somebody.

The Dolphins also by the last day of the combine should be done with an extension (mostly for cap purposes) with Cam Wake.

I told you this was a strong probability back on Nov. 2, as long as Wake was willing to return to a team that has never been to the playoffs since he joined it in 2009. Well, he signaled he was willing to return on the final day of the season when he spoke to reporters in the locker room. And today the NFL Network reported talks on that extension have begun.

Here's the reason this is necessary:

Wake is scheduled to be in the final year of his contract in 2016 with a cap hit of $9.8 million. Coming off an injury plagued year that included hamstring problems and a season-ending Achilles tear, the 34-year-old Wake would be a candidate for a farewell from the roster if the Dolphins were an organization that drafts exceedingly well.

But the Dolphins have not drafted exceedingly well and today's chickens coming home to roost were hatched in the 2013 draft when pass rusher Dion Jordan was picked No. 3 overall. Jordan, picked to be a stud, has been a bust. He has been nothing but a disappointment on drug suspension, injured, or out of sorts. So instead of having Jordan taking over relatively cheaply in Wake's spot, the Dolphins have to circle back to Wake.

And what will happen is Wake will get a one or two-year extension carrying him through 2017-18 and he'll get a signing bonus (or some guaranteed money) of about $10-$12 million that can be prorated, and he'll get certainty about where he's going to be this year and probably next.

The Dolphins will get cap relief and the ability to push the need for at least one pass rusher down the road a year or so. The cap relief will look something like this: Wake is scheduled to cost $9.8 million against the '16 cap. His number will go to around $5.6-$6.3 million. That will be a cap savings of between $3.5-$4.2 million.

All this while Wake gets a big check and a raise for 2016.

(This, of course, assumes Wake's agent doesn't get greedy and the Dolphins don't try to hardball him).

The Wake and Suh restructures and extensions should save the Dolphins in the neighborhood of $21-23 million against the 2016 salary cap. The OV contract or franchise tag will cost the Dolphins between $8-$15 million against the salary cap.