SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN
This season has proved that the Dolphins, as usual, still have a bunch of needs to fill. But at least they will be in position to clear out tens of millions in cap space to do it.
Even though the Dolphins stand just $3 million below the projected $150 million 2016 cap, they easily can clear $45 million to $50 million in space. And that number could reach $65 million if they move on from Cameron Wake or Brent Grimes, or somewhere north of $55 million if they restructure Wake (coming off an Achilles injury) or Grimes.
Here’s how the Dolphins can put themselves in an enviable cap position by March: They’ll save $4 million by cutting Greg Jennings, who is unlikely to return, and another $7.5 million if they release Jordan Cameron, who figures to be cut or asked to restructure to dramatically reduce his $9.5 million cap hit.
And here’s the biggie: Ndamukong Suh and Ryan Tannehill have a combined cap hit of $40.2 million next season. But that could be reduced to $15.1 million.
By converting Suh’s $23.5 million base salary in 2016 to a league minimum base and converting the rest to a signing bonus (meaning no pay cut for him), his $28.6 million cap number for 2016 would shrink to $10.4 million. By doing the same with Tannehill, his cap number could be lowered from $11.6 million to $4.7 million.
The downside is that such machinations would add more than $6 million to Miami’s cap in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020. The Dolphins could even create another $6.6 million in space next spring by doing the same with Mike Pouncey, but that probably won’t be necessary.
So by cutting Jennings, restructuring the Suh, Tannehill and Cameron contracts, combined with $11 million in carryover space, the Dolphins could go from cap hell to having more than $45 million in space.
If they cut Wake, that’s another $8.4 million savings. Releasing Grimes would save $6.5 million. Seemingly more likely is a restructuring with both, which would push available space comfortably over $50 million.
If the Dolphins decide to move on from Earl Mitchell, that would be another $2.5 million savings. With Koa Misi, it’s a $3.7 million savings. So they could create more than $70 million if they chose.
So creating the space isn’t the problem. The concern is whether the Dolphins will be able to pick the right players to fill needs at linebacker, guard, cornerback and safety, among others.
They’ll also need to sort out defensive end by re-signing Olivier Vernon or Derrick Shelby or signing a new starter or two. Miami hasn’t made offers to Vernon or Shelby at this point. They also need to resolve running back (Lamar Miller is an impending free agent) and tight end (depending on what they do with Cameron, whose downfield skills haven’t been maximized).
### Former NFL MVP Rich Gannon, who works Sunday’s Dolphins game on CBS, said off air that this franchise’s problems extend well beyond poor play.
“There’s a lot of turmoil and dysfunction in that organization that needs to be worked out,” he said. “They’re either going to figure it out or stay in this pattern for a while.”
He said he couldn’t understand why neither Tannehill nor anybody called timeout with 19 seconds left before the first half ended last Sunday: “It was a train wreck. Don’t let somebody else’s mistake become your mistake.”
Gannon also doesn’t understand why the same mistakes keep happening with this team: “I see guys not running the right routes, running routes short. The spacing in the routes is not where it needs to be. I know [coordinator] Bill Lazor doesn’t coach on 3rd and 6 to run a shell barely across the line of scrimmage. I am not waiting until Monday to make that correction. Get it right in practice or throw the guy out of practice.
“[And] you spend $114 million on a guy [Ndamukong Suh] and you’re 31st in run defense? That’s incredible. You don’t need the most talented guys to play good run defense. I see corners swinging and missing on perimeter runs. Poor run fits. Safeties taking poor angles. Defensive ends and linebackers getting hooked by tight ends. It’s just bad. Who’s on that side is going to say, ‘It’s embarrassing’?”
### So now make it 12 years in a row that UM will fail to reach the 10-win mark, a streak that began when the Hurricanes joined the ACC in 2004.
You can scream all you want about the coaching (and it obviously needs to be better), but the onus also falls on players who have twice in a month been humiliated by teams whose rosters are filled with recruiting classes that were ranked no higher than Miami's by Rivals.com. (And yes, Rivals clearly overrated some UM players.)
"They have to be men about it [and keep giving effort]," interim coach Larry Scott of a team that might be unmotivated, at 6-4, with games left against Georgia Tech and at Pittsburgh.
In this 59-21 North Carolina dismantling of the Canes, we saw four-star UM defensive linemen continually being swallowed up by blockers, four and three-star offensive linemen breaking down in protection, and more mindless, undisciplined penalties from players who should know better. And how is it that UM twice got called for having too many players in the backfield?
The Canes, who entered with the third-most penalty yards of 128 FBS teams (746), where whistled for 12 penalties for 103 yards. UNC didn't commit a defensive penalty until 1:01 remained in the third quarter and didn't commit an offensive penalty until 2:12 remained in the game.
UM averaged only 3.1 yards per carry (32-99), committed three turnovers, and was blitzed for 298 yards on the ground (6.5 per carry).
And there's this: UM ended up being outscored 117-21 by the two teams likely to meet in the ACC title game (Clemson and UNC). The program is broken.
One enduring snapshot today: Joe Yearby, visibly angry with Kc McDermott after McDermott allowed Brad Kaaya to be annihilated on a play, and then slapping the side of McDermott's helmet.
### As for the coaching search, it's still in the early stages and UM has been in no rush, partly because several appealing options won’t be available for weeks; for example, potential candidate Charlie Strong’s Texas team closes its regular season on Dec. 5. Athletic director Blake James has been talking to search firms about assisting with the process…
A Trustee said though it’s not a requirement, James looks at proven ability to recruit South Florida as a major plus. That would help Mario Cristobal and Strong, among others…. Keep in mind that UM inquired about Georgia’s Mark Richt (who could become available) in its last coaching search, but Richt indicated at that time he was happy in Athens....
During the game, got a text from a prominent former Canes player pleading for UM to hire Butch Davis. But an associate of James said his understanding is that Davis remains simply a fallback option, if several more appealing options don't materialize.
### Not only is Chris Bosh third among power forwards in scoring average (behind only Blake Griffin and Anthony Davis), not only is he averaging by far his most rebounds since his Toronto days, but this is impressive: In terms of plus/minus, five of the Heat’s 15 best lineups this season have featured Bosh and four backups.
When Bosh plays with all backups other than newcomer Beno Udrih, Miami is a remarkable plus 49 in 72 minutes; it’s plus 37 in 89 factoring in Udrih’s debut.
### Though the Heat would gladly move Chris Andersen’s $5 million salary to further reduce its tax burden, Miami isn’t optimistic about finding a taker.
### Couple facility notes: One local stadium in contact with David Beckham’s MLS group said the group conveyed that it now prefers to begin play in a new facility (ideally 2018) instead of spending one year in a temporary home such as FIU or Marlins Park, though Beckham says that’s not definite…
For safety reasons, Sun Life Stadium decided not to do the two final phases of renovations simultaneously next offseason, as had been planned. So the canopy will be installed next offseason (in time for the 2016 season), and suites and club seats renovated before the 2017 season.
### The Marlins appear committed to first baseman Justin Bour but say they want him to get in better shape (Bour admits he needs to become more toned at the very least) and will consider cheap right-handed hitting platoon options. Bour hit .221 (15 for 68) with no homers against lefties but .262 with 23 homers and 73 RBI overall.
### One reason that the Marlins want to add two veteran starters to Jose Fernandez, Jarred Cosart and Tom Koehler is they don’t want to go into spring training needing a youngster (Justin Nicolino, Adam Conley or Jose Urena) to absolutely have to be the fifth starter, though those three will be given a chance to compete with a veteran for the fifth slot.
### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz