Barry Jackson

Miami Dolphins cap space reduced after latest contract structuring. How it breaks down

A six-pack of Miami Dolphins notes on a Friday (and updated heavily with new information on Sunday):

Even after spending $235.8 million in free agency this week (including $150 million guaranteed), the Dolphins still have decent 2020 cap space, but not enough for any more big-money additions.

The Dolphins have structured new edge player Shaq Lawson’s contract in a way that his 2020 cap hit is substantial, it was learned Sunday. His $10.3 million cap hit for 2020 is larger than expected and lowers Miami’s available cap space to about $32 million.

It will cost about $16 million in cap allocations on the draft class, if Miami keeps all 14 draft picks.

That means after the draft, the Dolphins would have about $16 million in space if Miami exercises those 14 picks.

About $2 million must be allocated to a practice squad, which would leave Miami with about $14 million realistically in space after the draft if it doesn’t sign another free agent before then.

That means the Dolphins should be cautious in spending moving forward, because they might need that $14 million to fill needs that arise after the draft or from injuries in training camp.

There would be more wiggle room if the Dolphins release Albert Wilson, who remains on the roster with a $9.5 million non-guaranteed salary next season.

The Dolphins could save $9.5 million in space if they released Wilson, who - according to the confidential league salary postings - had not restructed his contract as of Friday. Such a move would boost the post-draft cap space to close to $27 million. Wilson played well late in the season after dealing with significant injuries going back to 2018.

Lawson’s first-year cap number of $10.3 million left cap space a big snugger than it necessarily needed to be, although that was done with an eye toward lessening Miami’s cap burden for Lawson in 2021 and 2022.

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Lawson and Ereck Flowers both got three-year, $30 million deals, but Flowers’ cap hit for 2020 is just $5 million.

The difference is that Lawson’s contract contains a higher first-year base salary ($6.4 million), plus a $2.5 million roster bonus due March 26, and a $1.3 million protation on a $4 million signing bonus.

Conversely, Flowers’ deal rises in year two, to a $8.9 million base (a big jump from $1.9 million in 2020) with a $12 million cap hit in 2021.

Last season, according to the players union, the Dolphins carried over $18 million in unused space from 2019, which could be added to the NFL’s $198.2 million cap, which essentially gave the Dolphins a cap of $216 million this offseason and for the 2020 season.

The 2020 cap hits for the new players: Byron Jones at $14 million, Lawson at $10.3 million, Emanuel Ogbah at $7.5 million, Kyle Van Noy at $6.025 million, Flowers at $5 million, Jordan Howard at $4.75 million, Ted Karras at $4 million, Kamu Grugier-Hill at $3 million, Elandon Roberts at nearly $3 million, Clayton Fejedelem at $2.2 million and incumbent safety Adrian Colbert at $1.8 million.

Bottom line: Miami must be cautious with spending moving forward. I can understand the Dolphins not giving millions to a middling free agent left tackle before seeing what the draft delivers.

The Dolphins still have a lot of dead money ($20.2 million) on their cap in 2020, but nothing beyond that.

The 2020 dead money, per overthecap: Reshad Jones: $8.1 million, Minkah Fitzpatrick $5.0 million, Kiko Alonso $3.1 million, TJ McDonald $1.9 million, Kenny Stills $1.8 million and Isaiah Prince $112,740, plus (according to spotrac) miniscule amounts for Vincent Taylor, Cornell Armstrong and Tyrone Holmes.

To get a sense of why the Patriots wanted to keep Karras, here’s what New England coach Bill Belichick said about him last year:

“Ted’s a smart player. He’s strong. He can anchor the middle of the pocket and his communication with teammates on the offensive line - which is critical for the center position to handle blocking schemes and protections and so forth - is good.”

The Dolphins are getting an interesting character in Karras; Patriots beat writer Jeff Howe of The Athletic called him the most interesting man in the Patriots locker-room.

Howe noted that Karras ”knows everything about everything. He can shake up the locker room with a conversation about salt, command a group of teammates with a series of tidbits from “The Office,” teach a few friends about history or rant about business practices.”

Karras took over at center last August after David Andrews was sidelined by blood clots in his lungs; only five centers who played as many snaps as Karras (583) allowed fewer sacks than Karras’ two.

His run-blocking grade was 65.8, which was 17th among 50 centers. Daniel Kilgore was a 60.7.

The Dolphins want intelligent players, and they’re getting that with this group of newcomers.

Karras already has one master’s degree (in recreation and sports tourism from Illinois) and also working on completing another master’s degree in business from Indiana.

Jones was an economics major at Connecticut and interned for Democratic Connecticut congresswoman Elizabeth Esty in Washington.

Some good stuff here in a Sporting News feature when Lawson was in his final year at Clemson:

“As a pre-teen, he helped his best friend and dad, then the Southern Wesleyan basketball coach, sell popcorn on game days [at Clemson’s stadium]. When he’d get a break from selling concessions, he’d run down and wait by the wall to grab a pair of gloves from a Clemson player. Years later, he became that player.”

Sadly, Lawson’s father, Lawrence Lawson, died in a car accident his junior year of high school, so family — and staying close to home — became a priority.

One reason he went to Clemson was defensive line coach Marion Hobby, who is now Miami’s defensive line coach: “I knew Coach Hobby had a great background of putting defensive ends in the league,” Lawson said. “He coached for the Saints, so I knew coming in with a guy like him coaching me, he would have me ready for the next level.”

Lawson said in that piece that his favorite player is JJ Watt. He enjoys watching tape of the late, great Reggie White.

Last year, Lawson reportedly paid for the funeral of an 11-year-old South Carolina girl who died after someone fired more than 35 shots at her home.

Belichick on new Dolphins linebacker Roberts, who was voted a team captain last year:

“His intelligence, his awareness and how hard he studies the game of football is very important to him.That’s reflected in the way he approaches it and the way he prepares.

“I’m sure the players voted for him because of his toughness, his unselfishness, his dependability. Really his willingness to do whatever it takes to help the team win. You can’t ask for any more than that. He’s a guy that’s shown tremendous versatility this year and has helped our football team in all three areas.

“Certainly, the team’s been able to benefit from his versatility, his toughness, his work ethic and his desire to contribute to help our team perform better. So, I think we all recognize that, we all appreciate it.”

Here’s our Friday piece with the latest on the Joe Burrow/Dolphins scenario and how Miami might be able to improve its chance of convincing the Bengals to trade the top pick to them.

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