The Miami Dolphins Off-Season of Transformation

RiverdoG is a big fan of Dawn Aponte for her work as the Miami Dolphin's Capologist. The Voodoo Science of the NFL has some interesting features in the latest version of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). These changes drove the Dolphins to make a splash in free agency after a self-proclaimed desire to build through the draft. Many experts quote the minimum or cap floor figure as 89% of the cap value. This is true in a sense, but there is a little more behind it that drove the Dolphins and other teams to make sure they spent now or face penalties later.

The language of the CBA states, for each four-year period from 2013-16, and from 2017-2020, the minimum guaranteed team cash spending for each team is 89% of Salary Cap. Over the two four year periods, each team must spend a minimum of 89% of the aggregate total Cap for those four years. For example, if the Salary Caps for the 2013-16 periods are $100, $120, $130, $150 million respectively, each team must spend a minimum of 89% ($445 Million) of that $500 million total. To be clear, the minimum spending is over a four-year period for each team, not each season.

The 2011 and 2012 seasons had no salary floor and some teams took advantage of those years by cleaning house so to speak. Miami came into the 2013 season with over $40 million available cap space. The Dolphins had an announced agenda to build through the draft, but it is impossible to build exclusively through the draft in today’s NFL because of the rookie Salary Cap. The NFL Salary Cap is a “Hard Cap” meaning each team must remain under the Cap. The Salary Cap is the same amount for each team. The rookie cap fluctuates with the number and round of the picks a team has in any give year.

A team can “carry over” room from one League Year to the next by having the owner submit notice to the NFL within 14 days prior to the beginning of the next League Year. The owner must indicate

the maximum amount of room the team wishes to carry over. With the minimum spending change from one-year to an aggregate total over four-years, teams like Miami could have found themselves in a bind in the final two years of the four-year period if they did not spend the money this year.

By following the money, the new TV contract begins in 2013 and extends to 2022. The contract will increase revenues for NFL teams incrementally and teams falling below 89% this year will find it increasingly difficult to reach the 89% figure over the four-year aggregate. It is possible a team could find itself unable to reach the aggregate 89% in the fourth-year because doing so would take them over the hard cap number for that year. The penalty is unknown but the NFL usually takes these opportunities to come down hard on the perpetrator.

The CBA and the facts associated with the agreement are the real reasons behind Miami abandoning its stated objective to build through the draft. The Dolphins have used the second season under Joe Philbin to align the locker room with players more fit for his schemes and to adhere with the complexities of the CBA. From this point on the Dolphins will need to make fewer moves in free agency to remain in compliance with the CBA. Miami fans must hope the Dolphins bought the right players to fit the mold during the mandatory shopping spree.

The future of the team is now riding on the decisions made during this crucial off-season. Miami will not get the opportunity to make this type of sweeping change again without gutting the team of quality players. Many fantasy football fans will point out Mike Wallace is not a ranking player in their leagues and other Pittsburgh receivers had better numbers. It has become easy to miss the value of players by following a stats sheet in the fantasy league.

Wallace demanded the salary for more than fantasy numbers; he opens the offense and creates opportunities for other players. Safeties cannot sneak into the box as readily when they know Wallace can beat them over the top. They cannot cheat up and the running game benefits by not having an extra defender in the box. If a corner needs deep help to protect from the long ball, other receivers find less coverage and get more opportunities. The Steelers know the value of a deep receiver even if the fantasy geeks don’t understand the true value of football players.

Miami allowed Jake Long to seek greener pastures (Benjamin Green) even though they needed to spend on premium positions for the reasons documented above. It is a telling sign when the Dolphins held the line on Long. Two motives seem obvious, his injury history and the devaluing of the left tackle position. With the need to spend for cap purposes Miami passed on Long and then shocked the league by not drafting his replacement after trading up for Dion Jordan and not Lane Johnson. The Dolphins then left Brandon Albert and others waiting at the altar before signing Clabo, clearly, the position has lost its luster.

Mixed emotions flow from Miami fans about the deportation of Reggie Bush, but this is another position with declining demand. Bush had issues working against him off the field, there is a fascination between the media and Reggie Bush. Perhaps dating Kim Kardashian and having to return a Heisman Trophy make reporters wonder what juicy story Reggie will lead them to next. For whatever reason, like Tim Tebow, coaches hate distractions and Reggie, perhaps through no fault of his own, is a distraction. Declining value and a penchant for the spotlight, led Reggie to take his show to Detroit and join the circus already in progress there.

Karlos Dansby had a different problem, he was a shining example of the "all show and no go" cliché. He proclaimed himself the best linebacker in the NFL and failed to live up to the proclamation. Largely, this was not as much of a problem as the fact that he believed this was true even when his performance did not reconcile with his illusion. In this belief, he portrayed himself as a leader, making his presence known in the locker room as the veteran voice of the defense.

Kevin Coyle and Joe Philbin as football coaches could not allow this to continue. Dansby could easily have remained on the Dolphins if he understood his place in the locker room or matched his real performance with his illusion. It was not going to happen and perhaps Karlos got the message by waiting until May to sign a contract. His words brought hope, "It was frustrating with the release and a humbling situation, but I knew God had a plan for me," Dansby said.

With any luck, God has bigger troubles to worry about than his plan for Karlos, but lessons come to different people in different ways. The leadership council of players wanting to police themselves with Long-Dansby-Bush in the forefront made it clear; Philbin was not onboard with the self-proclaimed team leaders. The opportunity to make a complete change in culture coincided with the need to spend cap dollars or face fines later.

The results will come when this new version of the Dolphins takes the field in the fall. The house is order, from the financial side and from the leadership side. Joe Philbin and Jeff Ireland with the agreement of Boss Ross have done the business off the field, it's up to the players to complete the transformation on the field.

A new era in Miami begins at the Hall of Fame in Canton Ohio with the enshrinement of Bill Parcells. Parcells is the man many feel responsible for the Dolphins continued downfall. Perhaps facing the blighted past is the only way to burst into a new future. One thing is certain, not many Miami fans will be cheering for Parcells as a team he will not recognize takes the field in Canton. The irony of Parcells' enshrinement and the Dolphins playing in the Hall of Fame game is not lost on Miami Dolphin fans...