Salary-Cap Numbers: What Does It Mean?

Now that we know where each team stands in terms of the salary cap (see story below), this is a good time to take a closer look at the numbers and discuss what they might mean to the Dolphins this offseason.

Based on the numbers obtained by colleague John Taylor, the Dolphins had $13.1 million of cap space available as of Feb. 4 (which was Super Bowl Sunday).

On the surface, that doesn't sound bad at all, especially considering the Dolphins' messy salary-cap situation of the last couple of seasons.

Unfortunately, we wish we could tell you that it's all good news as far as the salary cap is concerned.

The bad news comes in the fact the Dolphins rank only 20th in the league, wich 12 teams having at least $20 million of cap space.

What's worse, the other three AFC East teams have more cap space than the Dolphins, with Buffalo third overall at $33.2 million, New England tied for fifth at $26.6 million and the Jets 11th at $21.1 million.

That means that any hope of a division rival having to dump a lot of players because of a bad salary-cap situation is unrealistic.

It also means the Dolphins will have a lot of company when it comes to bidding for the top-flight free agents who will be available. To begin with, there aren't that many big-name free agents out there who could help the Dolphins, especially at quarterback and left tackle, two positions of major need for Miami.

The only quarterback of note who will be a free agent is Jeff Garcia, but he figures to get a good offer to return to the Eagles and should be pursued heavily by Minnesota, which also wants to employ a West Coast offense.

One free agent who clearly could help the Dolphins is Buffalo cornerback Nate Clements, but he's likely to command big bucks and too many teams have more money to throw at him. That's where the salary-cap space issue will come into play.

The Dolphins, of course, could create more cap space by restructuring some contracts or releasing some high-priced players, which is something we expect to see happening.

For example, we're having a hard time seeing Olindo Mare being brought back at his base salary of $1.3 million or Marty Booker being brought back at $3 million.

There's also been talk the Dolphins will talk to Kevin Carter about restructuring his deal, but he's already made it clear that while a restructuring is OK, a pay cut definitely is not.

Under Nick Saban, the Dolphins weren't big players in free agency, and we don't know yet what Cam Cameron's strategy will be. One thing we now know is that it won't be easy for the Dolphins to win the services of the few coveted free agents available.

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