Buffalo is offering Clay a five-year contract, a source told ESPN. The total value of the contract is $38 million, according to the Buffalo News.
The Dolphins currently have the transition tag on Clay and have five days to match the offer. But here is the important question: Should they match?
Miami doesn’t want to lose Clay, but letting him go would be in the best interest of the team’s long-term plans.
Clay is a good tight end. But he’s not elite, and Clay certainly isn't irreplaceable in the Dolphins’ offense. The Dolphins signed quality insurance in former Cleveland Browns tight end Jordan Cameron, who signed a two-year, $15 million contract last week. Backup Dion Sims also is a budding tight end with potential, and he filled in well when Clay was injured last season.
The Dolphins do not need Clay nearly as much as the Bills do. Buffalo let both of its top tight ends -- Scott Chandler and Lee Smith -- go in free agency. That is why the Bills anted up for Clay in a big way, despite the possibility of Miami matching the contract.
But here is the key figure that should help make this decision for the Dolphins: Clay's cap hit will be about $12 million in 2016, according to a source.
That 2016 season is important because Ndamukong Suh's cap charge will be huge with a value set at $28.6 million. The Dolphins also are expected to dole out new money to quarterback Ryan Tannehill, Pro Bowl offensive lineman Mike Pouncey and starting defensive end Olivier Vernon by that time.
Miami can’t pay everyone. The team would not be wise to pay Clay at the expense of any of these aforementioned players.
I have plenty of respect for Clay, who worked hard and earned his way in Miami as a former sixth-round pick. He has good character on and off the field and did a lot for the Dolphins during his tenure.
But the NFL is a business, and Clay did what he had to do to get a quality offer on the open market. A parting of ways is best for both parties.