Vice president Mike Tannenbaum promised he would turn over every rock this offseason to improve the Miami Dolphins. Without a ton of cap room, the team must be shrewd and creative with its decisions.
ESPN's Josina Anderson and NFL Network's Ian Rapaport report free agent Mario Williams will visit Miami this weekend. The team has a lot of questions at defensive end this offseason, and Williams is a good contingency plan if things do not go well in the next week or so with starters Olivier Vernon and Cameron Wake.
The Dolphins recently gave Vernon, who led the team with 7.5 sacks, a $12.7 million transition tag. But teams are allowed to negotiate a long-term extension when free agency opens on March 9. There is a good chance at least one club will put in a solid bid for Vernon, which may price Miami out of the market.
If Vernon's offer is too lengthy and too expensive for the Dolphins to match -- similar to what happened with tight end Charles Clay last year -- they must be prepared to move on. This is one reason Miami's free-agent visit with Williams this weekend makes sense.
Wake also has a salary of $8.4 million in 2016, and the Dolphins are trying to re-negotiate to get that number down. He is 34 and coming off a season-ending Achilles injury. If neither side can reach a compromise, again, the Dolphins must be prepared to move on.
Williams only had five sacks with the Buffalo Bills last season and didn't fit in well with coach Rex Ryan's new defense. But there is no dropoff in talent if Williams potentially replaces Vernon or Wake next season. In fact, it might be considered an upgrade.
The Dolphins know how good Williams can be. He had 8.5 sacks against them in eight division games the past four seasons. It would not be a surprise if Williams has a bounce-back 2016 and posts double-digit sacks. He accomplished that goal three straight seasons from 2012-14.
As usual, this option comes down to money. Williams was cut in Buffalo because of his $19.9 million cap number this year. Miami will balk if he wants anything close to that. The team simply does not have the cap room.
But if Williams is open to taking much less, perhaps in the range of Wake's $8.4 million salary, this may be a cost-effective option to improve Miami's pass rush. The Dolphins have found ways to make big splashes in free agency over the past three seasons, and potentially adding Williams would be another one.