NFL Nation: "dead money''
It's been an interesting offseason for the Miami Dolphins, to say the least. The team is in the process of a major makeover for 2015, highlighted by the $114 million signing of Pro Bowl defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and the trade of former No. 1 receiver Mike Wallace to the Minnesota Vikings.
However, Miami took some major hits on its salary cap in the process of this offseason facelift. As a result, the Dolphins currently own the dubious distinction of leading the NFL in “dead money” following trades and roster cuts.
“Dead money” is essentially used salary-cap space for players who are no longer on the roster. The Dolphins have an NFL-high $23.699 million of this year’s cap allocated to players who will not help the team this season, according to ESPN.com’s Roster Management System.
Recent trades, such as the one sending Wallace to the Vikings and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe to the New Orleans Saints, for example, have drastically inflated Miami’s “dead money.” Both were given large contracts in 2013. But Miami wanted to go in a different direction two years later and was willing to take the cap hit.
Additional veteran cuts such as linebacker Philip Wheeler, cornerback Cortland Finnegan, guard Shelley Smith and receivers Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson also accelerated Miami’s “dead money” this offseason.
Despite the high number, new vice president Mike Tannenbuam remains aggressive this offseason and says the Dolphins’ cap situation will be fine moving forward.
“We’re very comfortable with our macroeconomic modeling for the next couple of years, where we think the cap’s going to be, allocation of resources,” Tannenbaum said. “To have sustainable success in a cap system, you’re going to have to hit on your draft choices. We want to retain as many of those as reasonably possible.”
There’s no denying that. But, now that the Bucs are 7-4, I’m wondering if being frugal is necessarily a bad thing. In fact, the gap between the Bucs and the rest of the league has widened even more than it was at the beginning of the season. With the releases of some veterans like Sabby Piscitelli and Keydrick Vincent, Tampa Bay’s payroll has been trimmed even more.
A few months ago, the Bucs were up around $85 million in money committed to this year’s salary cap. Of course, we must note there is no salary cap this year. But these figures are still the best way to gauge how teams are spending. These numbers aren’t actual salaries. They include salaries, but also included pro-rated signing bonuses, other bonuses and, in some cases, cap hits for guys no longer on the team.
According to the latest numbers obtained by ESPN.com, Tampa Bay is by far the league’s lowest team in this category. The Bucs are on the books for $80.8 million this year. I’m looking around the rest of the league and the only other teams that are at less than $100 million are Arizona ($98.1 million), Jacksonville ($91.5 million) and Kansas City ($93.7 million). The league average is $124.2 million.
I’m also looking at the two highest figures around the league. Washington leads at $192.2 million and Dallas is next at $167.3 million. Gee, they’re not really thriving, which makes me wonder if you have to spend huge money to succeed.
Beyond the Bucs, there is plenty of evidence that you don’t need a high payroll to win. The Atlanta Falcons are tied for the best record in the league and they’re committed to $118.8 million this year.
New Orleans is on the upper end of things, but they’re not quite with the big boys. The Saints are at about $147 million. Then, there are the Carolina Panthers, who are in a league of their own. They are right at $110 million. But more than $30 million of that is “dead money’’, which counts for players no longer on the team. If you factored in only the guys on Carolina’s roster, the Panthers would have a lower figure than the Buccaneers.