In most cases, the Miami Dolphins swing for the fences in free agency. The past three consecutive off-seasons, Owner Stephen Ross has essentially written his front office a blank check. All three times, the front office has over-spent and under-performed; acquiring Mike Wallace (huge bust), Branden Albert (struggles to stay healthy), and Ndamukong Suh (under-performed in 2015). This begs the question, should we expect a similar strategy heading in to this off-season?
One of the Dolphins’ biggest weaknesses during the 2015 regular season was their offensive line (ranked 31st overall). Despite their struggles, three offensive linemen appear to be locked in as starters. They are as follows: Branden Albert at left tackle, Mike Pouncey at center, and Ja’Wuan James at right tackle. It is no secret that the two glaring weak spots on this offensive line are both interior guard positions. The Dolphins attempted to fill these two holes with young, developing guards in 2015 and unfortunately, it was an epic failure. The primary players who started at the left and right guard positions were Billy Turner, Jamil Douglas, and Dallas Thomas. It certainly hasn’t helped that injuries over the past two seasons to Albert, Pouncey, and James have forced Douglas and Thomas to play center and tackle on multiple occsassions; stalling their development at guard.
Regardless of why they have under-performed, the Dolphins absolutely must address this issue before the start of the 2016 regular season. Just one day ago, news broke that the New Orleans Saints released 6x Pro-Bowl guard, Jahri Evans. Evans is 32 years old, and indisputably one of the greatest players to ever put on a Saints uniform. This appears to be a match made in heaven for Miami; a veteran that could come in and start immediately, while also helping develop the younger guards. One has to wonder though, why would New Orleans part ways with such a talented player? Was it injuries? No, as a matter of fact Evans is relatively healthy.
The Saints released Evans for one reason, and one reason only- to save money. You may recall that Miami vastly overspent during the 2015 off-season, relying heavily on the idea that the NFL cap would shoot up substantially in December. However, they misjudged how much the cap would go up, leaving the Dolphins nearly $4 million over the 2016 cap as they finished the 2015 regular season. The Saints made a similar miscalculation, leaving them $10 million over the 2016 cap heading in to this off-season. Therefore, the Saints simply have to make cuts now. However, as previously pointed out, the Dolphins aren’t in too good of a financial situation either. With big name Dolphins free agents hitting the open market this off-season including Lamar Miller, Olivier Vernon, and Rishard Matthews, is it really fair to assume the Dolphins can afford the services of a Pro Bowl guard like Jahri Evans?
There is a very simple way to determine whether or not the Dolphins will chase Evans on the open market. That is by analyzing last summer’s Evan Mathis contract. Last summer, Pro Bowl guard Evan Mathis was released by the Philadelphia Eagles. Mathis’ agent just so happens to live in Miami, Florida and made a highly publicized attempt to push the Dolphins to sign him. He would have been a perfect fit, but at 33 years of age at the time, the Dolphins front office had some reservations. When it was all said and done, Mathis signed a 1 year, $4 million contract with the Super Bowl Champion, Denver Broncos.
If you’re wondering how much Jahri Evans was due to make in 2016, the Saints owed him $4.9 million in salary and bonuses. This would put an additional $3.1 million against Miami’s cap if they were to match what Evans was due to receive in New Orleans. Now, there is no guarantee Evans will receive the $4.9 million he was set to make in New Orleans. However, usually when you’re the best player available at a position in free agency, you have all the leverage you need to run up your price (i.e. Mike Wallace, Branden Albert, Ndamukong Suh). Therefore, it is our analytical assumption that the Dolphins will have to pass on Evans and continue to rely on young, upcoming guards. This is in part due to the Dolphins lack of interest in signing Evan Mathis for $4 million last summer, and also in part to the Dolphins complete lack of cap space heading in to the 2016 season.
|Player||Position||Age||# of Pro Bowls||Annual Salary|
|Evan Mathis||Offensive Guard||34||2||$4,000,000.00|
|Jahri Evans||Offensive Guard||32||6||$4,900,000.00|