It’s certainly been a busy offseason for trades in the NFL and today the Dolphins got into the act by trading a mid round pick for Rams edge rusher Robert Quinn. Quinn carries a salary of $11.44 million that will all transfer to the Dolphins.
The acquisition of Quinn will give the Dolphins an incredibly expensive defense. The salary cap charges on defense include Ndamukong Suh at $26.1 million, Reshad Jones at $11.575 million, Andre Branch at $10 million, Kiko Alonso at $9.64 million, Cameron Wake at $8.625 million and Lawrence Timmons at $8.225 million. The Dolphins projected to be over the cap by about $8 million assuming a $178 million salary cap for the season so this will put them up to $19 million over once it is official. The draft class will likely require about $3.5 million in cap room once this trade is factored in.
Of all the players on defense Timmons is as good as gone and will create about $5 million in cap room when cut. The Dolphins caught a break with Timmons when he went AWOL in week 1 and voided his guarantee for the 2018 season. They could kick the can with some of the other players though that is really not an advisable move. Jones, Branch, and Alonso already have guaranteed salaries for the season so none could be cut if anyone thought that was an option.
Suh, if cut, would leave the Dolphins with a $22.2 million cap charge. No other player has ever had a charge that large in one year so most likely he would be designated a June 1 cut. If designated a June 1 cut the Dolphins would have to carry the full $26.1 million cap charge until June 2 at which point that would create $17 million in cap space. If that is an option it would need to be done before March 18 when $8.5 million of Suh’s salary becomes guaranteed. Suh has a unique contract where he earns partial guarantees in the final years of his contract in March, with the guarantees essentially playing the same role as a roster bonus. It is arguably one of the most player friendly contracts in the NFL.
The other logical move for the Dolphins would be to rescind a $16.2 million franchise tag on Jarvis Landry. The Dolphins did that a few years back with Olivier Vernon (who in hindsight they should have just re-signed given their never ending search for linemen) and it would make sense to do here if they cant agree on trade terms by the end of this weekend. There is a risk that Landry could sign the tag if they let it drag on too long and then the contract is guaranteed.
Most likely the Dolphins will look to also rework Quinn’s contract which has two years remaining. There are two options for that. One is a straight line extension which could be pricey but help lower his cap charge this season. Though Quinn has not been as effective the last few years as he was in his prime the $10M+ extensions signed by 3rd contract rushers in the last year plus the Dolphins tendency to go high on extensions could make that a bad deal long term. The Dolphins could also work out something with Ryan Tannehill for cap room.
The other option might be to do something like they did last year with William Hayes, who they also acquired in a trade with the Rams, where Hayes took a slight pay reduction in return for voiding the final year of his contract. If Miami was to do that then they should have the Rams technically do that deal before March 14 which would allow Miami to qualify for a comp pick. If done after March 14 Quinn would not qualify as a compensatory free agent. The benefit for Quinn in this scenario is free agency and for Miami it’s the possibility to get him cheaper than his current $12.9 million salary if he has a good but not great season.
For the Rams they will now move to about $50 million in cap room for this year and close to $83 million next year. Those numbers rank about 8th and 3rd in the NFL as of today. While the Rams will use up a big portion of that money on Aaron Donald and LaMarcus Joyner as well as possibly Sammy Watkins, they have put themselves in a position to make another big move if they want or they could simply stockpile cap room for an early Jared Goff extension after next year as well as a Marcus Peters and Todd Gurley extension. Of all the teams in the NFL the Rams have to be close to being in the best position of all given the youth and talent level on the team.
On an OTC note people have asked me about these trades and why they are not reflected in the OTC cap estimates. Because trades cant be made official until the start of free agency on March 14 I am holding off on moving the players to their new destinations since things can always change before then.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.