Dolphins and Texans Swap Linebackers

Miami and Houston have agreed to a trade which will see the Dolphins send edge rusher Shaq Lawson to Houston and in return Houston will send linebacker Benardrick McKinney the Dolphins way.

Both contracts were structured with smaller signing bonuses so that the cap pain in a trade would not be terrible. Lawson will count for just $2.67 million while Van Noy will cost the team $4.13 million on the cap. Still in both cases the team spent millions of dollars for just one year of access to the players. Lawson will cost the Texans a guaranteed $8 million this season and $9 million next year, so well under the stated contract value. Lawson also has incentives tied to sacks.

McKinney is a former 2nd round pick of the Texans who signed a $10 million per year contract extension in 2018. He spent most of the year last year on injured reserve and was possibly going to be cut this offseason as the Texans start to remake the roster. McKinney has no more guarantees in his contract and will cost the Texans just $1.5 million on the cap following the trade. Miami will take on $7.75 million in salary this year, $9.5 million in 2022, and $10.25 million in 2023.

For Houston this is a good trade. The salary is essentially a wash (they will lose a small amount of cap room this year) but are getting a player who may play a more impactful role on the defense. Lawson is also younger. For Miami I think it is a little more questionable. Salary cap wise its similar to Houston- the salaries are a wash and they lose a little cap space- but trading younger for a little bit older especially off injury is always risky. I’d guess part of the thought process may be that a potential Pro Bowl linebacker is better than a 2nd tier edge. It is also possible Miami could try to rework the contract to a lower salary.

One thing I will say is that Miami clearly is not chasing the sunk costs in these players which is, over the long term, a good thing. The next step for them is to probably take a bit more of a deliberate approach in the cash structure of the deals because under no circumstance would anyone have paid Lawson or Van Noy the amount of money that the Dolphins did for a one year return. One of the interesting takeaways from our Free Agent guide was the short term success of changing the defensive mix and maybe that is what they are going for here as well.

Miami is about $32 million under the salary cap at this point and could be in a position to be active in free agency again. The team has about the 20th ranked payroll in the NFL but with a big draft group does have more committed than most other teams to draft picks who would not be accounted for in that number. I think they could be an interesting team to watch this week to see if they are in or out of the mix early on.

OTC 2021 Free Agency Guide

  • Welcome to our very first OTC Football Free Agency Guide, a 240 page PDF that not only offers a preview of some of the top free agents in 2021 but an in-depth review of how teams have successfully (and not so successfully) utilized free agency in the past. The book hits on many of the topics that we discuss on OTC or social media outlets when we get into opinions on free agency as well as a unique retroactive look at free agency that is an area not really focused on in the past.

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    Free Agent Outcomes From 2015 to 2019

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    Individual Positional Outcomes From 2014 to 2020

    We go back and look at every UFA who switched teams from 2014 to 2020 to identify contract expectations based on the size and length of a contract. Contracts are grouped in different ways to determine the expected years to be completed on a contract and ultimate contract outcome. We grouped every position into different salary tiers and compared the average various statistical performances in the two years leading up to free agency with how those groups performed in the year they switched teams and, where applicable, in future years.

    Free Agent Projections for 2021

    Finally, we have profiles of 77 unrestricted free agents that include thoughts on each player, their OTC valuation metric performance over the last two years, a list of five potential comparable players and how they compare statistically with the free agent and the key metrics of those contract to help frame the market of the player. Finally, we arrive at a projection that includes years, average annual value, and guarantee.

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Questions about this article? Reach Jason Fitzgerald on Twitter at @Jason_OTC