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.
Houston and Miami have a deal: Texans are trading LB Benardrick McKinney to the Dolphins for LB Shaq Lawson, per league sources. The deal also will include a swap of late-round picks, but the focus is the LBs.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 14, 2021
The most interesting part of this trade comes from the Dolphins side. Lawson was one of the Dolphins big free agent signings of 2020 and is the second of those players to effectively be cut this year. The Dolphins signed Lawson to a three year, $10 million per year contract with a frontloaded salary of $13.5 million. Their other big signing who is already out is Kyle Van Noy who the team spent $15.02 million on last season as part of the first year payment of a four year contract that averaged $12.75 million a season.
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.
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.