The Miami Dolphins began their roster purge today with the release of three veteran players, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL.com. The players released are left tackle Branden Albert, defensive end Mario Williams, and defensive tackle Earl Mitchell. The moves will give the Dolphins substantial salary cap relief and put them in a position to be big spenders in free agency.
I was a bit surprised to see Albert released. While Albert was no longer cost effective for the team I thought their needs on the offensive line would have had him stay an additional year even if to play guard or right tackle. His release also will add to a growing list of declining veteran tackles that are going to be available in free agency. This is a position of need around the NFL with the college ranks no longer producing quality starters, but how much those teams are willing to pay for these older players will be interesting. Albert was signed to a $9 million a year contract back in 2014 after the Dolphins failed to negotiate a trade agreement for him in 2013. His health has always been a concern and he is not someone to rely on for 16 games, which may have sealed his fate. The Dolphins will save $7.2M in cap and $9 million in cash with his release.
Williams was the highest ranked potential cut in our look at defensive ends and his release is one of the least surprising in the NFL. Williams was cut by the Bills last year and the Dolphins made a very strong $8.5 million a year two year offer. I think most people saw the writing on the wall at the time of the signing that this would not work out well, but Miami bought the big name and he produced all of 1.5 sacks. His release frees up $8.5 million in cash and cap.
Where Williams goes next is a question mark. Outside of Miami it seemed most of the interest he received was from teams looking to sign him to a performance based contract rather than the kind of contract he signed, which was in line with others like DeMarcus Ware who came into free agency off disappointing years. But two years in a row of lackluster play is not going to excite anyone and if the money is not there I wonder if he will consider retirement.
Mitchell was ranked fourth in our look at potential cuts at defensive tackle so this was also an expected move. Mitchell needed a big season to stick with the team and did not have it. Mitchell signed with the Dolphins as an unrestricted free agent in 2014, but never really stood out in his tenure. He missed 11 games in the last two seasons and in three years produced a total of just 47 tackles and two sacks. The team will save $4 million with his release.
We’ll process the releases when they are made official with the league but the cuts should bring the Dolphins to about $48 million in estimated cap space for 2017. They still have the ability to create a few more dollars as well. There are few executives in the league who like to make a splash more than Mike Tannenbaum and he is well situated to make some big moves this year in free agency. Carrying through on these cuts probably is good news for a number of free agents who will be able to open discussions with the Dolphins front office in March.