The Miami Dolphins continued their purge of 2020 free agent signings with a trade of Ereck Flowers to Washington in exchange for a swapping of late draft picks. The trade made little sense for Washington when announced given that Flowers was set to earn $9 million in salary until ESPN’s Adam Schefter shared this little nugget:
To make his trade to Washington from Miami official, OL Ereck Flowers restructured his contract whereby the Dolphins will pay $6 million in a signing bonus and Washington will pay a $3 million base salary, giving Flowers $9M fully guaranteed this year, per @DrewJRosenhaus.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 27, 2021
With Miami picking up all but $3 million of Flowers’ salary for the year the trade makes far more sense for the Football Team than before. At $3 million Flowers will be at the salary of a backup player and likely in a competition for a guard position. Given that the team already has $18 million tied up in franchise player Brandon Scherff it made little sense to spend $27 million on the position but this is basically a no risk signing. The $3 million salary is about equal to what Washington paid Flowers when they signed him in 2019 ($3.25 million) as a free agent so the salary and trade makes complete sense from their perspective.
Miami will have $8 million in dead money for Flowers- $6 million from this years restructure and $2 million remaining from last years signing bonus. Flowers was going to count for $10 million on the cap for the Dolphins so it will be about $2 million in savings this year on the cap and $3 million in cash. This move now gives the Dolphins the extra cap room needed to sign their rookie class this summer.
It has been a very interesting offseason for the Dolphins. The team made three pretty bold signings last year- Flowers at $10 million a year, Shaq Lawson at $10 million a year, and Kyle Van Noy at $12.75 million a year- and all three are now gone with Van Noy being cut and the other two traded. All three were questionable numbers but Miami had cap space to spare and a need to attract players.
That said they frontloaded the Lawson and Van Noy deals and with the money spent to get out of the Flowers deal they blew a ton of cap room on players they ultimately did not need. All told the Dolphins spent $45.525 million for one season apiece on those three players. The players are now playing for $7 million (Van Noy), $3 million (Flowers) and $8 million (Lawson) in 2021 for other teams, about $27.5 million less than what Miami paid them for their one season. They will carry $14.79 million on the cap in dead money for those three players in 2021. That’s a terrible ROI.
On the other hand you have to really like the Dolphins approach to admitting a mistake and finding a way to move on. $6 million on Flowers is better than $9 million for a player you do not want on the team. More often than not teams chase the sunk costs on these mistake signings and wind up spending even more on the cap by hoping things improve in the second year. In the studies we ran in the OTC Free Agency Guide it is usually year one that sees the best results for most players with declining production from that point forward so Miami is ahead of the curve with their strategy. That should be encouraging for Dolphins fans.
Miami was much less aggressive in free agency this year signing only one players to a $10M+ contract and that was Will Fuller on a one year deal which means there is no frontloading or future dead money. So everyone this time around is either on a one year contract or a low dollar figure deal that won’t require any significant future cap charges if things do not work out.
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.