Miami Dolphins Free Agency: A Closer Look at Chris Grier’s 2-Year Plan

The Miami Dolphins are the new Rams. The Dolphins are the NFL's No. 1 win-now team, with GM Chris Grier sacrificing tomorrow for today in free agency.

The Miami Dolphins have been among the NFL’s savvier players in the early stage of free agency. After trading next to nothing to acquire Jalen Ramsey, they locked down both linebacker David Long and running back Raheem Mostert on team-friendly deals.

“Happy to announce that my client Raheem Mostert has agreed on a 2-yr deal to return to the Miami Dolphins,” Mostert’s agent, Brett Tessler, announced on Twitter Tuesday. “Led the team in rushing last season and had over 1,000 yards of total offense.”

Put it all together, and the immediate future is bright in South Florida. GM Chris Grier has finally built a super team, compiling some of the biggest, most intriguing names in pro football.

But we’d caution against buying too many new jerseys, Dolphins fans. This star-studded core probably has a two-year window together.

Miami Dolphins Free Agency Observations

Mostert returns to Miami on a two-year deal worth upwards of $7.6 million. He was Miami’s second savvy signing in as many days, following the two-year, $11 million contract they successfully offered Long.

Those two signings, plus Ramsey’s contract restructure that dropped the All-Pro’s cap figure in 2023 from $17 million to $4 million, allowed the Dolphins to be active in free agency despite limited resources.

They were actually over the cap last week before restructuring the big-money deals signed by Bradley Chubb, Terron Armstead, and Tyreek Hill in 2022.

MORE: Remaining 2023 NFL Free Agents by Position

But all of that credit card borrowing will come due at some point — and that point will probably be in 2025.

HC Mike McDaniel has two years to win a championship with this collection of talented players before finances, age, and expiring contracts will force significant changes.

The Miami Dolphins’ 2-Year Window

Even after Tuesday’s Mostert contract agreement, the Dolphins still have more than $15 million in 2023 cap space and will have another $13.6 million free up post-June 1 with Byron Jones’ release.

So let’s, for the sake of argument, say they have $30 million in operating capital left this year. They’ll need around $10 million simply to sign their draft picks and add enough replacement-level players to get to a 53-man roster.

That will leave Grier somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 million in emergency funds. He’d be wise to roll those over into 2024. Spotrac currently estimates the Dolphins are $48 million over the cap next year, but that does not account for rollover money, and that figure still has Jones on their books.

Plus, it appears that sum assumes they pick up the fifth-year options of Austin Jackson and Noah Igbinoghene — which almost certainly will not happen. So, in reality, the Dolphins are close to even cap-wise in 2024.

They do have mechanisms to free up substantially more space, however. They could again restructure their big-money deals (Hill alone currently has a $31 million cap charge in 2024), but that would really make for a dicey future.

More likely, cap savings will come from making tough roster decisions with starters such as Emmanuel Ogbah and Jerome Baker.

“When we make moves, and we do trades like we did with Chubb midseason, it’s always with an eye of what things are going to look like and what we have to do,” Grier said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “We’ll be fine. It’s always working from that position-flexibility that we like, and we’ll continue to do that, which provides us opportunities to continue to make moves.”

Grier is right that the Dolphins will be fine in the short term. But things get really problematic when you project ahead to 2025.

The Dolphins currently have $161 million in cap liabilities in 2025 despite having just 10 players — and no quarterbacks — under contract.

In other words, that’s the likeliest off-ramp for the Dolphins with this current iteration of players, a big-budget group that includes Tua Tagovailoa, who is under contract through 2024 after the Dolphins elected to execute his fifth-year option.

Tua has two years to get it done with arguably the most talented team in the NFL. If he does, the Dolphins will likely reward him with a long-term contract.

If not, it will be a complete reboot in Miami once again.

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