On the day after news broke that the Miami Dolphins were moving on from linebacker Kyle Van Noy, the focus shifts to whether the team will be able to trade him and get at least something in return for him or they simply will have to release him.
While Van Noy likely will generate a lot of interest around the league, it's certainly questionable any team will be willing to throw the Dolphins a draft pick because that would mean inheriting his contract.
From a Dolphins standpoint, letting go of a prominent player early into a multi-year contract isn't anything new.
The two most glaring examples involve Mike Wallace and Eric Green.
Wallace was signed to a five-year contract in the spring of 2013, but his stay in Miami ended after two seasons when he was traded to the Minnesota Vikings for a swap of late-round picks (Dolphins got a fifth for a seventh).
Green was the massive tight end the Dolphins signed as a free agent in 1995 in Don Shula's final year as head coach. Green joined the Dolphins on a six-year, $12 million contract that made him the highest-paid tight end in NFL history at the time.
But Green was less than overwhelming for Miami (his receptions, yards and touchdowns all were down from his previous two years with Pittsburgh) and Jimmy Johnson just flat-out release Green the next year after taking over as Dolphins head coach.
In the case of Van Noy, his performance — as we mentioned in the original story regarding his pending departure — was solid. It actually was pretty much in line with what he had done in New England, down to the snap count (811 last year compared to 814 in 2019).
The two numbers where he made a jump were in passes defensed (career-high six) and tackles for loss (career-high 10).
But, to borrow the expression, Van Noy was who the Dolphins thought he was.
So why the big change of direction after just one year?
Is it possible the Dolphins expected Van Noy to take his game up a notch on a defense not quite as loaded at linebacker as that of the Patriots in 2019?
Did the Dolphins plan all along to revisit his contract after one year with the idea of possibly moving along?
Maybe the most surprising aspect of the move is that Van Noy was seen as clearly a "Flores guy," somebody who would provide leadership and fill a variety of roles and would be around for a while.
In any case, the Dolphins ended up getting one year out of Van Noy for about $15 million.
And Van Noy did play a role in the success of the Dolphins defense in 2020, though where he'd rank among the most impactful players on that unit would make for a good debate.
From this vantage point, Van Noy's performance in 2020 would have to go behind those of Xavien Howard (obviously), Byron Jones (much better than his metrics), Eric Rowe (see Jones), Jerome Baker, Emmanuel Ogbah and probably Andrew Van Ginkel, who made about as many splash plays as Van Noy in a little more than half the snaps.
So that puts Van Noy in the middle of the pack.
Again, he was a valuable member of the defense, but not an indispensable component and finances won out — as they often do in the NFL.
On a last note, we move to who could be next in becoming a Dolphins cap casualty.
The two names that jump out are those of the aforementioned Eric Rowe and fellow safety Bobby McCain.
Since there was a fake report Wednesday morning by a Twitter troll with nothing better to do than to be an idiot suggesting that Jakeem Grant was going to be released, let us say that it's definitely a possibility.
The thing with Grant, though, is he's got great value as a returner, even though he's never really panned out as a wide receiver and his only real value on offense seems to be running jet sweeps or end-arounds.
Cutting Grant would save the Dolphins $2.9 million in cap space (or $4.1 million with a post-June 1 designation) so the savings isn't really that significant. That said, there are likely to be major changes to the wide receiver corps in 2021.
Moving on from McCain would save $5.7 million against the cap, and the cap savings on Rowe would be $5 million. Albert Wilson, who opted out of the 2020 season, will be playing in 2021 on his tolled contract and he's been mentioned as another potential cap casualty because of the potential $2.85 million cap savings.
Safety Clayton Fejedelem also would seem to be in danger given there will be no dead money if he's cut and the Dolphins would save almost $2.5 million against the cap (all salary cap figures in this story are from overthecap.com).
If you're looking at some big names based on dead money versus cap savings, Ogbah jumps out with ZERO dead money and a $7.5 million cap savings. But that just doesn't make a whole lot of sense considering he led the team with nine sacks in 2020. On the contrary, he's more likely to get a contract extension than to get cut.
There's also DeVante Parker as a potential post-June 1 cut (cap savings don't apply until then). With that designation, the Dolphins would save $9.4 million in cap space against $2.7 million in dead money (dead money is $8.1 million and savings is $4 million pre-June 1). While we're not necessarily predicting a Parker release, the time may arrive when the Dolphins decide his cap number is too high given the continuing injury issues he's experienced.
Of course, the Dolphins always could restructure some contracts, but keep in mind that way of doing business just pushes financial commitments into the future.