T.J. McDonald won't be the last Dolphins veteran shown the door by cut-down day

CraigDavis

DAVIE – There is nothing shocking in T.J. McDonald’s release by the Dolphins. It’s the way of the NFL that veteran players become expendable before their shelf life expires.

He likely won’t be the last familiar name to be discarded this week by the Dolphins.

There is considerable speculation regarding players such as Kiko Alonso, Kenny Stills, Reshad Jones and John Denney with the cutdown of rosters to 53 players looming Saturday at 4 p.m.

I wouldn’t be surprised if any or all of them are gone before the opener.

While other teams will be cutting veteran players, a key consideration for the Dolphins is determining which players will be able to help them when they are ready to compete for the playoffs.

That’s why veteran linebacker Alonso is at the top of the list of established players likely to join the exodus out of Miami that began this past offseason.

Jones, a two-time Pro Bowl safety and Miami’s highest-paid player ($13 million base salary) is 31 and has missed most of training camp with a foot injury following offseason shoulder surgery.

Denney, in his 15th season as long snapper, is 40 and has rookie Wesley Farnsworth nipping at his heels.

Stills, the team’s most productive receiver over the past three seasons, is a bit of a different case after criticizing owner Steve Ross regarding hosting a fund raiser for Donald Trump.

Dolphins coach Brian Flores on Monday revealed little about the move to part with McDonald, a starter the past two seasons.

Bobby McCain has taken over as the starter at free safety. But McDonald still had a role as a hybrid linebacker-safety in Flores’ defense, though he has been dealing with an undisclosed injury.

Naturally, there is savings in salary cap and real money, which is a factor to varying degrees whenever teams part with players who still have value.

“Putting a roster together, there’s many variables, salary cap being one of them,” Flores said. “That’s just one part of the equation that goes into making these decisions.

“We’re going to do what we feel is best for the team from a salary cap standpoint , from a performance standpoint on the field, from an overall team standpoint.”

As for what tilted the equation against McDonald, Flores said, “I think he’s a guy who has a good skill set, one that has been productive in this league. But there’s a lot that goes into putting a team together.

“I think with T.J., at the end of the day it just wasn’t the right fit and we as an organization decided to move on.”

Who will follow him out the door?

Asked if there is a place on a team looking to the future for players with six or more years of experience, Flores said, “Good players and productive players and guys that we feel fit what we’re trying to do offensively, defensively and the kicking game, we’re going to try to keep them around.”

Keep that response in mind as cut-down day approaches and see if upcoming moves match those words.

The Stills situation will be most interesting to watch, given the off-field issues. Flores revealed after Thursday’s game that he played a string of Jay-Z songs at practice as a challenge to get Stills to focus more on the field.

“I think he’s responded well,” Flores said. “I think he’s practiced well. I think he’s a guy who’s got mental toughness and he works hard and the game’s important to him. I think he’s responded well.”

Alonso and Jones have returned to practice after injury absences and Flores says he’s glad to have them. If remains to be seen if he and the front office decide to keep them – and other veteran mainstays – around.

Craig Davis has covered South Florida sports and teams, including the Dolphins, for four decades. Follow him on Twitter @CraigDavisRuns

(Video: Dolphins coach Brian Flores discusses T.J. McDonald and his view on how veteran players fit into the rebuilding plan.)

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