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NFL Miami Dolphins

5 Ways Miami Dolphins Can Add More Cap Space This Offseason

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5 Ways Dolphins Can Add More Cap Space

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Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Despite the free agency spending spree former Miami Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland went on last offseason, when he most notably signed Mike Wallace, Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler to lucrative deals, the team enters the 2014 offseason with plenty of cap space.

With $18 million of unused space from 2013 rolling over to this offseason, the Dolphins project to have about $32 million to spend this spring. They don't, however, have as much flexibility as what that figure implies. Not if they value their in-house free agents as much as most expect they do.

New GM Dennis Hickey is expected to re-sign or tag star cornerback Brent Grimes. Doing so will probably cost the Dolphins anywhere from $8-$11 million. Also on the agenda will be re-signing either Paul Soliai or Randy Starks. Soliai is the cheaper option but bringing him back will still take another significant chunk out of Miami's cap space.

The Dolphins are also expected to make a play for a starting left tackle in free agency. Former Kansas City Chiefs' blindside protector Branden Albert is rumored to be the tackle choice, and he'll likely cost anywhere from $7-$9 million per season.

Add impending free agents like free safety Chris Clemons, cornerback Nolan Carroll and tight end Dustin Keller into the mix, and it's quite clear that the Dolphins' $32 million of cap space is going to substantially dwindle when all is said and done.

But there are some potential solutions if the Dolphins would like to spend a little more. Here are five ways Miami can improve its cap situation this offseason.

Cody Strahm is a Miami Dolphins contributor for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @CodyJStrahm.

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5. Cut Brandon Gibson

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Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Slot receiver Brandon Gibson was off to an impressive start in 2013, catching 30 passes for 326 yards and three touchdowns during the first seven games. He was able to instantly click with quarterback Ryan Tannehill, which was something the more handsomely compensated Mike Wallace wasn't able to do. Then Gibson tore the patellar tendon in his left knee and was sidelined for the rest of the season.

While Gibson was out, former seventh-round pick Rishard Matthews emerged as a quality slot option. There wasn't a drastic drop off when Matthews manned the slot as opposed to Gibson. Matthews is two years younger than Gibson and he's due over $2 million less in 2014.

Gibson's contract contains $2 million of dead money, so the Dolphins won't be able to wash their hands entirely of his $3.7 million cap hit. But they could save themselves about $1.7 million by cutting Gibson, and those savings could go a long way.

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4. Cut or Restructure Dimitri Patterson's Contract

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Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports

Cornerback Dimitri Patterson may have intercepted four passes in only six games and provided lockdown coverage on the boundary opposite Brent Grimes as well as in the slot in the nickel, but he's not worth his $5.4 million cap hit (which features $0 of guaranteed money) considering his durability concerns or the fact that he's turning 31 over the summer.

Patterson was very good in limited action this past season, but because of a groin injury that just wouldn't heal properly he wasn't able to prove he can sustain a high level of play for an entire 16-game season. There's no way he'll get the kind of money he's scheduled to get in Miami on the open market either, though. Because of that, it would make a great deal of sense for both parties to restructure.

The Dolphins' rookie corners showed no signs of potentially being ready for significant roles in 2014, so Patterson's veteran presence and versatility to cover the boundary and slot would bolster Miami's secondary next season.

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3. Cut or Trade Matt Moore

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Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Should a player who might not even see the field in 2014 really possess the sixth highest cap number on the team? That's the situation in Miami as backup quarterback Matt Moore owns a $5.5 million cap hit in 2014. Head coach Joe Philbin is rumored to be very high on Moore -- so high that he's considering benching Ryan Tannehill if he doesn't see progress from the young quarterback next season -- but Hickey should see an opportunity to create more cap space.

Moore may be one of the game's most reliable backups, but if something happens to Tannehill in 2014 or he plays so poorly that starting Moore becomes a solution, the Dolphins probably aren't going to win many games anyway. Moore is a solid backup but not much more. Cutting him would save the Dolphins $4 million in 2014. Trading him would free up an additional $1.5 million, but Miami will be hard pressed to find any potential buyers.

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2. Restructure Philip Wheeler's Deal

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

It's no secret how big of a disappointment Philip Wheeler was this past season. After inking a five-year, $26 million deal that included $13 million guaranteed, Wheeler put together a dreadful 2013 campaign. Pro Football Focus ranked him as the worst 4-3 outside linebacker in the entire league, giving him horrendous run defense and coverage grades.

As arguably the team's worst starter, Wheeler will be Miami's fourth-highest paid player in 2014. He's not worth that standing by a long shot. Hickey must make it clear to Wheeler that he can either restructure his contract or risk being cut. With $10.6 million of dead money on his deal, the Dolphins would actually lose $4.2 million of cap space by cutting Wheeler. Needless to say, they might not be able to follow through with that threat -- at least not in 2014.

Wheeler will almost assuredly be cut in 2015 if he doesn't improve next season. If he agrees to take a lesser deal, though, he could strengthen his future job security.

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1. Restructure Mike Wallace's Deal

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Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Even though Mike Wallace failed to reach the 1,000-yard milestone for the second consecutive season, he would likely find it insulting if the Dolphins asked him to take a pay cut. He believes he's a "great" player, having gone on record saying as much, and feels strongly that he would have put up huge numbers this past season if Tannehill didn't misfire on so many deep balls.

Wallace is right in many regards. If Tannehill would have only connected on two or three of the deep bombs he routinely under threw, the narrative on Wallace's season and maybe the Dolphins' season as a whole would have changed. Even so, Wallace probably isn't worth $17.2 million, which is his cap number in 2014. He's just too one-dimensional to take up more cap space than the likes of Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald.

But considering Wallace is unlikely to take a pay cut, the Dolphins can attempt to disperse some of his 2014 salary in future seasons. Doing so would not only save the team money this offseason, but it would make Wallace harder to cut in 2015 and beyond. That might not be a good thing considering the Dolphins may want to cut Wallace if his production doesn't spike next season, but it would surely benefit the club in 2014.