A six-pack of Dolphins notes on a Tuesday:
▪ Terron Armstead’s continued injuries and availability issues are unfortunate for all parties — the Dolphins, because of how much they need his elite play at left tackle, and Armstead, because he’s a classy pro who does everything that can reasonably be expected to try to keep himself upright.
So the latest setback — he’s now sidelined indefinitely with a knee injury, though not out for the season — is disappointing.
But surprising? Hardly.
The Dolphins knew what they were getting, in March 2022, when they gave him five years and $75 million, including $43.4 million guaranteed.
Armstead has famously never played a full season, appearing in this number of games per season: 6, 14, 13, 7, 10, 10, 15, 14, 8, then 13 in his first year with the Dolphins.
And now, after missing the first two games with three injuries, his body lasted only 1 ½ games before betraying him again, this time with a knee injury that will keep him sidelined at least several weeks.
So because of his durability issues, is there any way the Dolphins could realistically move on after the season and help their precarious salary cap situation? Not in a way that seems to make financial sense.
Armstead — who will be 33 next July — is set to make $13.25 million in base salary next season, and $5 million of that salary is guaranteed. Even with Armstead set to miss considerable time this season, it’s difficult seeing the Dolphins paying a very good player more than one-third of his salary to not be on the team.
What’s more, his 2024 cap hit would rise from $20.6 million to $24.1 million if he’s cut before June 1, 2024, and would drop only from $20.6 million to $11.3 million if he’s cut after June 1. Even if he plays only a few games this season, $11.3 million is too big a dead money cap hit to stomach to tell a player of that quality to go away.
Even moving on from Armstead in another 17 months would be challenging from a cap perspective.
Though none of his $13.3 million salary is guaranteed in 2025, his $20.7 million 2025 cap hit wouldn’t come close to being erased if he’s cut after the 2024 season.
He would still have a dead money hit of $12.7 million for 2025 if he’s cut before June 1, 2025 or $6.3 million if he’s cut after June 1, 2025.
His $12.3 million salary in 2026 is not guaranteed, but cutting him after 2025 (meaning nearly three more seasons of keeping him on the roster and praying for his health) would result in a $6.3 million dead money cap hit. If he’s on the team in 2026, his cap number would be $20.7 million barring a restructure.
So the Dolphins are going to have cap headaches with Armstead, well into the future, if he cannot stay healthy.
They could approach him about a restructure and pay cut, but it’s one thing to ask Cedrick Wilson Jr. to take a pay cut and another thing to ask that of a player with the pedigree of Armstead.
Under any circumstances, some kind of contract adjustment seems necessary, because of the durability problems and because the Dolphins are already $22.7 million over the 2024 cap, per overthecap.com.
For now, the Dolphins must hope that Kendall Lamm thrives at left tackle and then agrees to return next season on a team-friendly deal (provided he plays well the rest of this season).
Also, don’t be surprised if the Dolphins look for a left tackle early in next year’s draft.
▪ How were the Bills able to slow Miami’s offense? It was pretty simple: 1). Playing two safeties deep limited the Dolphins’ deep passing game.
2). Buffalo generated far more pressure on four-man rushes than the Dolphins’ first three opponents did.
3). The Bills’ front seven played very well.
4) The running game did not gash Buffalo early on as it did in their December meeting, and Mike McDaniel admitted he should have run more.
Not having center Connor Williams — considered a top-five run blocking center — was very hurtful.
Buffalo linebackers “Matt Milano and [Terrel] Bernard on the inside, I thought being undersized would work against them,” said ESPN’s Ryan Clark, who had predicted that the Dolphins would torch Buffalo on the ground.
“But you saw the pursuit, aggression, the violence at the point of attack. And when the Bills had a big lead, some of those condensed [Dolphins] formations that go from run to play action don’t really matter because you are not biting up on that run.”
McDaniel explained it this way: “When you get into situations where you’re behind and guys can kind of predict pass, they can play softer coverage that takes the ball away from you outside the numbers with a corner and a safety and then inside the numbers with sinking ‘backers and such.
“That’s not something that we hadn’t seen. It’s just tough when you get into that situation and you’re behind several scores to really dictate the terms the way that we like. I think the Bills did a great job adhering to their gameplan, and they didn’t take anybody away with one or two individuals.”
ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky also mentioned this: The Bills did “a great job of not overreacting to the motion — and not [paying attention] to Tua Tagovailoa’s eyes. It was a master class by [Bills coach] Sean McDermott.”
And there’s this: Tagovailoa was 1 for 6, for 19 yards, and four sacks when pressured.
“Part of the hits are on the play-caller who is calling more passes than runs,” McDaniel said. “I think probably in hindsight I abandoned the run game to a degree too soon and put them into situations that they didn’t need to be in. But overall, it was — I guess that’s a blessing in disguise that Tua did go through a game where he did get a little more contact and he was able to come out of it strong and ready to get ready for the Giants.”
▪ The Giants should be the perfect panacea for a Dolphins defense that now ranks 26th in yards allowed per game (374.5), 23rd in passing defense (251 yards per game by the opponent), 22nd in rushing defense (123.5) and 28th in points permitted per game (29.8).
Giants quarterback Daniel Jones was sacked 11 times in Monday’s loss to Seattle, and Jones for the season has two touchdowns, six interceptions and a dismal 69.7 passer rating.
Star running back Saquon Barkley’s status for Sunday’s game in Miami (1 p.m., Fox) is uncertain after missing two games with an injury.
▪ The most fascinating offensive decision in the coming weeks is what percent of the carries the Dolphins will give to dynamic rookie De’Von Achane, whose 11.4 rushing average on 27 carries is easily the best in the league for players with at least 25 carries.
The Jets’ Breece Hall (32 carries) is next at 6.6 per carry.
Raheem Mostert had 20 carries, Achane 26 during the past two games.
At this point, barring injuries or a serious regression for Achane, it’s difficult to find a way for a significant workload for Jeff Wilson Jr. (who’s eligible to come off injured reserve this week) or Salvon Ahmed.
Mostert ran 13 times for 82 yards against Denver but seven times for 9 yards against Buffalo. His two fumbles against Buffalo were very rare; he entered with just seven fumbles in 507 career carries.
Achane is the fourth player in NFL history to score six touchdowns in his first three games; the others are Kareem Hunt (2017), Billy Sims (1980) and Dutch Sternaman (1920). He’s also the 21st player, since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, to have two 100 yard rushing games in his first three NFL games.
▪ With Erik Ezukanma and Rivercraft Cracraft on injured reserve and out indefinitely - and Robbie Chosen signed to the 53 man roster on Saturday - the Dolphins re-signed former Seattle receiver Freddie Swain to their practice squad, per a source.
The practice squad receivers are now Swain, Braylon Sanders and Raleigh Webb, barring further transactions.
Cracraft (shoulder) seems optimistic about returning this season, based on a recent social media comment. The situation is more nebulous with Ezukanma, who is dealing with a neck injury sustained years ago at Texas Tech. Both must remain on injured reserve for at least three more weeks.
▪ Quick stuff: Miami’s 2044 yards on offense are the most by any team through four games since the AFL/NFL merger in 1970…
ESPN’s analytics department released these new odds for winning the AFC: Bills 40 percent; Dolphins 20 percent; Chiefs 19 percent; Ravens 14 percent..
Against the Dolphins on Sunday, Josh Allen became the second player in the Super Bowl era (post 1966) with four touchdown passes, one rushing touchdown and a perfect passer rating. Aaron Rodgers also did that once.