As the NFL salary cap climbs higher and higher, NFL teams become more and more willing to carry significant dead money for specific players.
This year alone, the Steelers will have former receiver Antonio Brown on the books for $21.12 million, and former Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. will count for $16 million. Next year, if Saints quarterback Drew Brees moves on, he’ll leave behind $21.3 million under the cap.
Former Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill has joined this not-so-exclusive club. The remainder of his signing bonus and a can-kicking restructuring bonus already meant that he’d count for $13.423 million this year, if released without a post-June 1 designation. The curious decision of the Dolphins to pay $5 million of his salary in order to get a seventh-round pick and a future fourth-round pick for Tannehill and a sixth-round pick increases the cap charge to a whopping $18.423 million.
Of course, keeping Tannehill would have cost $26.611 million under the cap, and $18.725 million in cash. So the Dolphins created $8.188 million in cap space, spent $5 million to do it, and picked up a fourth-round pick next year while flip-flopping 2019 sixth- and seventh-round picks with the Titans.
While some are skewing reality to heap false praise on the Dolphins for doing something good, the bottom line is that the Dolphins were trying to make chicken salad. To do so, they crafted a convoluted recipe that had them essentially buying not quite a fourth-round pick in 2020 for $5 million, and pushing the dead cap money that will apply to Tannehill to nearly 10 percent of the entire 2019 salary cap.