Miami Dolphins have $31 million in cap space on eve of free agency

Miami DolphinsSportsFootballNFLBrian HartlineRandy Starks Mike Wallace

The Miami Dolphins have a little over $31 million in cap space to spend on free agents and rookies based on the NFL's financial records.

The salary cap in 2013 has been set at $123 million and the Dolphins spent plenty of the team's available space last week placing the franchise tag on defensive tackle Randy Starks, and re-signing receiver Brian Hartline and back up quarterback Matt Moore.

However, Hartline's five-year, $30.775 million deal has a friendly cap hit of $2.115 million in the first year because of his $7 million signing bonus, and his $715,000 base salary.

Moore's two-year contract, which pays him $8 million, features a $3 million signing bonus. His $1 million salary in 2013 is fully guaranteed.

Moore will cost the team $2.5 million against the cap in 2013, and the remaining $5.5 million will go on the books in 2014.

Starks' franchise tag fully guarantees the two-time Pro Bowler $8.45 million in 2013 once he signs the tender. However, Starks has not signed the tender because he'd prefer the team offer a multi-year deal. It is possible one will likely get done for Starks in the coming weeks, if not months. However, his tender immediately comes off the books whether Starks signs it or not.

All three contracts leave the Dolphins $31.69 million to sign free agents, re-sign their own players, and sign the rookie class, which will feature 10 draft picks (including one compensatory pick). The rookie class, which will also include rookie free agents, should account for at least $6 million of the Dolphins' cap space.

Keep in mind the NFL only counts each team's top 51 salaries, and not the 90 players brought to training camp. The Dolphins could also easily create more space by restructuring deals, extending contracts, or releasing players.

NFL free agency officially begins on Tuesday at 4 p.m. and only five teams - Cleveland ($48M), Cincinnati ($45M), Indianapolis ($41.7M), Jacksonville ($33.9M) and Tampa Bay ($32.6M) - presently have more cap space than Miami, which appears to be swinging for the fences this offseason.

The Dolphins are expected to offer Mike Wallace, the elite receiver in the free agent class, a five-year contract that pays him between $55-60 million. The 2013 cap hit on a deal that substantial would be in the $6 million neighborhood, which means Miami would still have plenty of cap space to make other moves.

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