The Miami Dolphins will release Ndamukong Suh in the next few hours as the franchise begins a rebuild following a disappointing 6-10 season. The move will clear $17 million in cap space by cutting the veteran defensive tackle.
It follows the trade of top receiver Jarvis Landry to Cleveland which will take place on Wednesday, the first day of the NFL’s league year. Landry’s trade for a fourth-round pick in 2018 and a seventh-round pick in 2019, means the Dolphins will lose two of the team’s most consistent performers over the past three seasons. Both are Pro Bowl talents.
Dolphins’ fans were given a stark warning that change was coming when they traded away running back Jay Ajayi in mid-season, five days after an embarrassing 40-0 loss in Baltimore. In return, the Dolphins received a fourth-round draft pick from the Philadelphia Eagles, who went on to win the Super Bowl.
Suh, 31, signed a massive six-year, $114.4m contract before the 2015 season and is due to cost $26.1m against the cap in 2018, a huge number given the pass-rushing defensive tackle has failed to live up to expectations since arriving in Miami.
The six-time All-Pro selection accumulated 36 sacks during his five seasons with the Detroit Lions, three times going over eight sacks in a season. But Suh has just 15.5 sacks in three years with the Dolphins, never eclipsing six.
Linebacker Lawrence Timmons is also set to be cut as the Dolphins make significant changes before free agency begins in earnest and if the franchise moves or releases right tackle Ja’Wuan James, who needs to be traded or released before his fifth-year option for £9.34 million becomes fully guaranteed on Wednesday, they will have $35.4 million to rebuild the team.
Suh, Landy and Ajayi all had their issues while with the Dolphins.
Suh, whose signing pre-dates the arrival of head coach Adam Gase, has been seen as aloof by many teammates, and the concept of building a defense around him in free agency was always ripe with potential pitfalls. Grabbing the throat of Baltimore QB Ryan Mallett was one of a string of incidents that hastened his departure from the team that made him the highest-paid defensive player in the game two years ago. While Suh remains a quality defensive tackle, his leadership and on-field behaviour have long been in question, with him running afoul of the league office throughout his career.
Landry, 25, was by far and away the most talented player on an anaemic offense. He had more catches in the first four seasons of a career than any player in NFL history at 400, and no-one else has even topped 350. He racked up 4,038 yards and 22 touchdowns, including a career-high of nine last year. The Dolphins’ offense only had 28 in total and his production is more astonishing given he has done it with at-best average quarterbacks in Ryan Tannehill, Jay Cutler and Matt Moore. Landry plays slot receiver as well as anyone in the game and is also a deep threat and caught a league-high 18 passes in the red zone.
Ajayi, Suh and Landry were the biggest names on the Dolphins’ roster, outside of Tannehill and the trio were reported to have character issues. Suh’s are well documented. Ajayi was left behind in Miami for the team’s Week 1 trip to Seattle in 2016, amid rumours of a bad attitude and friction between himself and Gase, while Landry was ejected from the season finale against Buffalo, the main instigator of a mass brawl, with the head coach saying the incident “was about as embarrassing as I’ve seen in a long time” and added, “we need way better control from our best players in the heat of the moment”.
Though he had 112 catches last season, Landry had just 987 yards, which works out to an unusually low 8.8 yards per grab. While that was down largely to an ineffective Cutler at quarterback, it seems as though Gase is ready to move on with more disciplined players – and is sacrificing talent in the process.