Ndamukong Suh's grabbing of quarterback Ryan Mallett's throat Thursday night was just the latest in a string of incidents that will hasten his departure from the team that made him the highest-paid defensive player in the game just two years ago, according to a source close to owner Stephen Ross. The Dolphins are preparing to move on from the defensive tackle in 2018, the source said, and are prepared to absorb a hefty -- but hardly impossible -- 2019 dead cap hit to do so.
Suh's leadership and on-field behavior have long been in question, with him running afoul of the league office throughout his career, and, now at age 30, Miami's defense has hardly been elite since his arrival as one of the splashiest free-agent signings in NFL history. Suh's compensation is comparable to higher-end starting quarterbacks. He is set to count a staggering $26M against the cap in 2018, and $17M in cash. Though the Dolphins re-worked Suh's deal for cap purposes, at its core it was structured as a three-year deal and that is indeed the mindset of ownership now, with Suh's presence not transforming Miami's defense. The Dolphins finished 28th against the run in 2015, his first year there and 30th last year. While the Dolphins rank in the top 10 against the run this season, they are right at the league average in offensive points allowed. Suh's contract moving forward is prohibitive, and Ross is ready to move on.
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. The Dolphins would save $17M in cash and $17M in cap space by designating him a post-June 1 cut in 2018, and while that would trigger a $13M dead-cap hit in 2019, the source said that would not preclude Miami from moving on. Trading Suh after June 1 would also create the same savings, but that would also require carrying his salary well into the spring, which limits cap capability on free agent spending next March when the market opens.
Suh remains a quality defensive tackle, though one whose sack totals have declined since signing a monster deal with the Dolphins after spending his first five seasons with the Lions, but at this price-point it was always going to be a question as to when it became a prospect of diminishing returns. The Dolphins have numerous roster deficiencies they need to continue to address, and continuing to pour so many resources into the defensive tackle position is something they do not plan to continue to do.
Suh is signed through 2020, but the full guarantees in his contract have been paid out. If he is still on Miami's roster on the fifth day of the 2018 league year, then $8.5M of next year's salary becomes guaranteed, which all but ensures Miami will move on from him by then. Suh will make $60M in his first three years with the Dolphins.