Dolphins will release defensive leader Suh

Ndamukong Suh (Sun-Sentinel)

The Miami Dolphins are planning to release Ndamukong Suh this week, according to a league source. The move will clear $17 million in cap space by cutting the veteran defensive tackle who has been named to five Pro Bowls.

Suh, who had 48 tackles, 4.5 sacks and two forced fumbles last season while playing on an injured knee for the final two months of the season, will have earned $60 million in the three years he’s played for the Dolphins.

His release would give the Dolphins $14 million in cap space once the franchise finalizes a trade for former Los Angeles Rams defensive end Robert Quinn, and sends receiver Jarvis Landry to Cleveland on Wednesday, which is the first day of the NFL’s league year. Last week, the Dolphins were $19 million over the cap.

Suh’s departure also means the Dolphins are handing over the interior of the defensive line to three young defense tackles – Jordan Phillips, Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor – unless they sign a veteran or two when free agency begins Wednesday at 4 p.m.

Teams can have conversations, and make offers to free agents Monday at 4 p.m., but no deals can become official until Wednesday at 4 p.m. Suh is expected to be released on Wednesday at 4 p.m. and designated a post-June 1 release, which will allow the Dolphins to immediately free up money for the start of free agency that they otherwise would have had to save for rookie and in-season moves.

Despite adding Suh as the top free agent the franchise has signed in a decade, the Dolphins’ defensive line struggled the past three seasons, especially when it came to stopping the run.

The Dolphins allowed 2,019 rushing yards and 13 rushing touchdowns in 2015, Suh’s first season. Miami allowed 2,247 rushing yards and 12 rushing touchdowns in 2016, and last season Miami allowed 1,768 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns.

That was good enough for the Dolphins to finish 14th in rushing yards allowed per game (110.5), and 17th in rushing yards allowed per attempt (4.1).

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Suh, who turned 31 in January, will likely become one of the top free agents available this spring, and because he’s being released, the former Nebraska star will be able to sign with a team before Wednesday.

Suh’s release, and the expected departure of Landry, who was traded to the Browns for a fourth-round pick in 2018 and a seventh-round pick in 2019, means the Dolphins are losing two of the team’s most consistent performers over the past three seasons. They have combined to appear in four Pro Bowls.

Add in the expected release of linebacker Lawrence Timmons and tight end Julius Thomas, which will clear nearly $12,075,000 in cap space, and the Dolphins will have $26 million to play with in free agency this week.

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 franchise’s talent base with. That kind of cap space could make the Dolphins, which produced a disappointing 6-10 record last season, major players in free agency this week.

However, this free-agent class is relatively week compared to past years, with quarterback being the one exception. And that’s not a good thing considering the Dolphins will likely need to sign or draft a starting caliber defensive tackle (to replace Suh), tight end (to replace Thomas), receiver (to replace Landry), linebacker (to replace Timmons), offensive lineman (to replace James), tailback (to compliment Kenyan Drake), and add or re-sign kicker Cody Parkey.

The Dolphins also need a backup for Ryan Tannehill at quarterback considering Matt Moore likely won’t be re-signed.

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