MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has made no secret of his desire to acquire a franchise quarterback, specifically future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning.
While Manning's new contract will be incentive-laden, there could be a secondary player who would come with Manning. For the Dolphins, this player could be a familiar face to Miami Hurricanes fans.
According to SI.com's Peter King, at least two teams have discussed not only acquiring Manning, but also acquiring free agent wide receiver Reggie Wayne. The former UM star has been Manning's favorite target in Indianapolis for years and he just happens to be a free agent this year.
The estimated salary cap for 2012 is anywhere from $120-125 million plus any salary cap space that was leftover from 2011. In the Dolphins case, they carried over $9 million from unused cap space in 2011.
Given an estimated cap of $120 million, plus the Dolphins $9 million carryover and an estimated team salary of $117 million would give the Dolphins nearly $12 million in cap space heading into the 2012 NFL calendar.
The Dolphins could do a lot to change that by restructuring some of the biggest cap hits from players like Jake Long, Brandon Marshall, and Karlos Dansby. The team could also target a few other players for restructuring by converting money into signing bonuses or through releasing some players.
That gives the Fins a little bit of room to operate in free agency, though roughly $5 million of the cap savings will be set aside for the rookie pool. That could drop the cap room to roughly $7 million in free agency; meaning some savings will have to be found to afford Manning and possibly Wayne.
It's easy to see why bringing in Manning and Wayne to Miami might work. Miami has a solid defense ready-made to win. It has a big-bodied receiver in Brandon Marshall and a good slot receiver in Davone Bess. Wayne would then take over the position currently held by Brian Hartline, a massive upgrade.
Even though Wayne will be 34-years-old in the fall, he still nearly had 1,000 receiving yards in 2011 even without any semblance of a quarterback to throw him the ball.
The ability of the Dolphins to acquire Wayne is boosted because Wayne played his college ball at the U. He's a five-time pro-bowler and works out in Miami during the offseason, along with Manning.
Recent reports have stated that both players have been in Miami during the current offseason working out. Manning is trying to regain strength in his surgically repaired neck and hoping for nerves to regenerate to his triceps muscle in his arm.
The Dolphins will face stiff competition for landing Manning and Wayne. Arizona has opened the door to acquiring Manning who would have Larry Fitzgerald to throw to, but have no offensive line to protect him.
Kansas City has also recently openly discussed acquiring Manning to put with Dwyane Bowe and Jonathan Baldwin. But Kansas City has offensive line problems as well, plus a first-year coach who is more defensive minded in Romeo Crennel.
The Fins will counter with a franchise left tackle in Jake Long, plus a solid guard in Richie Incognito, and a standout center in Mike Pouncey, along with a 1,000 yard rusher in Reggie Bush. The Fins would need to add a right tackle to protect Manning, but that would be the only offensive line hole needing to be filled.
The Fins could do that through free agency or through a high-round draft pick, possibly even a first round pick if the Dolphins wanted to draft a player like Riley Reiff of Iowa.
More and more NFL pundits are pointing to Miami as being the likely landing spot for Manning, if he can still play. No one who knows Manning is doubting that he'll be back in 2012. Coming to Miami would also give Manning a chance to give the finger to his old team because the Dolphins play at Indianapolis in 2012.
The only question left to answer is: can Manning actually throw the ball still?
If the answer is yes, then the number 18 jersey may be taken next year and Peyton Manning may be under center for the Miami Dolphins.
It would also give Stephen Ross his first shot at regaining the throne of top sport in Miami from the Heat, as Ross would have his very own superstar to promote; a point that's not lost on the owner or Fins management.
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