That means General Manager Jeff Ireland, Joe Philbin and his staff must agree on 14 cuts by Monday, and at least 22 by Friday. The staff will likely make those decisions during their Saturday postgame meeting.
Teams have to be careful with waiver wire claims because if you put in too many, and get all your players they’ll be forced to release someone Miami initially wanted to keep, or place someone on injured reserve prematurely.
That has happened twice during Ireland’s tenure, and it cost the Dolphins tight end David Martin in 2009, and cornerback Will Allen in 2010. And the team got absolutely nothing out of placing both players on injured reserve prematurely. Claim, and then get allocated too many players and the Dolphins could find themselves between a rock and a hard place with Brian Hartline and his calf injury. So you can't get too greedy about poaching players.
Last year's best find was tight end turned offensive tackle Will Yeatman, so that's the caliber of players we're talking about.
Here is the Sun-Sentinel’s projection of the 53-man roster BEFORE the final two games are played.
And here is a breakdown of the 30 players in the Dolphins danger zone:
SKILL POSITIONS: RB Jerome Messam, WR Clyde Gates, WR B.J. Cunningham, WR Rishard Matthews, WR Chris Hogan, TE Les Brown, TE Jeron Mastrud
I wouldn’t be surprised if every receiver survived Monday’s cuts. That group is too cluttered to make a call on it before the final two games. I still haven’t got a good feel for Messam, and what this former CFL standout brings to the table. I'd hope the team uses game four to give us a look.
OFFENSIVE LINE: OT Will Yeatman, OG John Jerry, OT Will Barker, C Ryan Cook, OG Chandler Burden, OG Ray Feinga, OT Nate Garner
Jerry’s draft status, and role as a starter this week, should help him survive till Friday, if not longer. He survived last year's cuts because of his draft status, but the clock is ticking on the underachiever. Garner and Cook’s salaries, which are at least twice what a first or second-year player will make, are weighing them down. But Garner’s versatility puts him in a good spot to make the 53 right now because he can work as a tackle, guard or center. The emergence of Josh Samuda makes Cook expendable unless he can play guard, and they haven't even tried him there this year.
DEFENSIVE LINE: DE Jarrell Root, DE Jacquies Smith, DT Chas Alecxih, DT Ryan Baker
You can’t help but love Baker, who is a try hard, do whatever you need guy. But that’s gotten him three seasons on the Dolphins roster. Root, Smith and Alecxih are all practice squad options, so they might last till Friday.
LINEBACKER: LB Cameron Collins, LB Shelly Lyons, LB Jonathan Freeny, LB Josh Linam
Freeny has done the most of everyone in this unit, but the Dolphins realize they need to do better at this position and plenty of linebackers will get cut next week.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: S Tyrell Johnson, CB Marcus Brown, CB Quinten Lawrence, S Tyrone Culver, S Kelcie McCray (injury settlement needed because of his broken foot), CB Kevyn Scott, CB Vincent Agnew and CB Trenton Hughes.
Johnson, a veteran NFL starter, has played pretty well in games, but he hasn’t spent one day with the second-team defense in practice. That’s telling. Culver is the most established member of the group. He’s reliable and steady, but his release could be forced by the poaching of someone younger the Dolphins want to invest in.