Pouncey was the Dolphins’ first round pick in 2011, 15th overall, and he made 46 starts at center from 2011-2013, grading out 22nd, 12th, and 14th in those 3 seasons respectively. However, Pouncey missed the first 4 games of last season with a hip injury and, upon his return, they opted to leave Satele at center and move Pouncey to right guard, a move that didn’t work out at all. Not only did Satele finish the season as Pro Football Focus’ 31st ranked center out of 41 eligible, Pouncey himself struggled mightily out of position at right guard, grading out 69th out of 78 eligible at his new position.
Pouncey could easily bounce back in 2015, as he’ll be healthier and back at his natural position, and the Dolphins are certainly betting on that happening, but the Dolphins are betting a ton of money, giving him a 5-year, 52.15 million dollar deal with at least 22 million guaranteed over the first 2 seasons. This makes him the richest center in the NFL by a long-shot. The 10.43 million dollar annual average will surpass Rodney Hudson’s (8.9 million), Maurkice Pouncey’s (8.827 million), and Alex Mack’s (8.4 million), three deals that all set new records for average salary by a center when they were signed.
That means the average salary record for centers has been broken 4 times in about a calendar year with this deal breaking it by a long-shot. This deal also makes him the 4th richest offensive lineman in the NFL in terms of average annual salary behind Tyron Smith (12.2 million), Joe Thomas (11.5 million), and Ryan Clady (10.5 million), three guys who are all either franchise left tackles or who were at the time of signing (Clady’s career has been derailed by injuries a little bit).
This is simply too much money for a center, especially one like Pouncey who has never really played at an elite level and who is coming off of a down year. If this was really the best deal Pouncey would have taken at this point, the Dolphins would have been much better off letting him play out the final season of his contract at 7.438 million, waiting to see if not only he bounces back in 2015, but also breaks out as an elite center (still a possibility considering he’s only going into his age 26 season), and then negotiating with him next off-season.
If he had a truly dominant year in 2015, he might be worth this kind of dough, but not right now. And if Pouncey wouldn’t take this deal in a year, let him test the open market and get overpaid elsewhere and find a cheaper replacement. There’s no excuse for this kind of deal right now. Between this deal, Ndamukong Suh’s deal (19.1 million annually), Branden Albert’s deal (9.4 million annually), Brent Grimes’ deal (8 million annually), Jordan Cameron’s deal (7.5 million annually), Reshad Jones’ deal (7 million annually), Cameron Wake’s deal (6.64 million) and Ryan Tannehill’s impending extension, the Dolphins’ cap is about to get really top heavy over the next few years, making it very hard for them to fill other needs.
Even before this deal and Tannehill’s impending deal, the Dolphins had 75.8 million in cap space committed to 6 players in 2016 and cutting them all who don’t have guaranteed money on their contract would only save the Dolphins 33.7 million in cap space immediately. Between this deal and Tannehill’s, that number could easily be over 100 million. That’s not where you want to be, especially for a roster’s like Miami that still isn’t one of the NFL’s elites. This deal is an inexcusable overpay.
Update: This deal turned out to only be worth 45 million over 5 years. It’s still the most expensive deal for a center in NFL history and an overpay, but it’s not quite as bad.