Posted: 10:41 am Tuesday, April 9th, 2013
By Post Staff
A trio of Dolphins talking points to jumpstart your Tuesday:
1. Dolphins clear one hurdle for stadium renovations, but two big ones remain:
Stephen Ross’ beloved Michigan Wolverines lost a heartbreaker in the NCAA basketball championship game last night, but the Dolphins’ owner scored a victory in his bid to get public financing to renovate Sun Life Stadium. The Dolphins and Miami-Dade mayor Carlos Gimenez agreed on a deal that would provide hotel tax funds to help modernize the Dolphins’ home, which is outdated at 26 years old and hurts the team’s bid to land large-scale events like the Super Bowl and BCS Championship Game.
“We are proud to join Mayor Gimenez in agreeing to an unprecedented public-private partnership that will modernize Sun Life Stadium and protect property tax payers, while helping secure the future for Super Bowls, college championships and international soccer in Miami-Dade,” Ross said late Monday in a statement. “I love this community and nothing would make me prouder than watching the Miami Dolphins play a Super Bowl in a modernized Sun Life Stadium. That’s more than a dream for me — it’s a goal I will work toward every day. I know that together we can make it happen.”
But Monday’s announcement was just a first step. Two big hurdles still must be cleared before the Dolphins can receive public funding to build a canopy over the seats, improve sightlines and add many other modern amenities:
1) Lawmakers in Tallahassee must change state law to increase the hotel tax from 6 to 7 percent.
2) More importantly, Miami-Dade voters must approve the funding in a county-wide referendum, likely to be held May 14.
The first hurdle shouldn’t be a huge problem, but getting voters to approve the funding, particularly in the wake of the Marlins Park fiasco, could be difficult. If the measure doesn’t pass, then the Dolphins chances of landing either Super Bowl 50 or 51 at the NFL owners meetings on May 22 is nil. But if it does pass, then the Dolphins are almost certain to win one of the two bids (likely Super Bowl 51, to be played in February 2017).
Gimenez made clear to the Miami Herald that the Dolphins’ stadium plan is nothing like the Marlins’, which cost taxpayers over $500 million.
“This deal is so different from the Marlins deal,” he said. “Even to say them in the same breath is a stretch. It is like night and day.”
The Dolphins have sweetened the deal since unveiling it in early January. After initially asking for the public to pay for 50 percent of the project, the Dolphins now say they will pay approximately 70 percent costs, will repay approximately $167 million to the state and county, will pay for 100 percent of any cost overruns during construction and will be committed to staying in Miami-Dade for the next 30 years.
Other terms of the deal, according to the Miami Herald:
* The Dolphins would receive up to $7.5 million per year from hotel taxes.
* In 30 years, the Dolphins would refund between $110 and $120 million to the county. Of course, Ross will have sold the team by then, but he will reportedly face a stiff penalty if he sells the team within five years.
* The Dolphins are seeking a sales tax subsidy from the state of $3 million per year for 30 years. This is a state issue and will not be on the May 14 referendum.
* The total cost of the project will be at least $350 million.
As far as publicly-financed stadium deals go, this one certainly seems a lot more palatable than the ones agreed to for the Marlins and other teams around the country in recent years. The Dolphins have a little more than a month to convince the voters of Miami-Dade that this is so.
2. RT Eric Winston having trouble finding a market.
Winston, the former University of Miami star, looked like he’d be a good fit for the Dolphins or several other teams after the Chiefs cut him last month. But even after speaking several times with the Dolphins, Chargers, Cowboys, Jaguars and Eagles, Winston still can’t find a home.
The Dolphins don’t have a starting tackle, but appear to be far apart with Winston in terms of salary demands. Winston said on SiriusXM yesterday that “the $3-4 million range is something that I think is more than fair for a starter who has played pretty well throughout his career.”
That’s not a ridiculous sum of money for a 29-year-old tackle who has started 103 straight games, but the Dolphins obviously don’t think he’s worth it, or they would have signed him by now. A one-year salary in that range would rank Winston among the top 15 players on the Dolphins – they have 12 players on the roster with a salary cap number of $3 million or higher, including players like Dan Carpenter, Brent Grimes, Dimitri Patterson, Dustin Keller and Richie Incognito.
But it appears that most teams, including the Dolphins, would rather find a younger, cheaper option at this point than Winston, who likely will have to wait until after the draft to find a home with a team that isn’t able to fill its right tackle spot with a rookie.
3. John Denney in danger of being priced out of his roster spot?
Quick, name the longest-tenured Dolphin currently on the team? And name the player with the most Pro Bowl appearances?
Yup, the answer to both questions is long-snapper John Denney, who has been with the Dolphins since 2005 and has been to two Pro Bowls, tied with Cameron Wake and Randy Starks for most on the team.
But are Denney’s days numbered as he enters his ninth season with the team? The Dolphins yesterday signed former Utah State long snapper Patrick Scales, who was in training camp with the Ravens the past two years and made it all the way to final cuts both times.
Denney has not had one bad snap in eight years with Miami and has been a model of consistency, but he might price himself out of a roster spot, and there’s not much he can do about it.
Denney is set to make $870,000 in base salary this year with a salary cap number of $1.013 million, and the Dolphins can save all $870k by cutting him. Normally, players can look to renegotiate their contract in order to make it more team-friendly, but Denney doesn’t have much room to maneuver. Per the CBA, the minimum salary for a player in his ninth season is $840,000, and his $143,750 signing bonus proration must be added on top of that.
It doesn’t seem like much money, but every penny counts in today’s NFL, and the Dolphins might not want to spend $1 million on a long snapper, when they can usually be found for the league minimum. Of course, Scales is no lock to make the team, either, and maybe the Dolphins are simply looking to create competition at every position.
Still, it could be a cruel end for Denney, who is also the team’s union representative. But that’s business in today’s NFL.