Dave Hyde: The Dolphins’ surprising release of Kyle Van Noy isn’t so surprising — it’s ice-cold smart

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Dave Hyde, South Florida Sun Sentinel
·4 min read
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A few months ago, as the Dolphins made a playoff push that failed, Kyle Van Noy made a bottom-line comment that, “It’s all about taking care of your business in this league.”

In a novel, that’s called “foreshadowing.”

Unfortunately for Van Noy, this isn’t some grand, sweeping novel with him as protagonist. He became a bit player to business with his Tuesday release that either forecasts some larger, more sweeping move to come by the Dolphins ... or says the Dolphins made a bad personnel move a year ago ... or simply says this was a possible off-ramp all along.

Amid the raised eyebrows and shocked voices of this release, understand this much: This was an ice-cold but pain-free option all along in the manner the Dolphins smartly structured Van Noy’s contract. The veteran linebacker knew it, too. Or he should have.

The announced four-year, $51 million Van Noy signed last year sounded great. But no money was guaranteed after the first season. So the Dolphins could pay $15 million for one year of Van Noy and take the off-ramp they did Tuesday if a better or cheaper option emerged.

Andrew Van Ginkel emerged, too. The second-year linebacker had comparable numbers to Van Noy at a rookie contract. His role was a little different, but the Dolphins’ decision was simple: Did they want Van Noy ... or Van Ginkel and running back Aaron Jones? Or Van Ginkel and a veteran receiver? Or — be still my heart — Van Ginkel and Deshaun Watson?

There’s a lesson in the watching here, and it’s an old one in sports. The regular seasons are times for “family” and “brotherhood” and “sacrifice.” They’re a time to think, as Brian Flores said of his players after the Cincinnati game this year, “These are my kids.”

The offseason says they aren’t his kids. It’s for frigid decisions. Family? Loyalty? Get serious. The offseason is for selfish decisions by teams and players. It’s Hiram Roth in the Godfather telling Michael, “This is the business we have chosen.”

The real outgrowth of this decision is the Dolphins now have a developed reputation for ice-cold decisions in a manner that could affect future business. In just two years, look at the real-life flotsam and jetsam as coach Brian Flores navigates out of this rebuilding storm.

An offensive line coach after four practices? Fired. The hand-picked, supposedly buddy-buddy offensive and defensive coordinators from that first year? Gone. The hand-picked, brought-out-of-retirement offensive coordinator the second year? Gone with the assistants he brought aboard.

Now Van Noy is Van No. Players see this. He didn’t last a full calendar year with the team. On the one hand, again, credit general manager Chris Grier and salary-cap maven Brandon Shore for writing that contract.

On the other hand, do you see a developed theme if you’re a player or coach considering the Dolphins?

Rent, don’t own?

That doesn’t even cover it. Order carry-out. Put your back to the wall and don’t sit down with your food — unless you’re watching the chair into your seat the entire way like the ball into your hands. Things change that quickly around here.

Van Noy, 29, delivered just as Flores must have expected considering their New England ties. Van Noy was captain of the Dolphins’ much-improved sixth-ranked defense. Was he great? No. Was he expected to be great? Not from his career.

Was Van Noy paid to be great? Well, that’s another issue. And if we’re dealing with that issue, attention shifts to the highest-paid cornerback in football, Byron Jones. His contract is guaranteed for 2021. So he will be back. But in 2022 he only has $6 million guaranteed. So we’ll see.

It’s a different era in sports. To look at the world that once was consider Don Shula really didn’t outright fire an assistant until into his fourth decade as a NFL coach when he let go of defensive line coach Dan Sekanovich.

Compared to Shula, Flores lets go of people like you take out the daily trash. All this is equally irrelevant and meaningful. It’s irrelevant considering the first question most fans asked about Van Noy’s release was the salary-cap implications (the Dolphins save $9.5 million).

It’s meaningful if people start to shy away from this franchise due to a developed reputation. That probably won’t happen with players depending on the offered contracts. Van Noy agreed to a series of one-year contracts. The Dolphins had a better option after one year.

Business was done. Cold, smart, hard, rent-don’t-buy business that’s come to define this team. And Van Noy? By Tuesday evening, his former New England teammates were recruiting him on social media. Maybe the busueinss between the Dolphins and Van Noy isn’t done.