Dolphins release linebacker Jerome Baker, clearing nearly $10 million in cap space

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — The Miami Dolphins released linebacker Jerome Baker on Tuesday, a move that frees up about $9.8 million in salary cap space.

Baker, whom the Dolphins drafted in the third round in 2018, was entering the final year of a three-year extension but is coming off a season in which he missed extended time because of injuries.

An MCL sprain caused Baker to miss four games late last season. He then had to have season-ending wrist surgery following Miami's regular season finale, which sidelined him for the Dolphins' 26-7 playoff loss to Kansas City.

Baker made 82 starts for Miami and had 22 1/2 sacks, five interceptions and six forced fumbles.

General manager Chris Grier said at the NFL combine last week that the team wanted “to have Baker here.”

“I think the big thing for us was to have the new defensive staff come in, spend time watching the team, watching the defense as a staff together,” Grier said. “Once we have those discussions with the defensive staff, (coach) Mike (McDaniel) will get together and then we’ll make that decision here in the next couple of weeks.”

In another potential loss to a defense that finished 10th overall last season, defensive tackle Christian Wilkins is set to enter free agency after previously seeking a contract extension. Miami declined to place the franchise tag on Wilkins on Tuesday.

Cutting Baker creates a dead cap hit of about $4.9 million for the Dolphins, who also cleared about $2.9 million by cutting cornerback Keion Crossen. Miami also signed defensive tackle Isaiah Mack on Tuesday.

Miami faces some uncertainty at linebacker with two star pass rushers working their way back from season-ending injuries. Jaelan Phillips tore his Achilles tendon last November, and Bradley Chubb suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

Grier also confirmed at the combine that the Dolphins are expected to move on from veteran cornerback Xavien Howard, who is the team's longest-tenured player. Miami will release Howard at the start of the new league year on March 13.