While free agency looms a month into the future and the NFL Draft a month after that, the Detroit Lions still have some work to do. After purging much of their staff in the past two weeks, there are plenty of vacancies in the front office needed to be filled. One such position is a salary cap manager. The Lions appear to be on the verge of filling that need, per CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora:
Heard longtime Dolphins exec Dawn Aponte could be heading to Detroit to oversee cap/contracts for the Lions for rookie GM Bob Quinn— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) January 28, 2016
Dawn Aponte has been in the league for 23 years and has earned league-wide respect. She spent 15 years with the New York Jets in some capacity, climbing all the way to team's senior director of football administration position by her career's end in New York. In that role, she mostly dealt with issues pertaining to the Collective Bargaining Agreement and call things cap-related.
After her time with the Jets, Aponte joined the NFL as the league’s Management Council as the vice president of labor finance. There she worked as the league representative with the NFLPA, again surrounding issues with the CBA and cap management for all 32 teams.
Finally, she landed with the Miami Dolphins in 2010 after a stint as the Cleveland Browns' "capologist." Since her arrival in Miami, she has been lauded as a powerful, hard-nosed woman. For all of you House of Cards fans, she was even called the "female Frank Underwood" by a local newspaper.
Aponte is a bit of a controversial figure among Dolphins fans. Many believe she was one of the driving forces in forcing general manager Jeff Ireland out of town, as her sway in the organization clearly goes beyond cap management. Even during her time working aside Ireland, Aponte served as the "bad cop" to Ireland's "good cop" during contract negotiations.
For the Lions, Aponte's hiring makes a lot of sense. New team president Rod Wood does not have any sort of football experience, and has already claimed that he'll be staying out of football decisions. Meanwhile, first-time general manager Bob Quinn has a ton of personnel experience, but no real salary cap maneuvering history to go with it.
By all accounts, Aponte is a salary cap wizard. But this avoids the big elephant in the room: the Ndamukong Suh contract, which we ironically poked fun at on Wednesday. Suh's contract has put the Dolphins' current cap situation in peril, and the Dolphins are already thinking about restructuring the contract to create some much-needed wiggle room. However, that always seemed to be part of the plan. Suh's contract was made with a stipulation that could spread his base salary over the full five years of his contract. In other words, the Dolphins -- for better or for worse --will likely be pushing the majority of Suh's contract to the back-end of the deal; the same "kicking the can" philosophy that the Lions were criticized for when Suh was in Detroit.
But Aponte has always managed, and if she were to stay in Miami, she would figure things out, because she always has. She knows salary cap management better than nearly anyone else in the league. She knows secret clauses of the CBA. And her knowledge of the inner-workings of NFL contracts has her lined up to potentially become the first female general manager in NFL history. She was a big commodity in Miami, and now she may become an integral part of the Lions organization.
UPDATE: Originally, Alex Marvez of Fox Sports confirmed that Aponte was leaving Miami for Detroit. However, he has since deleted this tweet and retracted his story, after Andrew Abramson of the Palm Beach Post tweeted out the following:
Despite reports that #Dolphins' salary cap guru Dawn Aponte is leaving for Detroit, I'm told she's staying in Miami.— Andrew Abramson (@AbramsonPBP) January 28, 2016
The Detroit Lions have yet to offer any update.
UPDATE #2: Now Marvez is confirming the report that Aponte is staying in Miami. Well, I guess that's that.