With Mike Pouncey’s release, Dolphins enter full slash-and-burn rebuild

Mike Pouncey is done after seven seasons with Miami. (Bill Ingram/The Post)

The Dolphins have fully entered rebuilding mode.

Their offseason unloading now includes longtime center Mike Pouncey, who is being released after refusing to take a pay cut at 28 years old when he believes he’s still in the prime of his career.

Even after dispatching Jarvis Landry to Cleveland and getting out of a massive financial obligation to Ndamukong Suh, the Dolphins still looked like they were trying to fill a few holes and make what they could out of what’s left. This creates a new hole, an enormous one, and the related trade for 49ers center Daniel Kilgore might not be enough to patch it.

Pouncey has been the best offensive lineman on the team for at least the last two seasons and was thought to be a pillar of what would be a revamped o-line. Now he’s a free agent, saving the Dolphins $7 million and salary cap space and a little over $17 million in salary that was earmarked for him in 2019 and ’20.

Pouncey’s played 93 games since Miami picked him No. 15 overall in 2011, making him the highest-drafted center of all time. He’s had at least three known hip surgeries. He’s made the Pro Bowl three times. But the numbers that end in millions are the ones that matter most.

There’s no hiding it anymore. This is a slash-and-burn offseason for the Miami Dolphins.

And teams usually aren’t very good the season after they dump this much talent.

The Dolphins were an inch away here or there from being a 3-13 team last season, and that feels like where they’re headed unless a lot of pieces unexpectedly come together in a way that’s difficult to envision today.

Maybe it’s not so bad, though. It’s going to be brutal to endure this fall, but it’s probably what’s best for the franchise at this point.

This is a departure from wandering aimlessly through the mediocre territory of going 7-9, or something like it, every year. It’s the textbook plan for a rebuild: Clear the books and pile up draft picks.

That’s how teams across sports are doing it, and it’s preferable over the delusion of the Dolphins convincing themselves they’re only a player or two away from contending.

They went 10-6 in Adam Gase’s first season as head coach, making the playoffs for the first time since 2008, but even that felt like a mirage. Gase inherited a team that had won between six and eight games for seven consecutive years, and what he was working with in 2016 wasn’t all that much better.

Of the Dolphins’ 10 wins that season, seven came against teams that went 5-11 or worse. Six of those were one-score games.

Last year was similar, winning on a missed field goal in the opener and rarely looking legitimately impressive outside of a second-half rally in Atlanta and the Monday Night Football stunner against the Patriots. They’ll always have that one.

Rather than keep that group intact after going 16-17 the last two years, counting the time Pittsburgh dismantled them in the playoffs, the Dolphins are blowing it up. No reason to cling to that. This is the right course. The big question now is whether vice president Mike Tannenbaum, general manager Chris Grier and Gase are capable of such large-scale reconstruction.

Everything from here on out will be about setting the team up for 2019, at the earliest, and filling in a few spots to arrive at something resembling a passable starting lineup. They signed four-time Pro Bowl guard Josh Sitton today, too, which is a strong and expensive addition, but wisely is only a two-year deal that won’t infringe on any future plans.

That’s the strategy now, and there’s no denying it.

[Dolphins’ problems were much more about money than culture]

[Dolphins S Reshad Jones restructures his contract to give team flexibility]

[Cleveland Browns look closer to the playoffs than Miami Dolphins]

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