In somewhat of a surprise, the Miami Dolphins have been one of the most active teams on the free agent market this off-season with regards to the wide receiver position. Once thought of as a position of strength for the team, the 2018 Dolphins wide receiver group is going to take on a much different look from the squad of years past.
The Dolphins started their whirlwind assault on the position on Friday with a trade that shook the fan-base to its core. Though it shouldn’t have come as a shock to fans, the Dolphins traded the heart and soul of the group, Jarvis Landry, to the Cleveland Browns. The writing was on the wall for Landry when the team placed the franchise tag on him. There was no chance the Dolphins were going to pay Landry top-flight money, and they were hoping to be able to trade Landry for a king’s ransom.
The play backfired; however, when Landry signed his franchise tag tender and forced the Dolphins hands. With Miami forced to either trade Landry below market value or pay him $16.5 million next season, the choice was clear. When the Browns came calling offering 4th and 7th round selections, the Dolphins said goodbye to a fan favorite, leaving a massive hole in the wide receiver room. How the Dolphins would cope with the loss of Landry became the talk of the town, so to speak. Would the team be an active player in free agency? Would they look toward the NFL Draft? Were more trades on the way?
Tuesday, fans got their answer in a relatively big way, as the Dolphins were major players in the free agency market. It was heavily rumored in the lead up to Tuesday that the Dolphins would be targeting former Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Albert Wilson. Wilson is a slot receiver who can, at least stylistically, fill much the same role that Landry played for the team. The rumors proved true, as the Dolphins got their man. They would be content to rest on that and look towards other, bigger holes on the roster, right? Not quite.
In a somewhat surprising move, the Dolphins pulled a decidedly non-Dolphins moved and signed someone away from the perennial powerhouse that is the New England Patriots. Usually this works the other way around, with the Patriots signing someone the Dolphins have given up on and turning them into a solid player in the league (see: Wes Welker, Chris Hogan, and Larry Izzo, just to name a few).
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) March 15, 2018
With Danny Amendola’s arrival in South Beach, the Dolphins have doubled down at the slot receiver position. Really, they’ve tripled down at the spot if you factor in Mighty Mouse Jakeem Grant, who is already on the team’s roster. The double-dip at wide receiver presents the Dolphins, and their fans, with an interesting question going into next season: Who else remains on the roster come first kickoff?
Devante Parker could be on the trading block with the acquisitions of former Kansas City Chiefs WR Albert Wilson and former New England Patriots WR Danny Amendola. Parker could have a fairly competitive market for his services. Though he has yet to pan out in Miami, the talent is there and he’s still young. I would think there should be several teams out there willing to take the chance.
If they can’t trade Parker, I think the Dolphins offense will be featuring a lot of 5-wide sets, with Parker and Stills on the outside, and Wilson, Dola, and Jakeem Grant featuring heavily inside.
That leaves the question of “Who else survives?” between Leonte Carroo, Isaiah Ford, Rashawn Scott, Malcom Lewis, and Drew Morgan. The final depth chart for the 2017 season saw the Dolphins carrying 5 wide receivers, and I don’t see them carrying more than six at the position next season. Which means that it’s likely only one from that group survives final cuts. But who should get the rose?
Malcom Lewis and Drew Morgan are the easy choices. Neither one made any notable contribution to the squad last season, nor does the team doesn’t have much — if any — capital tied up in either player. After that, the waters become a lot murkier. Personally, I would have put Rashawn Scott on the “easy cut” line along with Lewis and Morgan, but he has been a team favorite in the past, surviving when I thought other players were more worthy of the roster spot. Still, with the stiff competition he faces at the spot, it’s hard for me to see him wearing aqua and orange this fall unless the team keeps eight. Which would be nuts.
That leaves us with Leonte Carroo and Isaiah Ford. Two men battling for what is likely only one spot. Who should come out on top? For my money, it’s Isaiah Ford.
Two years ago the Dolphins brass fell in love with a wide receiver out of Rutgers, Leonte Carroo. So much so that they just had to draft him, giving up a whopping three draft choices to select him. To move up to the 86th pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, the Dolphins gave the Minnesota Vikings their 6th round pick in that year’s draft, plus a 3rd and 4th round selection the following year. And what have the Dolphins gotten out of the deal? Essentially nothing.
In two seasons with the team, Carroo has barely seen the field for the Dolphins. He’s started a total of two games in his career, both coming in his rookie season. He’s managed a total of 10 receptions for less than 100 yards and only 1 touchdown. Nothing about those numbers, or his playing time, screams a player who should stick around in a crowded wide receiver group. However, with the amount of draft capital the team sunk into Carroo, it wouldn’t shock me if he were to ultimately win out over Ford. It’s not the direction I would go, however.
Ford came to the Dolphins in the 7th round of last year’s draft. At the time, I — and many others — thought Ford could be one of the steals of the draft. I had a late 4th round grade on Ford and felt like he could develop into a legitimate receiving threat in the league with a bit of coaching. Ford fell in the draft in large part due to his slim frame and a concern he wouldn’t be able to hold up against the physicality of NFL defensive backs, along with a slow 40 time (particularly concerning for a receiver billed as a deep threat), and some concerning concentration drops.
Unfortunately for Ford, we never got to see any development in year one, as Ford spent the entire year on injured reserve after suffering a knee injury in camp. Whether or not the Dolphins keep Ford around to see what kind of development he can have in year two remains to be seen, but cutting bait now would be a mistake.