By Marek Brave (@MBrave13)
The Miami Dolphins’ wide receiver play was an issue last season. Between injuries, drops, and an inability to get consistent separation, the group as a whole, did not perform up to expectations. As a result, finding one or more new players at the position seems to be a priority this offseason. Surrounding Tua Tagovailoa with playmaking pass catchers should be one of the main concerns for General Manager Chris Grier. That is why so many mock drafts have Miami selecting a wide receiver at pick number three; either LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase or Tua’s former teammate, Alabama’s Devonta Smith.
But before the draft, comes free agency, and recent reports from the Miami Herald and the Sun-Sentinel suggest that the Dolphins could be in the market for a top-level free agent wide receiver to go along with one they may draft high this year.
This news has Fins fans buzzing with visions of touchdowns dancing in their heads. But Miami doesn’t just need any receiver. They need receivers who can separate and produce yards after the catch; both traits that were severely lacking this past season with the current group of pass-catchers. So, before you get your hopes up high that Grier brings in your favorite flavor of the month, let’s examine the top-end free-agent receivers and see who can fit the type of mold that could greatly benefit The Left Arm of God™.
For the sake of comparison, here are DeVante Parker’s (2020) and Preston Williams’ (2019) average yards of separation along with their average yards produced after the catch.
Separation | Yards After Catch
DeVante Parker – 1.7 | 3
Preston Williams – 1.7 | 2.4
Now, onto the free agent wide receivers:
AJ Green – 1.7 | 2.1
Kenny Golladay – 1.9 | 4.9
Golden Tate – 2.1 | 2.4
Allen Robinson – 2.3 | 3.6
Corey Davis – 2.4 | 4.5
T.Y. Hilton – 2.5 | 3.6
Marvin Jones – 2.5 | 2.8
Will Fuller – 3 | 5.9
Chris Godwin – 3 | 4.8
JuJu Smith-Schuster – 3.1 | 4.4
Curtis Samuel – 3.5 | 4.6
Allen Lazard – 3.7 | 6.1
Taking a look at those two key stats mentioned above, while also factoring other criteria, such as age, production and how much it will cost to sign each player, I have grouped each of the receivers above into three tiers specifically for the Miami Dolphins; NO THANKS, THAT’S A MAYBE, and SIGN ME UP.
A.J. Green – While once a very productive receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals, Green’s best days are far behind him. The often-injured pass catcher turns 33 years old this July and hasn’t been that top option he was when he was younger. If I’m buying the groceries for Miami, I’ll pass on Green and let someone else overpay based on what he used to be.
Golden Tate – Recently let go by the New York Giants, Tate turns 33 this August. Neither Tate’s average yards of separation, nor his average yards after catch are eye popping. He’s not big either, standing just 5’10”. Add all of that together and you’ve got a guy that doesn’t fit what Miami is looking for. That’s a no from me, dawg.
Marvin Jones – Jones has been a hot name on the Twitter streets for Fins fans. I’ve seen him mentioned multiple times when discussing which free agent WR Miami should bring in. But, for me, I’m just not interested. Jones turns 31 on March 12th. We know that Grier and Flores like their players young. Jones’ average separation checks in at 2.5 yards, while his YAC just isn’t that impressive either, sitting at 2.8 yards. I think Miami can do better.
Kenny Golladay – Golladay is a very good player. Is he a great player? That’s up for debate. In 2018, Golladay recorded 70 catches for 1,063 and 5 touchdowns. Not bad. 2019 was the year that got everyone in Detroit excited about the young receiver. He nabbed 65 balls for 1,190 yards and 11 touchdowns. Unfortunately, injuries plagued Golladay’s 2020 campaign. Will the Lions resign him to a long-term deal, or, at the very least give him the franchise tag? We shall see, but even if they let him walk, the amount of money it is going to take to sign the 6’4” wideout should be enough to keep Miami out of the running, especially since his average separation is essentially the same as both DeVante Parker and Preston Williams. Miami already has two players cut from that mold, and when you add both their salaries together, it still won’t equal what Golladay will get on the open market. I’m going to pass.
Allen Robinson – Robinson is an intriguing option for Miami, but he won’t come cheap. For that reason, I can’t fully commit to signing the soon-to-be 28 year old wideout. Starting his career in Jacksonville before signing with the Chicago Bears in 2018, Robinson has never had a top-shelf quarterback throwing him the football. Tua Tagovailoa would easily be the most accurate passer Robinson has had while playing in the NFL. Robinson doesn’t have the best yards of separation average, but his YAC is a little bit better. Nonetheless, he is an extremely reliable pass catcher, coming off back-to-back 1,000 seasons. If the price is right, I could see Miami being interested, but I highly doubt he will be available in their price range.
Corey Davis – Never living up to his fifth overall draft position in the 2017 NFL Draft, Davis could be leaving Tennessee for a new home this offseason. Although he has never posted a 1,000 season, 2020 was his best effort, tallying 60 catches for 945 yards and 5 touchdowns. His separation average isn’t anything to write home about, sitting at 2.4 yards, but his YAC average is interesting at 4.5 yards. According to Spotrac, Davis could find himself making less than 10 million per season on his next deal, which means he could be in the price range of the Dolphins. If Miami isn’t sold on Preston Williams’ ability to stay healthy, I could see Miami kicking the tires on this 26 year old.
T.Y. Hilton – This Miami native could be itching to return to his hometown this offseason, as it does not look like Indianapolis is interested in bringing back the 31 year old wideout after 9 seasons with the team. Hilton’s production has dipped the past two seasons, after posting five 1,000 yard campaigns in his first seven seasons. However, he does have speed to burn, and that element is missing in Miami’s offense as Jakeem Grant doesn’t have the hands or the size to complement his quickness. Having a reliable deep route wideout could open up things underneath for Gesicki, Parker and Williams. Spotrac has Hilton getting a contract worth roughly 10 million per season, so we’ll see if the Dolphins would be willing to dish out that much cash for a player north of that 30 year old line.
Will Fuller – You want speed? Will Fuller has speed! And at 27 years old by the start of the 2021 campaign, the youth factor could work in Fuller’s favor when it comes to Miami. So, what’s the problem? Why is he only a MAYBE? Unfortunately, Fuller just cannot seem to stay healthy, having never played a full 16 game season in his five years in the league. Also, he probably won’t come cheap, as Spotrac has Fuller potentially averaging almost 17 million per season on his new deal! If somehow that price can come down, and Miami can figure out a way to fix Fuller’s soft tissue issues, I could easily see them being interested. Until then, I remain skeptical.
SIGN ME UP
JuJu Smith-Schuster – TikToks be damned, JuJu is one of the most exciting young players in the NFL. At just 24 years old, Smith-Schuster is only now entering the prime of his career, despite already playing four seasons for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Over that time, JuJu has 308 receptions for 3,726 yards and 26 touchdowns. His average yards of separation are also really nice at an average of 3.1 yards. Do you want YAC? JuJu does that, too, averaging 4.4 yards after the catch last season. Put Parker and Williams on the outside, with Gesicki at tight end and JuJu in the slot, and Tua should have no problems finding open pass catchers. Want a bonus? JuJu and Tua both come from Samoan backgrounds and immediately have that in common to further their already friendly relationship. He won’t be cheap, but he could very well be worth the hefty price tag if Miami wants to maximize their offensive potential.
Allen Lazard – Full disclosure: I’m an Iowa boy, so with Lazard being from Des Moines and playing at Iowa State, you know I’m going to be a fan. Also, this man’s nickname is The Lizard King. I mean, c’mon…I’m already fully invested. But, in all seriousness, Lazard’s separation average and YAC average will surprise you. Of all qualifying receivers last season, he was ranked 9th in separation and 16th in YAC according to NFL’s Next Gen Stats. Combine that with the fact that he’s just 25 years old and can be had for much cheaper than the other pass-catchers mentioned in this article, and I am definitely interested.
Curtis Samuel – Now here is a guy I really think Miami will take a serious look at in free agency this offseason. Samuel is as versatile as they come, accounting for 851 yards receiving and 200 yards rushing this past season with Carolina. He also added five touchdowns. We already know Flores and company value position flexibility. With Miami struggling to move the ball on the ground, Samuel could spark the backfield to go along with his abilities as a slot receiver. Although Samuel has played four seasons in the NFL, he’ll still be 25 years old to start the 2021 season. Maybe the only downside to this signing is the fact that he isn’t projected to come cheap. Spotrac is projecting Samuel to average 12.4 million per year, but I could see him getting around 15 million per season in reality. Then again, with teams up against the cap, there could be a chance that the Dolphins sign Samuel for less than he would get in a “normal” offseason. We’ll keep our fingers crossed.
Chris Godwin – Quite possibly the “crown jewel” of this free-agent wide receiver class, Godwin has the production to back up the large price tag associated with acquiring his services this offseason. Let’s get that out of the way early. Spotrac is projecting that Godwin will average 17.1 million per season on his next contract. In my opinion, he’s worth every penny, especially for Miami. Godwin averages three yards of separation per catch and adds 4.8 yards after the catch. He also has good size for the position, with his 6’1” frame allowing him to play inside or outside. At just 25 years old, the receiver is just entering his prime but already has a Super Bowl title under his belt. Adding proven winners is never a bad thing for a team as young as Miami. In his four seasons with Tampa Bay, Godwin has 244 catches for 3,540 yards and 24 touchdowns. He’s going to cost you, but in my opinion, if Miami has a shot at signing Chris Godwin, they should be all in.
So, there you have it. There are many quality names on the free-agent list at the moment. Some of these guys will be resigned to their current teams, while some will most likely be franchise tagged. It remains to be seen which of the pass catchers listed above will be allowed to test the open market. You’re likely to overpay for any player in free agency, but with the salary cap being lower than normal this offseason, there is a chance that you may be able to get one of these guys at a bargain. Regardless of who is signed, Miami will still most likely draft a receiver, maybe as high as number three overall. Adding playmakers for Tua Tagovailoa is a must, and Flores and Grier know that. Buckle up, folks. Free agency starts on March 17th, and Miami will most certainly be active. Who do you want to see the Dolphins sign? Let us know in the comments below. Until then, FINS UP, and all hail The Left Arm of God™.