Sometime soon — perhaps before the draft, perhaps after it — the Dolphins will turn their attention to Jarvis Landry.
He is, in Adam Gase’s words from November, the Dolphins’ “best player on offense.”
Landry will soon want to be paid like it. He’s been the good soldier during his career’s first three years, putting up record stats despite playing on a second-round rookie contract.
Granted, Landry has had no other choice. League rules prohibit contract extensions until a player’s fourth NFL season.
But it’s time. Landry is in a contract year, and if the Dolphins have proven anything this month, the contract year is when their most valued players get paid.
Landry is the only star left unpaid. He hasn’t made waves about it publicly, or, from all accounts, privately. He’s enthusiastically congratulated teammates like Kenny Stills who get new deals on social media.
Landry understands the process, and as long as the Dolphins show him the proper attention and respect, it’s hard to see him holding out this year.
An important caveat: Just because a player wants to be back and a team wants to keep him doesn’t mean a deal will get done. Only Landry and his representation know the number they believe is right, and the same holds true on the organization’s side. If those numbers don’t match, Landry could simply play out his contract and hit the open market in March 2018.
But if recent history is any guide, that’s not what the Dolphins prefer.
“I hate free agency,” Gase said at this year’s NFL Scouting Combine. “You just want to get your guys back.”
He got his wish.
In the last two weeks the Dolphins have committed tens of millions of guaranteed dollars to keep or extend Stills, Jones, Alonso and Andre Branch.
They had some $50 million in cap space, and could have used it to make wholesale roster changes. They instead doubled down on their own.
In the process, they locked up all but two of their top 2018 free agents: Landry and right tackle Ja’Wuan James, whose rights the Dolphins can extend another year by picking up his fifth-year option. (If they do so and extend Landry, the Dolphins should still have north of $30 million in cap space next year.)
So what are the Dolphins telling us by their actions?
There's really only one way to interpret them: The Dolphins believe their current core is good enough to compete at the highest level.
Because if not, what’s the point? The object is to win it all, right?
None of the team’s power brokers is content with just getting to the playoffs, which the Dolphins did for the first time in eight years in 2016.
“I’ll only be satisfied with winning a Super Bowl,” Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said after his team lost in the Wild Card round.
A month later, Ross laid out his expectations for 2017 in an interview with the Miami Herald:
“[To] continue to improve, and I think, add onto it, and kind of shore up some of where we were weak and have a better team that's really capable of taking the next step.”
Every decision the Dolphins have made this offseason should be seen through this prism: Will this player help us win a Super Bowl?
The Dolphins’ offseason decisions signal a strong belief their core group of stars can.