I know, I know, you don’t think Kenny Stills is worth $12 million per season. At least that’s what a vast majority of you have been saying (YELLING) on social media and telling me in emails.
You’re saying this because I reported Monday the asking price for Stills in free agency is $12 million per season. And that seems like a lot if you consider he caught 42 passes last season, which was his best in Miami, and scored nine touchdowns, which was the most of his four-year career.
And I agree. Those catches and touchdowns are nice. But they don’t feel $12 million-a-year nice for a team that has to fill half a dozen other needs and is not desperate to keep a roster together to make another Super Bowl run.
So what would fake GM Mando do?
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
I recognize Stills is a valuable piece of the Dolphins 2016 success and is a valuable deep threat and is about to enter a free agent market that is going to be bonkers because the salary cap is going up from $155.2 million last season to approximately $168 million this season and teams are flush with cash and cap space.
So I offer Kenny Stills $10 million over five years. And I tell him if he wants to go to Philadelphia for $12 million per season, what he’s really doing is agreeing to go to the Eagles for $11.6 million per season because Pennsylvannia has a 3.07 percent state income tax and Florida has no state income tax.
And if Stills is willing to leave for $1.6 million per season, I shake his hand and wish him well playing in front of fans who reportedly once booed Santa Claus, pelted the field with batteries, and cheered when Dallas receiver Michael Irvin suffered a career-ending neck injury and was laying on their field.
Eagles fans were once voted the worst fans in America.
(Me? I love Eagles fans. It you play well, they’ll bleed for you, but if you struggle, they might show up on your lawn. I call that passion).
So how is Stills, he of the sensitive soul and inconsistent hands, going to handle that environment? How is the California kid who’s spent his entire NFL career playing in New Orleans’s Superdome or Miami’s warm climes going to handle Chilly Philly?
Fake GM Mando makes all these points to Kenny Stills.
And if Stills still chases the money, then I go to Plan B.
So what’s Plan B?
Well, Plan B should be promoting Leonte Carroo to a starting job. That’s the way it’s supposed to work in a perfect world.
The Dolphins drafted Carroo in the third round last year. They took him in the third round and actually gave up a sixth-round pick, and 2017 third- and fourth-round picks to be able to get into that third round again and pick Carroo.
But Carroo didn’t quite live up to the investment in 2016. He caught only three passes for 29 yards. But that is not inconceivable for a receiver, particularly a rookie, who is stuck behind productive veterans.
But here’s the problem: Carroo didn’t improve as the season wore on. He actually seemed to regress and by season’s end, he was a healthy scratch in the the final two regular-season games and again in the divisional playoff game at Pittsburgh.
So to count on Carroo to replace nine-TD Kenny Stills is wishful thinking.
That means I go to free agency and use the funds budgeted for Stills in a vastly different way.
Originally, the Dolphins expected to pay Stills about $10 million per year and also add at least one linebacker. The team could not afford to pay a linebacker such as Dont’a Hightower because his asking price starts in the $11 million-per-year range, but they’re hoping to add a good, young cheaper veteran and possibly also draft someone relatively high -- maybe in the second or third round -- to add yet another potential starter.
Well, why not flip the script?
I pay Hightower his $11 million a year, thus improving a defense that sorely needs it in both the running and passing game. I not only add a player who knows how to win from his time with New England but also one who’s been a team leader for the Patriots.
And, yes, this Dolphins addition is a subtraction from the division rival Patriots.
And if Hightower needs $12-$13 million per year instead of the $11 million originally budgeted for Kenny Stills, I start looking at Koa Misi sideways.
He is the often-injured and coming-off-neck-surgery linebacker that is 30 years old and entering his final season on the contract he signed in 2013, He is scheduled to count $6.535 million against the cap in 2017.
Are you kidding me?
The Dolphins could save approximately $4 million against the cap by cutting him. And that is exactly what I would do and I apply the savings from that 30-year-old, often-injured, surgically repaired guy on 26-year-old, Super Bowl big-play-making Hightower.
Am I the only one who sees this as logical?
No disrespect to Misi but if he wants to stay with the Dolphins, he’s playing for the veteran minimum. Period. And he’s fighting for that other linebacker job that Hightower and Kiko Alonso aren’t playing. That’s it.
(Peanut Gallery: But, Fake GM Mando, what about the enormous hole you just created at wide receiver? Stills caught nine touchdown passes, you dummy. How do you replace nine touchdowns in the passing game?)
Thanks for that, Gallery. I understand your concerns. But I don’t share them.
I replace Kenny Stills with another Kenny Stills.
Think for a minute what Stills was when he came to the Dolphins. He was a player with good potential who had worn out his welcome in New Orleans because he never really blossomed even with Drew Brees throwing him the football. He was a leap of faith addition.
If it worked out, great.
If not, then the team lost out its investment on a third-round pick.
Stills blossomed his second year in Miami. But having decided to move on to more money (remember, this is all if he balks at Miami’s lower offer), I get someone who fills that role of a speed receiver.
I get someone who has great talent ... Who has great speed ... Who has latent playmaking qualities that another team or coach hasn’t tapped consistently ... and I sign that guy and let offensive sherpa Adam Gase turn him into, well, Kenny Stills.
It is not rocket-science, folks.
And now you’re asking for names. And I have names I would consider, including my favorite guy ...
I talk to Kenny Britt. He’s big, he’s fast, he’s coming off a 1,000-yard season catching passes from underwhelming quarterbacks, and he’s got room to grow.
I talk to Justin Hunter. He was on the team in the middle of the ‘16 season and got cut. Then he was somewhat productive in Buffalo. The Dolphins regret losing him but could get him back now if they want. The drawback on him is he’s not exactly Einstein, but he seemed to learn pretty quickly in Buffalo when he came in on a Wednesday and caught a TD pass against the Dolphins days later.
I talk to Markus Wheaton. He’s 26, he’s coming off a season in which he was injured and caught only four passes so he’s going to be really, really cheap. He averaged 17-yards per catch in 2015 and he’s very, very quick. The Steelers have plenty of receivers so they’re not going to pay him so maybe he gets a two-year deal with little guarantee that limits liability.
I talk to Marquess Wilson. This should be an easy conversation for Gase because he coached Wilson in Chicago in 2015. Wilson, coming off a foot injury that requires much study, averaged 16.6 yards per catch for Gase in ‘15.
If I want someone more proven, I talk to Terrance Williams of the Dallas Cowboys. I don’t like that he’s not fast. But he plays fast. He’s averaged 16.8 yards per catch over his career. And he’s 6-2 and 208 pounds so his size intrigues.
Remember, folks, we’re not paying $6-$7-$8 million for these guys.
More like $2-$5, depending on the individual.
And having said all this and after all these talks, I still think I like Marquise Goodwin best as the next Kenny Stills.
Stills is fast. Goodwin is faster.
Goodwin is Olympics fast. He’s blow-the-top-off-zone-defenses fast. He’s electric fast.
The things I like about this guy is he’s 26 years old so there’s room and time for him to grow. He comes from the Buffalo Bills, so that sort of diminishes a division rival. He has good hands, certainly no worse than Stills..
Goodwin is also fast. Have I mentioned that? He ran a 4.27 40-yard dash at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine.
Goodwin has a career 15.9-yard-per-catch average. His average was 14.9 last year but he delivered three touchdown catches -- including an 84-yarder against the New York Jets and a 67-yarder against the Dolphins.
One more thing: I’m not looking for Goodwin to be in there every down player so that lightens the expectations. The Dolphins don’t need him to be their go-to guy. He’s a great passing-down threat that forces defenses to be wary of the deep ball and concern themselves with protecting the entire field even from deep in the offense’s territory.
That’s worth a couple of million dollars to me.
So to recap:
The Dolphins would like to re-sign Kenny Stills for about $10 million and then consider signing a solid outside linebacker in free agency for $5-$7 million.
Fake GM Mando would be fine with letting Stills walk and using that budgeted money plus cap savings from cutting Koa Misi to sign Dont’a Hightower for $11-$12 million per season. And then Fake GM Mando adds Marquise Goodwin, who is faster than Kenny Stills, to blow the top off defenses for may $2-$3 million per season.
And come to think of it, I’m almost talking myself into doing this rather than re-signing Kenny Stills.
Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter @ArmandoSalguero