Over the past nine months, fans and perhaps even opponents have watched with curiosity as the Miami Dolphins have managed their relationship with receiver Jarvis Landry.
From the outside looking in, folks have generally not understood why the Dolphins haven’t already signed Landry to a contract extension. He has been, after all, the team’s leading receiver and arguably the team’s best offensive player for several years.
And most smart teams don’t think twice about locking up that kind of talent.
But the Dolphins haven’t shared that viewpoint. They wanted to see more from Landry beyond him catching passes at a record rate.
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The Dolphins wanted Landry to show maturity by not skipping the offseason program or minicamp. They wanted Landry to improve his professionalism and pay close attention to even the most-minute details in his preparation, such as taking meticulous notes in meetings.
The Dolphins also wanted to see how Landry fit into a wide receiver room and on the salary cap with teammate DeVante Parker coming up for his own new contract in a couple of years.
Well, all the bridges have apparently been crossed now. The receiver has climbed every plateau. The Dolphins are finally convinced they want Jarvis Landry on their team long term.
And sources say the team and Landry’s representation are either already in preliminary talks or about to start talks — neither side is comfortable saying which — to discuss contract parameters, with the goal being that it leads to getting the receiver signed beyond this season.
In other words, the Dolphins want to avoid an Olivier Vernon repeat.
That’s good news for Landry who is a step closer to getting paid. That’s good news for the Dolphins who are finally convinced they have a player on the roster they can trust.
So what changed, because you’ll recall, the Dolphins didn’t offer up any contract parameters all offseason and training camp.
Landry handled himself like a consummate professional. He has watched teammates get paid by the Dolphins. He has watched players come from other teams and join the roster after the Dolphins paid them. And all this happened as he is playing this season for $894,000.
Landry, in fact, has watched his team dole out multiple mega-million deals and has not publicly complained or pouted once.
Finally, the Dolphins were not certain how Landry would fit relative to Parker. The team already paid Kenny Stills a four-year, $32 million contract and because the Dolphins believe both Landry and Parker could command a No. 1 receiver deal, they wanted to see mostly how Parker played this season while simultaneously monitoring Landry’s questions.
And the fact is, while Landry showed the team everything everyone needed to see, Parker stumbled. Parker has averaged three catches per game so far this year, down from 3.5 last year. He’s averaging 11.4 yards per reception this year, down from 13.3 last year. Parker has only scored one touchdown after scoring four last year.
So Parker has not proven he’s a budding No. 1 receiver and will have to play to that level next season if he wants to be paid like one in 2019.
The No. 1 receiver money available now, meanwhile, is destined for Landry, who leads the team with 88 receptions and eight touchdowns.
“Good players find a way to get open no matter what other teams do against them,” coach Adam Gase said of Landry on Thursday.
None of this guarantees a deal between the Dolphins and Landry will get done soon. Or at all.
The Dolphins have only $278,807 in salary cap space according to the NFL Players Association and that suggests they can’t make any move until next offseason when the salary cap rises and the team’s cap structure resets for ‘18. But I’m told the team can indeed strike a deal now if the parameters discussed are right for both sides.
I’m told the Dolphins can make complementary moves with other contracts — immediately if necessary — to create more than enough cap space to get Landry signed before the 2018 league year begins.
The final questions separating Landry from getting an extension have to be answered by the player himself.
Does he want to remain with the Dolphins? Landry has said previously that he does. Is he open to signing an extension with the Dolphins at a reasonable rate that lets the team get it done sooner? The team believes Landry and his agent are open.
The only question remaining is whether Jarvis Landry simply wants to test free agency no matter what to get the most money he can from whatever team is offering it? That’s up to Landry.
But at least now we know the Dolphins definitely want Landry back for 2018 and beyond.
Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero