Armando Salguero

A hidden back story will drive the Dolphins’ decision whether to sign Jarvis Landry

NFL referee Jeff Triplette ejects wide receiver Jarvis Landry in the fourth quarter of the Miami Dolphins’ season finale.
NFL referee Jeff Triplette ejects wide receiver Jarvis Landry in the fourth quarter of the Miami Dolphins’ season finale. AP

The Miami Dolphins and Jarvis Landry are at a crossroads. The team and its best wide receiver have been dancing around the idea of a contract extension for nearly a year, the player wanting to be respected and rewarded for making the most of an opportunity, the team wanting to be respected and rewarded for providing that opportunity.

And soon — when the NFL postseason inexorably leads to another offseason and free agency — this pair that outwardly seems so logical and right is going to vehemently disagree on one thing:

Money.

At least that’s the story you will likely be told by the parties involved through various media entities that will be used to convey each side’s message.

And a word of warning about that: It’s most definitely not just about money. Money will ultimately determine whether Landry has played his last game for the Dolphins. But there’s a back story that will drive the negotiations that is so complicated, it will be ignored because it’s simply easier to see this as being about ...

Money.

So let’s address that up front. Money is indeed a big deal in this looming negotiation.

Landry, who cost the team $1.1 million in 2017, wants to be among the highest-paid wide receivers in the NFL. He may not be shooting for the $17 million per season that Antonio Brown got (and deserved) from the Pittsburgh Steelers. But right now Dez Bryant, Julio Jones, Davante Adams and Demaryius Thomas average between $14-14.5 million per season and Landry believes he belongs with or above that group.

And if you look at some of his accomplishments, he has a point. He has 400 catches his first four seasons, which is more than anyone ever. And barring the rapture taking him in the next few months, Landry’s going to own the record for most catches after five seasons because he’s only 26 catches away from setting that mark.

So Jarvis Landry, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, the NFL’s 2017 reception leader, and the Dolphins’ all-time single season reception record holder, believes he’s worth every penny of what his agent has already told the Dolphins he wants.

But the Dolphins have a different opinion. Their view of Landry is your view. They see his passion. And his production. And his toughness. They see all that. And that has value to them.

They also see things you have no clue about. They see that back story I previously mentioned.

They see a player who doesn’t pay attention to details. They see a player who sometimes runs the right routes and sometimes doesn’t. They see a player who sometimes inspires with his emotions, but sometimes loses control and hurts his team. They see a player who doesn’t lead in the locker room although he’s in a great position to do so.

They see a player who doesn’t seem to respect his coaches because he often ignores what they ask. They see a player who has been, in the words of multiple sources, “a pain” to deal with and “hard to reach.”

So the Dolphins probably would like to keep Landry but because of that back story, they want it mostly on their terms. Because there’s no way to predict how a player who didn’t do what the team wanted all the time when he was trying to get a new contract will comport himself once he’s already paid.

The back story.

My guess is the Dolphins would be more comfortable with Jarvis Landry playing for $10-$11 million per year. My guess is the gap between the sides isn’t likely to close unless someone caves because both sides have plausible reasons for being where they’re at.

Knowing all this, there will be other factors involved in the decision to re-sign or move on from Landry. Those are obvious to all of us. They’re not part of the back story.

There’s a public relations element at work here. No, the Dolphins don’t gauge public opinion to do what the public wants. They do what they believe is best for the football team.

But they are aware that Landry is a popular player. And letting a popular player go for reasons known mostly just to the team takes courage. It’s something the New England Patriots do without blinking. But the Dolphins aren’t the New England Patriots.

That works in Landry’s favor.

The team also knows Landry is good, but not great. Indeed, everyone who has seen him play knows this. Landry is not elite like Julio Jones or DeAndre Hopkins or Antonio Brown.

He is a catch machine but he’s not necessarily a big-play receiver. His 8.8 yards per catch were a career low, but I blame that on the Dolphins inability to protect the quarterback long enough to let Landry (and others) get down the field with consistency.

This poses a problem for Miami: Does this 6-10 team with the 28th-rated scoring offense pay between 11-14 times more for Landry as what he made in 2017 — just for the privilege of staying the same?

Or do the Dolphins take that $11-$14 million per year and go shopping for an offensive lineman or two, or perhaps a lineman and a tight end, or a lineman and a running back like Dion Lewis?

Those are football variables the team must and will weigh — in addition to the thorny issues that make up the back story.

Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

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