This one feels weird. Because over the past two months the Miami Dolphins and the representative for Jarvis Landry have exchanged a couple of contract proposals and the team decided the receiver’s asking price of about $58 million over four years — or $14.5 million per season — was too high.
So the Dolphins, who made the first move in those negotiations, never answered agent Damarious Bilbo’s $14.5-million-per-year request. That was too much to pay a slot receiver with other issues, the Dolphins apparently decided.
And then late Tuesday evening Miami put the franchise tag on Landry — a move that costs a whopping $16.2 million in 2018.
That’s right, $14.5 million per year was too steep so someone got the brilliant idea of paying $16 million.
You’re asking too much, Jarvis. Here, take more!
Landry’s $16.2 million take for 2018 now ties the second-highest mark for any NFL wide receiver currently under contract. Antonio Brown’s contract pays an average of $17 million per season; Deandre Hopkins also collects $16.2 million average per year (APY).
And Landry is right there, also, at $16.2 million.
Julio Jones? Less.
A.J. Green? Less.
Davante Adams, Dez Bryant, Alshon Jeffery, T.Y. Hilton — all less.
New England’s Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and Chris Hogan are averaging a total of $12.7 million annually. Combined.
But the Dolphins are going with $16.2 million for Landry.
Last time someone did something this curious was when a team, unhappy with a player, traded that player from their losing organization to the eventual Super Bowl champion. Yeah, that taught players to tow the line.
Oh, that was the Dolphins. With Jay Ajayi.
And I get it. The Dolphins don’t like the idea of letting Landry simply go in free agency without getting something for him in return. And because they like but don’t love him, they didn’t want to fully commit to him for four or five more years.
So they did the most expedient thing.
Unfortunately, the expedient thing and right thing are not the same. Not even close.
The Dolphins decided they don’t love Landry enough to keep him longterm but can’t bear the thought of letting him go without compensation. So they split the baby.
They rented Landry with this tag.
My problem is when you’re renting with that franchise tag, you’re paying as if you’re moving into the White House without actually getting the awesome accommodations. And the move has repercussions.
This move schedules Landry as the third-highest cap hit on the team for 2018. He will cost approximately 9 percent of the Dolphins’ total salary cap.
That would be fine for a team like the Browns, who will have $110 million in cap space when the league year begins. But the Dolphins are not flush with cap space for 2018.
They must cut two players — tight end Julius Thomas and linebacker Lawrence Timmons — to save $12 million in cap space. Rescinding their fifth-year option on tackle Ja’Wuan James will save another $9.3 million.
And that means the Dolphins will be at about $30 million in cap space if the salary cap lands on the expected $178 million figure that has been widely reported.
But guess what?
Landry is going to suck up $16.2 million of that $30 million, assuming he signs the franchise tender.
So barring more moves that will cut into the roster, the Dolphins will have about $14 million in cap space to work with at the beginning of free agency March 14. (They could create more but only if they trim more players off the roster).
And the Dolphins will have those $14 million in a cap environment where a dozen teams will start the league year with more than $40 million in cap space.
Enjoy the competition for free agents in that market, Miami Dolphins.
Another thing the Landry franchise tag does is it sends a strong message to the player. It tells Landry the team is willing to stick with him for one year but doesn’t believe in him longterm.
Is that going to make Landry, who has frustrated coaches over the past two years, better for the Dolphins or worse? Is he more likely to study, practice and work out in the offseason like coaches want? Or is he more likely to go about his business as he sees fit because it obviously got him this far?
Landry would have to be a saint to go with option No. 1.
The franchise tag is a solution that really doesn’t feel like a solution with any sort of lasting or team building effect. It feels like what a team does when it doesn’t really have a strong conviction about a player but neither does it have options to move in a different direction.
Which leads me to this: The Dolphins obviously have retained control of Landry’s rights for now. And so they can use that control to trade Landry if they can find a trade partner — again, assuming he signs his franchise tag tender. I am quite certain this is what the Dolphins will try.
So maybe the Dolphins are playing some sort of Machiavellian three-dimensional chess that has them already lining up trade partners willing to give up a second-round pick for Landry. Maybe they can even get a first-round pick for Landry (Nope). Or maybe they can add a really, really good player they value in return for Landry.
In that scenario, tagging Landry will be unorthodox yet genius.
Because once that trade is made, Landry’s $16 million cap number would go away. And the Dolphins could maneuver in free agency, possibly replacing Landry while also benefiting from the trade’s compensation.
But barring that amazing move in that fictional game of 3D chess, the Dolphins using the franchise tag on Landry is just … shortsighted. It’s not brilliant 3D chess.
It’s amateur checkers.
Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero