Armando Salguero

Is Jarvis Landry worth a big contract and a draft pick? Teams doing that a lot now

Miami Dolphins executive vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum is trying to find a trade partner for receiver Jarvis Landry.
Miami Dolphins executive vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum is trying to find a trade partner for receiver Jarvis Landry. adiaz@miamiherald.com

The Miami Dolphins should be able to trade wide receiver Jarvis Landry and they should be able to get solid compensation for him.

Think perhaps a fourth-round draft pick for Landry.

If Dolphins executive vice president Mike Tannenbaum, in charge of this trade exercise, is able to get anything better than a fourth-rounder for Landry he’ll deserve a medal.

Indeed, Mike, you get a third for Landry and I’ll give you a one-man standing ovation because you will have earned it.

But that feels like a best-case scenario. Again, more likely you’ll have to be happy with the idea of the Dolphins getting something for Landry that will help the team with a solid pick on the draft’s third day.

Why do I say this?

And why should you be good with this?

That first: The Dolphins decided sometime in late January they were not going to keep Landry on the team longterm. So barring a major change of mind -- which, by the way, this team is increasingly known for lately -- I don’t see Landry with the Dolphins beyond this year.

(Honestly, I don’t see him with the Dolphins beyond April).

Why the Dolphins made this decision is another story that I’ve written so we’re moving on from that today. Today it’s what can Miami get, and why.

Once the Dolphins decided they would like to part ways with Landry, they had to decide either to let him go into free agency, sign with another team, and get nothing in return ...

...Or they could apply the franchise tag and try to trade Landry to get something for him.

The Dolphins applied the tag.

And this is where knowing the rules becomes important because I’ve seen fans and media say the Dolphins should have not tagged Landry, let him walk, and then pick up a nice 2019 compensatory pick as a result.

The compensatory pick most often quoted is a third-round pick, which sounds good in theory.

Except theory is not fact.

The NFL compensatory pick formula is way above my understanding. But I know it measures what free agents a team loses -- both in quality and quantity -- and weighs them against what free agents a team signs -- again, in both quality and quantity.

If a team loses multiple players who sign big contracts with other teams but add relatively few free agents in return, they get compensatory picks to make up for the loss. The bigger the loss, the better the compensatory pick.

So folks are saying the Dolphins should have let Landry walk, he would have signed a huge deal, and the Dolphins would have benefited with an awesome comp pick.

But that assumes the Dolphins wouldn’t then go out and sign a big-money free agent or two. It assumes the Dolphins would have sat around reading the great Dolphins coverage in The Miami Herald while other teams improved in free agency.

That is not the plan.

The Dolphins are going to dive into free agency pool, per league sources familiar with the team’s thinking. They are going to be active. They’re going to try to add talent.

So the return for Landry was not going to be that mythical third-round compensatory pick a year from now. Beyond that, if you study the list of the other free agents the Dolphins have going into into the market next week, you will understand losing most of those is not seriously going to help Miami’s cause.

Because none of those is getting a huge contract.

The Dolphins, you see, have no star other than Landry unsigned for 2018.

Jay Cutler is unsigned and not returning but the chances of him even being on a team this coming season are slim.

Kicker Cody Parkey?

Alterraun Verner?

William Hayes?

Matt Moore?

None of these will break another team’s bank. None will significantly balance the compensatory pick formula against Miami enough to outweigh what Miami expects to gain.

The Dolphins did this calculation. They knew they weren’t going to win a high comp pick by doing this.

So they franchised Landry. And now they hope to get something for him.

That begs the question what exactly can they get?

A couple of weeks ago I would have said not much because the common 2005 thinking was no team is going to give up draft pick and then commit major dollars to a player via a big contract.

Except that was true when the salary cap was around $120-$140 million and teams were thrilled with having $30-$40 million in cap space to operate.

Today is 2018, andthe NFL salary cap is $177.2 million. There will be maybe 10 teams that have close to $50 million in cap space. Indeed, there will be five teams with over $70 million in cap space.

Teams must spend a percentage of that money. And they’ll do just that. So they will be willing to pay players, including Landry.

And what about the draft pick part?

Well, in case you haven’t noticed, teams are giving up draft picks in trades all the time now.

And they’re doing it while absorbing players that carry huge salaries.

The Dolphins themselves did it when they traded away a fourth-round pick and picked up defensive end Robert Quinn, who has two years left on his contract for around $24 million.

Dolphins coach Adam Gase meets with reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine.

So the Dolphins gave up a good draft pick. And they picked up a sizable salary.

2005 is freaking out.

Because when 2005 looks around, it seems many teams are doing this sort of thing.

The Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday traded away a fifth-round draft pick and receiver Marcus Johnson to the Seattle Seahawks for defensive end Michael Bennett.

Bennett has three years left on his contract worth $22 million.

The Eagles gave up a player and a draft pick and absorbed a big contract.

The Los Angeles Rams acquired cornerback Aqib Talib from the Denver Broncos on Thursday. They gave the Broncos a fifth-round pick for Talib, who has two years remaining on his contract worth approximately $19 million.

So the Rams gave up a draft pick and absorbed a big contract.

And Talib is 32-years-old!

The New York Giants acquired linebacker Alec Ogletree from the Rams. They reportedly gave up a fourth- and a sixth-round pick and will have Ogletree on the books through 2021 for around $36 million.

So the Giants gave up a draft pick and absorbed a big contract.

With all these teams giving up draft picks and absorbing big contracts, it’s logical to expect the Dolphins to find a trade partner willing to give up a draft pick and absorb a big contract for Landry.

The question is not whether a team will be willing to do it.

The questions are what team and how high of a pick that team is willing to part with.

Again, I’m saying a fourth-rounder at best.

We’ll see if Mike Tannenbaum can do better and get that one-man standing ovation.

Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

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