Second in an occasional series exploring where the Dolphins stand by position, with 2018 metrics and the outlook for the future.
As they embark on this rebuilding program, the Dolphins could make a case that they don’t need to make a single significant move at receiver besides releasing DeVante Parker, thus freeing themselves from a $9.4 million salary and cap hit next season.
After all, a group of Albert Wilson, Jakeem Grant, Kenny Stills, Danny Amendola and Brice Butler would suffice for a team that will enter next season without any realistic aspirations of a playoff spot.
But here’s the flip side: On a team that’s rebuilding, is there a point in keeping a 33-year-old possession receiver in Amendola, albeit one who led Miami in catches (59) and yards (575) this season?
Remember, Amendola has a $6 million cap hit if he’s on the team in 2019 and no hit if he’s not. His $5.9 million salary for next season is non-guaranteed.
Considering the Dolphins’ predicament – with no urgency to win in 2019 and, in fact, some sentiment toward losing a lot to gain a high draft pick - the prudent approach would be trying to trade Amendola for a third-day draft pick and ultimately cutting him if Miami cannot find a suitor.
But while it might be tempting to release him around the draft if no trade materializes, the wiser move might be holding onto him into August and see if a contender sustains a serious injury to a receiver in training camp and preseason, with the hope of then flipping Amendola for a 2020 third-day draft pick.
As colleague Armando Salguero noted, there is respect between soon-to-be new Dolphins coach Brian Flores and Amendola from their time together in New England. So this will need to be discussed between both parties.
The Stills question is more complicated. He was underutilized this past season, and his receptions dropped from 58 to 37 and yards from 847 to 553 (while maintaining the same average of nearly 15 yards per catch).
By cutting Stills with a post-June 1 designation, Miami could save $6 million in cap space but have $3.7 million in dead money. There’s less savings if he’s cut or traded before then.
Moving on from Amendola – who’s seven years older than Stills and has no dead money – would seem to make more sense. But because the Dolphins appear all-in on getting a high draft pick in 2020, dangling Stills in a trade for a draft pick could also be justified.
Stills is under contract through 2020, with a $6.9 million base salary and $8.8 million cap hit for 2020.
Whereas Amendola caught a greater percentage of passes thrown to him than Stills did (because Amendola’s routes were generally shorter), this was striking:
Of Stills’ 37 receptions, 27 went for first downs. Of Amendola’s 59 receptions, 27 also went for first downs – a surprisingly low number.
Some other receiver notes:
▪ In PFF’s final ranking of 125 receivers, the web site rated Grant 48th, Parker 50th, Amendola 67th and Stills 80th. If Wilson had enough snaps to qualify, his 82.9 grade would have ranked him 14th.
▪ Here were the final targets, catches and passer rating when targeted for the Dolphins’ top six receivers:
Amendola: 75 targets, 59 catches (which is 78.7 percent) and an 86.4 passer rating in his coverage area.
Stills: 60 targets, 37 caught (which is 61.7 percent) and a 111.3 passer rating when targeted. He had three drops.
Wilson: 36 targets, 26 caught (72.2 percent) with a 109.8 passer rating when targeted.
Grant: 31 targets, 21 receptions (67.7 percent) and a 102.6 passer rating when targeted.
Parker: 43 targets, 24 receptions (55.8 percent), 76.6 passer rating when targeted.
Butler: nine targets, six completions (66.7 percent) and a 122.5 passer rating when targeted.
▪ In average yards after catch per reception, Wilson was third in the league at 13.3, Grant 26th at 6.8, Amendola 110th at 3.9 and Stills 121st at 3.6.
Leonte Carroo was first at 20.0, but had only two catches for 94 yards.
▪ Final snap counts for the receivers on offense: Stills 745, Amendola 685, Parker 412, Grant 282, Wilson 232, Butler 120, Carroo 43, Isaiah Ford 13.
▪ Contract status: Parker will be owed nothing –and have no cap hit – if the Dolphins rescind his fifth-year option as expected. Amendola has one year left at $5.9 million (non-guaranteed). Stills has two years left, as explained above.
Grant has one year left at $720,000 and can become an unrestricted free agent after next season. The Dolphins are expected to try to keep him.
Wilson is signed through 2020 and has base salaries of $6.9 million and $9.5 million the next two seasons.
Butler also is signed through 2019, at $805,000 next season.
Here’s some background on expected new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham:
Graham was a defensive lineman at Yale and has coached for three NFL teams - the Patriots (linebackers coach and defensive line coach), the Giants (defensive line coach in 2016-17) and Green Bay (linebackers coach and run game coordinator for the defense in 2018).
He began his coaching career as a grad assistant at Wagner (2002-03), then was defensive line coach and tight ends coach at Richmond, and a defensive graduate assistant at Notre Dame. He has worked in the NFL since 2009, when he joined the Patriots, where he worked through 2015.
Graham, 39, has a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Yale.