Last season, the Dolphins’ receivers ranked near the bottom of the NFL in nearly every statistical category. They were 25th in receptions, 26th in average yardage and 29th in scoring just to name a few. Oddly, it was a breakout year for the Dolphins’ leading receiver Brian Hartline, but as a whole, the wide receivers simply did not get it done.
Still, rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill was able to throw for over 3,000 yards and 12 touchdowns. His numbers are tame compared to some of the other rookie quarterbacks in his draft class, but it was enough to entice Dolphins owner Stephen Ross to spend nearly $200 million this offseason, a large part of which was spent on new receivers for Tannehill to throw to.
The first thing the Dolphins did was to secure Hartline, inking a five-year, $30.775 million contract with $12.5 million guaranteed. The numbers may be a bit high for a no. 2 receiver, but Hartline did have a career season in 2012, and is extremely reliable. Hartline dropped five of the 79 catchable passes Tannehill threw his way, good enough for third-best drop rate in the entire NFL.
The Dolphins decided to trade fan favorite Davone Bess to the Cleveland Browns, parting ways with a solid slot receiver who ranked as the 38th best wide receiver by Pro Football Focus. His position will be filled by the very next player on that same list, Brandon Gibson, who comes to the ‘Phins after four years with the St. Louis Rams.
Gibson clearly impressed general manager Jeff Ireland when he caught seven receptions for 91 yards against the Dolphins in Week 6 last season, and he is nearly cemented in to the slot position due to the $3.75 million guarantee his contract calls for.
Miami’s big spending came in the form of Mike Wallace and his five-year, $60 million, $30 million guaranteed. It was the first move the Dolphins made when free agency opened up, and it was the move they felt they needed the most. Bringing Wallace into the fold gives Tannehill a true no. 1 receiver who he can lean on.
Wallace provides breakaway speed, good hands, and he is a competent route runner. He can stretch the field, has the ability to command extra coverage and his presence on the field will open up holes for the of Dolphins receivers.
Coach Joe Philbin has said that there will be open competition for every position when training camp kicks off at the end of July, and while that may not necessarily be true, there are several wideouts that will be looking for a place on the Dolphins’ final roster. Two in particular to watch will be Armon Bins and Marvin McNutt, both of whom were impressive during OTA’s and minicamp.
The receiving corps is a work in progress for the Dolphins, but an undeniable upgrade has already occurred. The trio of Hartline, Wallace and Gibson is impressive in itself, the surprise talent from Bins and McNutt is an added bonus, and with plenty of time before the season starts, there could be several other names that force themselves onto this list.
No matter how you look at it, Miami has turned one of its biggest weaknesses in 2012 into what should be one of their greatest strengths. Tannehill gave the fans a glimpse of what he could do last season. Now he needs to step up and take advantage of the weapons Ross spent so much money on.