At first glace, the Miami Dolphins‘ wide receiver corps appears to be one of the club’s strongest units.
Mike Wallace is a true home-threat and was several Ryan Tannehill-misfires away from surpassing the 1,000-yard plateau with ease in 2013. Brian Hartline is a consistent possession receiver who is arguably propelled just as much by Tannehill’s comfort throwing his way as his own prowess.
Brandon Gibson and Rishard Matthews are both decent-sized targets for Tannehill in the slot, and with good health and continued development they could emerge as one of the top backup tandems in the league. To round out the group, Armon Binns and the recently inked Damian Williams provide the Dolphins with impressive depth.
It’s not the best corps in the league, but it’s certainly not void of talent or potential. With a revamped offensive line to give Tannehill more time to throw and improvement from No. 17 himself in his third season, Miami’s receivers will have the ability to produce at a much higher level this fall than they did a year ago.
The Dolphins have invested a considerable amount of coin to equip themselves with a high ceiling at the position as well. Three of the club’s top 12 highest paid players are receivers, including Wallace, whose base salary in 2014 is $9 million higher than the No. 2 highest paid Dolphin.
But all of that is merely first-glance evaluation. Dig a little deeper and it becomes evident that the corps is flawed. It becomes obvious why the Dolphins appear far from content at the position.
USC standout Marqise Lee will visit the Dolphins on Tuesday, according to ESPN. Lee, a possible first-round pick, possesses an intriguing blend of athleticism, route-running dexterity and competitiveness to thrive in the West Coast offense.
Lee won’t be the first coveted receiver prospect to visit the Dolphins during the pre-draft process either. Clemson‘s Martavis Bryant and Mississippi‘s Donte Moncrief have also been summoned to team headquarters in Davie. Bryant and Moncrief likely won’t come off the board in the draft’s first round like Lee, but both are probable second day picks.
The Dolphins’ interest in all three prospects could prove futile. Teams are rarely more inclined to nab the players they meet with and sometimes only show interest in a prospect to mask their true intentions during the draft. But couple the Dolphins’ pre-draft interest in first and second day receivers with their recent fury of free agency activity, and it’s unlikely they would go this far out of their way to create a diversion.
Miami has recently signed receivers Damian Williams, Kevin Cone and Mike Rios. They also reportedly offered a contract to Nate Burleson.
Why all of the sudden interest in a position that seems set in 2014? It could be several reasons — all of which are derived more from speculation than actual evidence at this juncture.
Perhaps it has something to do with Hartline, Gibson and Binns all recovering from serious knee injuries. Maybe one’s rehabilitation is taking longer than anticipated or someone suffered a serious setback that has subsequently put their status for training camp in jeopardy.
Perhaps the Dolphins realize they lack size at the position. At 6-foot-2, Hartline is Miami’s tallest target among those who contributed in 2013, but he plays smaller than his size when compared to highly athletic pass catchers. It’s easy to foresee Miami struggling in the red zone in 2014 without the addition of a big body receiver or tight end.
Perhaps the Dolphins are seeking a qualified replacement for Wallace, who, despite his game-changing speed, isn’t worth the outrageous salary cap number ($17.25 million) he’s been assigned in 2014. Trading Wallace is the only realistic way to move on from his mammoth deal this year, but cutting him will become easier in 2015.
Perhaps it’s Gibson who the Dolphins are eager to replace. He’s due $2.7 million in 2014 after a serious knee injury after all. Not to mention that Matthews, a much cheaper option, looked just as capable, if not more so, in the slot after Gibson went down for the year.
Whatever the case, it’s clear the Dolphins are entertaining the possibility of selecting a wide receiver with one of their top three picks.
Drafting a receiver early in May’s draft would be met with criticism, perhaps even outrage by some. But those same fans who would disapprove likely haven’t evaluated the receiver corps beyond a first glance.
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