What's With the Miami Dolphins' Interest in Wide Receivers?

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins have brought in a slew of both free agent and draft prospect WRs, but why? I do my best Sherlock Holmes impression to read between the lines and sleuth an answer for you.

The Miami Dolphins clearly feel uncomfortable with the make-up of the receiving corps right now. The Dolphins have signed three new WRs this offseason in Mike Rios, Damian Williams and Kevin Cone, as well as visiting with former Detroit Lions WR Nate Burleson. While only one of these men, Williams, is expected to have a realistic chance at making the roster, the Dolphins ambition to add WRs to the roster has shown.

There are also reports that the Dolphins are planning on selecting a WR early in the draft like Marqise Lee, Brandin Cooks, Kelvin Benjamin, Donte Moncrief, Odell Beckham Jr. or Martavis Bryant, most of whom the Dolphins have already met with or plan on meeting with before the draft.

If you would have asked me three months ago, I would have told you that WR was one of the deepest areas on the team and that the Dolphins were unlikely to draft another. But, as time has passed and rumors have swirled, I'm not so sure. What has happened to cause this doubt within the Dolphins organization, and thus the fan base, about the current WR corps?


Is Mike Wallace really on the trading block?

Do the Dolphins feel they need more playmakers for Ryan Tannehill to succeed?

Is it simply the fact that the Dolphins have three WRs coming back from major knee injuries and need some insurance?

Well, it may be an odd combination of the three.

Wallace, while unlikely to be traded this year due to his astronomical cap number, has an uncertain future with the team beyond next season. WRs not named Julio Jones or AJ Green usually take some time to adjust to the NFL, so drafting a young, skilled player now would allow the time to let him slow-cook until the Dolphins were ready to part ways with Wallace.

The Dolphins may not need more playmakers for Tannehill to succeed, but a guy like Brandin Cooks or Odell Beckham Jr. would provide the run-after-catch yards that Miami's playmakers didn't provide last year. In 2013, Hartline was 58th in the NFL in RAC yards and Wallace was 70th. Charles Clay was 41st with 382 RAC yards. The Dolphins were ranked 23rd in the league in RAC as a team.

The Dolphins also could use a bigger target among the WR group as the tallest WR to play in a game for Miami last year was Rishard Matthews at 6'1". The Dolphins seem to realize this as all three of the WRs who I previously mentioned were signed this offseason are at least 6'2". Dolphins' HC Joe Philbin has said in the past that he has no need for a huge, alpha-dog WR, but a WR who can win a jump ball is an asset that the Dolphins, and Tannehill, could use.

Now, the most influential component of the Dolphins decision to bring in all these WRs: the injuries.

Brian Hartline, Miami's top WR the past two years, tore his PCL in the final game of the season and his status for next season is now unsure. The team insists that Hartline will be ready by training camp, but the influx of wide outs that the Dolphins facility has seen suggests that Hartline may have suffered a setback or the team doesn't envision him fitting into new OC Bill Lazor's offensive system or regaining his form.

Brandon Gibson, who was emerging as Tannehill's second favorite target, tore his a ligament in his knee in a loss to the New England Patriots. Gibson is said to be ready for training camp, but really he is in the same boat as Hartline. Knee injuries are tougher to come back from than Adrian Peterson makes it look and a setback could happen at any time.

Armon Binns was reportedly a touchdown machine in training camp last season. Binns tore up CBs and was in position to earn a starting spot before he tore up his ACL. Binns, if he can return healthy, has potential to be the big WR with the huge catch radius that the Dolphins need, but, like Hartline and Gibson, his health is a huge question mark.

The Dolphins receiving corps, if healthy, is one of the stronger points of the team. However, that's not the case. In a passing league that is focusing more and more on having stellar talent at the CB spot, you can never have enough weapons at the WR position. The Dolphins have other needs, but if either Cooks or Beckham Jr. is available at 19 and is the best player left on GM Dennis Hickey's draft board, pulling the trigger and landing the playmaker may be the best option for the future of the position and the offense.
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