The Miami Dolphins and wide receiver Jarvis Landry seem to be moving from cordial negotiations for a new contract through dirty, public negotiations and possibly toward a messy divorce. What seemed like a sure thing, a long-term deal in South Florida for the receiver with the most receptions in a player’s first four years, is beginning to look more and more like a pipe dream. And, it is all playing out in the media.
Before the season, it seemed as though the Dolphins wanted to wait on the contract until they knew exactly what they had in wide receiver DeVante Parker. Could Parker be the team’s number one receiver, with Landry working out of the slot. With Parker struggling, that seemed to indicate the Dolphins would be more likely to re-sign Landry, but it also gave Landry more power at the negotiating table. Landry wants to be paid like a top receiver, the Dolphins want to pay him like a top slot receiver.
Money appears to be the top issue - but then other things started to leak out this week.
On Tuesday, the Miami Herald’s Armando Salguero wrote about the contract negotiations, and emphasized that, at least on the Dolphins side of the table, it is not just about the money. He wrote:
They see a player who doesn’t pay attention to details. They see a player who sometimes runs the right routes and sometimes doesn’t. They see a player who sometimes inspires with his emotions, but sometimes loses control and hurts his team. They see a player who doesn’t lead in the locker room although he’s in a great position to do so.
They see a player who doesn’t seem to respect his coaches because he often ignores what they ask. They see a player who has been, in the words of multiple sources, “a pain” to deal with and “hard to reach.”
After that article, Landry tweeted:
Hope I never stoop as low as y’all willing to do...— Jarvis Juice Landry (@God_Son80) January 16, 2018
While not saying he was directly speaking about the Dolphins leaking mis-information about him to Salguero, that seems to be the most likely interpretation of his tweet. It did not take long to get semi-confirmation of that as Landry’s agent, Damarius Bilbo spoke with the South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Chris Perkins in an article posted on Friday.
Bilbo told Perkins the Salguero article caused Landry to feel dirispected by the team that selected him in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft, “I think the disrespect was moreso, ‘Hey, you could have called me or you could have communicated with my representation if, in fact, these are the things you guys have been feeling about me, and not try to harm me or my value to other teams around the league because you guys may not want to pay me $15 or $16 million a year and you think you can get me here cheap. What you’re doing is you’re really making me not even want to play for you guys, and not even want to give everything that I’ve been giving in terms of my body and my blood, sweat and tears.’ ”
Bilbo does contend that the Dolphins could just be getting the idea of Landry being a difficult member of the locker room out into the public so the fans will agree with them if they do not re-sign him.
“It’s one of those, ‘Let’s smooth the fans over, and let’s smooth the city over if we don’t keep our superstar, let’s make this justifiable,’ ” Bilbo said. “Because if he moves, all the fans are going to say, ‘He’s a diva. We didn’t want him here anyway. He wasn’t a leader. He cost us too many penalties.’”
Suddenly, however, the good feelings the fans may have had for Landry and his side of the negotiations changed with Bilbo’s explanation of how he and Landry see his value.
“With all this, ‘What type of receiver is he — slot or outside?’ — or all this, he’s a No. 1 receiver,” Bilbo said to Perkins. “He’s a No. 1 receiver. No matter what you classify him as, or how you use him in that offense, he’s a No.1 receiver. …So at the end of the day Jarvis understands his value and he wants to be compensated as such.
“Everybody has a superstar receiver,” Bilbo continued. “Superstars are meant to reset the market. …His value to his team is just as important as Julio’s. Take him away from the offense and see what you’re left with. And you question it. You take Antonio Brown from the Steelers. Could JuJu [Smith-Schuster] fill in? Could Martavis [Bryant] fill in? Do [the Dolphins] have another player here? That is a big part of the negotiation, too. What does the team look like without that guy there?”
Bilbo then turned the discussion from Landry to the rest of the Dolphins, seeming to focus on the quarterbacks Landry has had since joining the team:
The best thing about his production is he’s a guy who’s done a lot with a little. Like people want to talk about [Green Bay wide receiver] Davante Adams. He played with [quarterback] Aaron Rodgers. You talk about Julio Jones. He played with [quarterback] Matt Ryan. Antonio Brown, he played with [Pittsburgh quarterback] Ben Roethlisberger.
I’m a former quarterback. I played quarterback in college and was a national Player of the Year when I came out of high school at quarterback. I know that’s an extremely tough position, so in no way am I throwing any shots at anybody on Miami’s roster.
But at the end of the day, Jarvis has done a lot with a little when you talk about the route tree he runs. Jarvis is not running downfield, and he is not running the 15-, 20-yard routes.
Bilbo ends his discussion with Perkins by pointing to the time still available between now and the start of free agency in mid-March as well as by expressing his admiration for the Dolphins’ front office:
I know this is part of the process. There’s no blueprint for these kinds of things. They can call tomorrow and offer an amazing deal, and Jarvis is a Dolphin for the next four or five years.
But they can also let the clock tick down to those dates in which they have to place a tag on him and let him go there. Our lines are always open. The great thing about Jarvis Landry, he takes offense to absolutely nothing.
I respect and appreciate their openness. And Mike has always been open about wanting to keep Jarvis there and wanting to get this thing done. It’s been a situation where I was thrown off when I saw the comments [in the article]. It was quite funny at first because it was something I’ve never heard before. Not to this extent. I’ve heard, ‘Hey, man, we want him to be a better leader.’ Obviously he’s a guy that leads by example. He’s always practicing hurt.
‘We want him to grab some of these younger guys and come watch some film.’ And Jarvis has attempted that. But again, what people always forget about being a leader is people have got to want to be led. You can’t make a grown man go watch film or go put in extra reps when they don’t want to. So that’s another thing that people forget in terms of leadership.
So we’re excited. We’re excited to see what’s going to happen.
Shortly after the Perkins article, fans started commenting on the Landry negotiations, and things seem to be swinging away from blaming the Dolphins if he is not re-signed:
Jarvis Landry’s agent is doing a really phenomenal job of making Dolphins fans turn against him.— Matthew Cannata (@PhinsiderRadio) January 20, 2018
Lots on #DolphinsTwitter who are now fed up with him, especially after these statements.
Wonder what Miami brass is thinking. But perhaps Landry is doing this b/c he wants out pic.twitter.com/gemap57JTE
It’s one thing for Jarvis Landry’s agent to go after Miami for taking shots at his client through Armando. I get it. But now he’s going after Jarvis’s teammates and quarterback. Jarvis Landry’s agent has basically turned into Miko Grimes.— CK (@ckparrot) January 20, 2018
At the end of the day it's about the name in the front of the jersey. Not the one on the back. But Landry is being a punk, making it even easier to "choose sides".— . (@WeStillSuhck) January 20, 2018
I know this isn't all on Landry but I'm over it. He's a slot WR who averaged less than 9 YPC, we can draft one in the 5th round and save $ for a LB or OL— Kenny Kistner (@kistner10) January 20, 2018
I love Jarvis, he deserves to get paid, but Miami needs to know when to pass on players who do this kind of thing, or else agents will keep doing this as we have seen time and time again.— The Hawk (@xXwarXx) January 20, 2018
What we see on the field with Landry would make it a no-brainer for team to keep him, the fact it wasn’t done a long time ago always made me wonder what was happening behind the scenes that we couldn’t see— Tom Vill (@TVill24) January 20, 2018
Take care Jarvis— Mark Flaim (@mflaim) January 20, 2018
landry needs to go— Jim F (@jlauderdal) January 20, 2018
But Davante Adams was still very good this year with Hundley throwing him the ball pic.twitter.com/ARO9Jbg99T— Nick Cady (@NickCady26) January 20, 2018
the fact of comparing Landry to Julio, and Antonio brown is absurd...— GruntLife (@RowdyTime1818) January 20, 2018
If he wants #1 money then dueces. He knows where the door is at.— Michael Collingswood (@mbc111975) January 20, 2018
Yeah this is bad negotiating. Trash the front office not his teamates.— dan (@Dstock37) January 20, 2018
Personally, I want a deal to be reached. I think a deal can be reached. It is not going to pay Landry Antonio Brown type of money, but there is a spot somewhere less than that where both sides should be able to agree. Landry is a big part of this offense, and he had a career best 12.1 yards per reception in 2016 - with Ryan Tannehill his starting quarterback for most of the year. With Tannehill coming back next year, Landry should see his yards per catch, and his total yardage, go back up.
That said, Bilbo is not doing Landry any favors if they actually want to re-sign with the Dolphins. If the goal is to get Landry out and make it look like the Dolphins are to blame, then he is doing his job well.
Whatever the case, the next few weeks should be interesting.