On March 9, 2018 the Miami Dolphins traded away the most exciting and talented offensive playmaker that the team has seen in a very long time. Jarvis Landry was a fan favorite, an emotional leader, and a damn good wide receiver. Yet, after a grueling months-long span of rumors and leaks, the front office finally made the decision to move on from their polarizing weapon. But was it the right call?
Back in December when the 2017 season ended for Miami as the team flopped to a 6-10 season that saw head coach Adam Gase and his squad miss the playoffs, the Dolphins opened contract negotiations with Landry and his representatives. Whether or not a long-term deal would be reached was anyone’s guess at the time, but the two sides were optimistic to say the least. Miami’s executives and Landry’s reps went back and forth a few times, and it appeared the Dolphins had made a respectable offer.
According to reports, that offer was somewhere in the realm of $12.5 to $13.0 million per year over four seasons, the kind of money that would have placed Landry right around the top 10 highest paid wide receivers. It was also the maximum offer Executive Vice President of Football Operations Mike Tannenbaum was comfortable with considering the team’s tight salary cap situation. The front office was hoping to be active in free agency, and tying up too much money in the wide receiver position (fellow wideout Kenny Stills is already averaging $8 million per year) would have prevented the team from doing so.
However, Landry and his camp did not see that as acceptable compensation considering what he’s done for the team over the past four seasons. Landry sees himself as more valuable than $13 million per year. As a matter of fact, the star wide receiver is currently seeking a long-term contract that will pay him around $14.5 million per year, a number that would put him in the top five at his position. It remains to be seen if he’ll find that deal with Cleveland, where he was traded to yesterday.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to situations like this. One: The Dolphins were being stingy considering the fact that they wouldn’t increase Landry’s salary by an extra $1.5 million despite how valuable he’s been to the team. Or two: Landry is being greedy and should accept the very lucrative offer the team has given him. When it comes right down to it, both of these ideas are silly, short-sighted, and naive.
First of all, Miami can’t simply capitulate to every player’s salary demands just because they’ve done well for the team recently. That would be bad business. On a team with restricted cap space where every dollar counts, and where the roster is already very stacked with wide receiver talent, it simply didn’t make sense to overpay for Landry, especially when there have been rumblings about possible attitude and maturity issues. Sure, Landry has set plenty of records and is immensely talented, but he also averaged under 9.0 ypc this season and isn’t the type of downfield threat that earns top wide receiver money.
Secondly, Landry has absolutely every right to earn as much money as possible over the course of his NFL career. NFL players literally put their lives on the line every single time they step onto the field. A player like Landry, and just about every other athlete in the league, has worked his entire life to reach this moment, to be paid like a star. He’s earned every penny he can squeeze out of a contract. Let’s be real, $1.5 million per year over the course of four years is A LOT of money. Landry’s earned it. He deserves it. Why shouldn’t he be paid like it if there’s a team out there that’s willing give him a long-term contract?
Unfortunately for fans who adored Landry’s passion and talent, circumstances like this happen in the NFL. One team simply can’t pay a player what he wants, and other teams are in better situations to do so. It was just a matter of bad timing and bad luck. One can argue that the Dolphins should have put themselves in a better situation with their salary cap years in advance in order to anticipate paying Landry what he wanted, and that’s a fair argument. However, that doesn’t change the fact that the team was right in not increasing their offer under the circumstances.
When both sides couldn’t reach an agreement, it was clear Landry’s days in Miami were numbered. The front office made the smart decision and franchise tagged him, allowing the team to trade him for as much compensation as possible instead of allowing Landry to walk in free agency for nothing.
“But wait!” I hear plenty of you already screaming. “Letting him walk could have netted Miami a compensatory third-round pick instead of the fourth- and seventh-round picks the team received in the trade with Cleveland.”
Well... yes and no. Miami could have received a third-round compensatory pick next year, but there was never any guarantee of that. What if Landry sputters with the Browns and puts up very little production? More importantly, what if Miami signs a free agent of value that negates that compensatory pick we could have received? Trading Landry for the maximum amount of draft capital was exactly what the team needed to do in order to gain the highest possible value in return for their talented pass-catcher while also ridding the team of his massive cap hit. Mike Tannenbaum and co. made the right move, whether it makes fans happy or not.