The Minnesota Vikings made headlines yesterday when the team handed out a massive five-year contract extension to wide receiver Stefon Diggs. Recently, the team’s front office has made it a point to secure the core of a very strong roster to multi-year deals (Diggs, Xavier Rhodes, Danielle Hunter, Eric Kendricks, etc.), something most teams in the NFL strive to do. With that said, I thought it’d be interesting to take a look at some of Miami’s core players with soon-to-be expiring contracts and see if our front office should be doing more to lock them up.
To be fair, Mike Tannenbaum and Chris Grier have done their part to keep most of Miami’s young talent in town as of late (save for the Jarvis Landry saga). Over the past few seasons, the Dolphins’ top brass has given multi-year extensions to the likes of Reshad Jones, Cameron Wake, Kenny Stills, Andre Branch, Bobby McCain, T.J. McDonald, and Kiko Alonso, most of whom were deserving of those deals. Who’s next down the pipeline, and who should the team let drift into free agency?
*I’ll be examining mostly younger players whose contracts will be expiring in the 2019 or 2020 offseason, so no Cameron Wake, William Hayes, or Frank Gore on this list.
OT Ja’Wuan James (2019)
The Dolphins drafted James in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft, meaning the front office had a fifth-year option that it chose to exercise last offseason. James’ one-year option expires at the end of this season, and his play over the course of the next 16+ games will likely be the deciding factor in whether or not the team decides to hand out a large contract in the near future.
Over the past four seasons, James has been a mixed bag at right tackle. At times, he seems like one of the better linemen in the league, but injuries and inconsistent play have hampered his growth and the team’s confidence in giving him the big bucks. In fact, it was reported that Miami was considering trading and/or cutting James this offseason, but he was ultimately kept around (a decision I support) because of his potential. Should James continue to improve this season as he did last year, I think the Dolphins would be smart to secure him as the bookend right tackle across from Laremy Tunsil for years to come.
Projected extension: 4-year/$28 million
DT Jordan Phillips (2019)
Phillips is another player whose financial future is hindering greatly on his play this upcoming season. As Ndamukong Suh’s understudy over the past couple of years, Phillips has seen some shining moments and some highly underwhelming stretches. His effort has been questioned, but there’s no doubt he has the potential to be a lockdown interior roadblock in the trenches. Unfortunately, potential only gets you so far.
For Phillips to cash in, he’ll have to prove that he can handle the responsibility of being the top defensive tackle on the depth chart. With Suh gone, Phillips must partner with Davon Godchaux (or Akeem Spence) in the middle to create production defending the run. Without doing so, Miami will again be in search of help along the d-line. My guess is that he puts enough together this year to warrant a mid-level extension.
Projected extension: 3-year/$32 million
LB Stephone Anthony (2019)
Dolphins fans have gotten to see very little of the once promising New Orleans Saint. Anthony was drafted by New Orleans in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft, and after a promising rookie season in which he accumulated 112 tackles in 16 starts, Anthony’s career was derailed by injuries. He played just ten games over the next two seasons and was subsequently traded to Miami. He played eight games and totaled 15 tackles in very limited play last year.
The Dolphins declined Anthony’s fifth-year option, making him an upcoming free agent for the 2019 offseason. The question now is how he will contribute in 2018. With Raekwon McMillan and Kiko Alonso at slated to start, the team has one more starting position open in the linebacking corps that will likely be filled by either Anthony or rookie third-round draft pick Jerome Baker. If Anthony takes the spot and runs with it, he has the potential to cash out with a mid level extension. If not, he will likely flutter quietly into free agency next offseason.
Projected extension: 2-year/$12 million
CB Tony Lippett (2019)
Lippett came on strong during his sophomore season as a Dolphin, during which he played in all 16 games, starting 13. He racked up 67 tackles, ten passes defended, and four interceptions in 2016, just two years after converting from playing wide receiver during his college days. Unfortunately, Lippett’s development came to a screeching halt after he tore his achilles tendon during training camp last year. While he wasn’t necessarily on his way to being the league’s next shutdown corner, the young defensive back was certainly making strides and looked to be another key cog in Miami’s defense.
This season, with Xavien Howard locking up CB #1 duties, Lippett is in competition with Cordrea Tankersley, Torry McTyer, and others for the CB #2 spot. Depending on his place on the 2018 depth chart, Lippett’s playing time could fluctuate greatly, meaning it is very difficult to peg what role he’ll have and thus, where his standing will be with the team as of next offseason. It’s also vital to take into account the fact that recovering from an achilles tendon tear is brutal work, and we don’t know for sure where Lippett stands in that regard. Assuming he wins the #2 CB role, I could see him in line for an extension similar to the one McCain received this offseason (4-year/$27 million). If not, this could be Lippett’s final season as a Dolphin.
Projected extension: N/A
WR DeVante Parker (2020)
Note: Miami exercised Parker’s fifth-year option for the 2019 season.
Examinations of Parker’s past and potential future have been exhausted by media from all over (including recently by The Phinsider’s beloved Managing Editor), so I’ll be brief here. The enigmatic pass catcher has shown flashes of absolute brilliance, like during last year’s season opener against the Chargers. However, he’s also constantly battling injuries and MUST improve his consistency if he wants to be paid like the top shelf pass catcher he can be.
Maybe it’s the ever-optimist in me, but I’ll tag Parker to finally hit 1,000 yards this season. While he might not become a top-ten receiver, I believe he’ll be a dangerous weapon in this year’s offense. Because the wide receiver market is exploding, that will be enough to earn him a nice pile of dough, albeit not a contract so rich as to hamper Miami’s financial future.
Projected extension: 4-year/$40 million
Other players with soon-to-be expiring contracts:
TE A.J. Derby (2019)
TE MarQueis Gray (2019)
OT/OG Jesse Davis (2019)
QB David Fales (2019)
CB Xavien Howard (2020)
RB Kenyan Drake (2020)
Which Dolphin do you believe is most worthy of a contract extension?
This poll is closed
OT Ja’Wuan James
DT Jordan Phillips
LB Stephone Anthony
CB Tony Lippett
WR DeVante Parker