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Miami Dolphins training camp stories: Make or break year for DeVante Parker (again)

Miami Dolphins OTA Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Ahh. July in Miami Dolphins land. When the South Florida heat starts blazing, training camp is just days away, and we once again get to talk about DeVante Parker’s breakout year. It will be this year, right? Just like it was to be 2018 at this time last year. Or 2017 two-years ago. Or...

Well, you get the idea. Every year has been the final stand for Parker, who “has just never seemed to be able to put it all together and become the true number one receiver that the Dolphins envisioned him becoming when they drafted him,” as Craniator87 wrote of Parker here on The Phinsider on June 1, 2018. And, to be fair to Parker, a lot of the issues have been injury related. He has seemed to get those nagging injuries like hamstring or groin pulls that simply will not go away as long as he continues to try to play through them. He has had a broken finger when his hand somehow slid into the face mask of a teammate during a training camp practice. It has been weird things, but it has just continued every year since Miami selected him in the first round in 2015.

It seemed as though the Dolphins would move on from Parker this year. Prior to the start of the 2018 season, Miami elected to exercise the fifth-year option on Parker’s rookie contract. That option gave Miami the ability to keep Parker through 2019, but also could be rescinded and Parker allowed to become a free agent. Rather than pay him the $9.4 million in 2019 the option would have demanded, the Dolphins found a way to keep Parker, while bringing down his salary cap number.

The Dolphins signed Parker to a two-year contract this offseason, paying him up to $13 million (if he meets all incentives) over the life of the deal, while bringing his 2019 cap number down to $4.8 million. The biggest factor in the contract for Miami is the 2020 year features no guaranteed money. Miami can walk away from Parker’s $5 million cap number without adding any dead money.

Which means, 2019 should be the make or break year for Parker. Will he finally break out?

ESPN’s Dan Graziano wrote an article earlier this week identifying 10 NFL players entering make-or-break years. Parker was the ninth player listed.

Signed through: 2020

Why it’s a make-or-break year: Last spring, the Dolphins picked up the 2019 option on their 2015 first-round pick. But since those aren’t guaranteed until the new league year starts, Miami was able to get Parker to agree to a restructured deal that guarantees him $4.5 million this year and schedules him to earn a non-guaranteed $5 million in 2020. Parker has never had 60 catches or 750 yards in a season, and he has a total of nine touchdowns in four seasons. Renegotiating him out of his fifth-year option shows the Dolphins need to see more before they commit.

How the Dolphins could move on: Miami has until March to pick up the 2020 option on Parker for $5 million in salary and bonuses. If the Dolphins decide to cut him after the 2019 season but before March 2020, they’d owe him nothing.

The Dolphins need more from Parker. He has never played in all 16 games in a season during his four years in the league. He has 163 total receptions in his career, with just 24 last year. He has 2,217 receiving yards, with 309 coming last year. He has nine reciving touchdowns, with one each of the last two years.

In the 11 games he played in 2018, Parker was held without a catch three times, with two move games featuring just one reception. He had one game with over 100 yards receiving, with 43 yards the next highest single game mark in 2018 (finishing two games with 43 yards).

There is a lot of boom when Parker is on, but there are a whole lot of busts between those boom games.

Miami needs more consistency from Parker. They need more boom if he wants to get that $5 million.

The Dolphins set up this year as a final look at Parker, with a new coaching staff able to give him a fresh evaluation. Parker has to prove to them that he is worth hanging on to after the season.

This year really is a make-or-break year for Parker.