The Miami Dolphins headed into training camp with a deep group of wide receivers, one where some really talented players would end up being released prior to the start of the regular season. That has changed over the past day, as Allen Hurns and Albert Wilson have both decided to opt-out of the 2020 season over concerns about the coronavirus. Both players cited their family as the reason for their decision.
With the two presumed roster spots suddenly available for the wide receivers group, how will Miami’s depth chart shake out?
Back in May, we predicted DeVante Parker and Preston Williams to serve as the two outside receivers in the starting group, while Wilson would work out of the slot. The reserves were then Jakeem Grant and Hurns, while Isaiah Ford, Ricardo Louis, and Gary Jennings were “on the bubble.” We had Matt Cole, Kirk Merritt, and Mack Hollins as roster cuts. Hurns and Wilson are now out for the season, while the Dolphins already released Louis.
That leaves Parker and Williams atop the depth chart, with Grant likely taking on the third position. Miami could look to move Williams into the slot, while Grant plays outside, a move that could let Williams use his 6-foot-5, 218 pound frame to his advantage over nickel cornerbacks, while allowing Grant to continue to develop as an outside receiver, using speed to make up for his 5-foot-7 height.
Ford likely becomes a roster lock at this point. A 2017 seventh-round pick by the Dolphins, Ford has bounced between the practice squad and the active roster over the last three seasons. He has 23 receptions for 244 yards in his career.
Jennings was a fourth-round pick by the Seattle Seahawks in 2019, but was waived during his rookie season. The Dolphins were awarded the West Virginia product on a waiver claim, but placed him on injured reserve almost immediately thereafter. He has not appeared in a regular season game.
Hollins was a fourth-round pick by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2017. He played on both offense and special teams his rookie season, before landing on injured reserve for almost the entire 2018 season. He started with the Eagles in 2019 but was waived near the end of the season, with Miami being awarded him off waivers. He has 26 receptions for 351 yards with a touchdown in his career.
Cole and Merritt are both undrafted free agents signed this spring. Cole played at McKendree University while Merritt was at Arkansas State.
The Dolphins could also look to seventh-round pick, running back Malcolm Perry, who was listed as a received at the NFL Scouting Combine. He played quarterback in the triple-option at Navy, and could be flexed out as a receiver if needed.
Which brings up the idea of Miami looking to add a wide receiver in free agency, giving them another player to challenge for one of the open roster spots. Could that player be Chad Johnson, who spent the early part of the 2012 training camp with the Dolphins, the last time he was with an NFL team? The six-time Pro Bowl player and Miami native seems to like the idea:
@MiamiDolphins Let me finish where i left off, i live 3 blocks away from the facility so it’s convenient for both of us.— Chad Johnson (@ochocinco) August 5, 2020
It does not seem likely Miami would look to the 42-year old Johnson, but he cannot be completely ruled out, either. The Dolphins want to be a young, developing team, but two of their veteran receivers who would likely see a lot of playing time are now out for 2020. Adding a veteran who can immediately join the team and get up to speed on the offense might be a move Miami has to make.
If not Johnson, Josh Gordon - assuming he is reinstated by the NFL - could be an option. Chris Hogan - he of 7-Eleven in the same training camp as Johnson’s stint with Miami - is also a free agent. Demaryius Thomas and Tavon Austin could also be considerations.
Antonio Brown, another Miami native, would likely be a consideration, but an eight-game suspension to start the season would seem to counter any benefit of adding him for an immediate receiving option.
Other free agents include Jermaine Kearse, Jordan Matthews, Taylor Garbriel, Quincy and Enunwa,
Assuming Miami does not sign a receiver, the depth chart at the receiver position likely looks like:
Starters: DeVante Parker, Preston Williams, Jakeem Grant
Reserves: Isaiah Ford
Bubble (fighting for two available slots): Gary Jennings, Mack Hollins, Matt Cole, Kirk Merritt