The Miami Dolphins are a better team with wide receiver Jarvis Landry than without him, which is why I understand Miami’s decision to hit Landry with the franchise tag in order to ensure he doesn’t leave via free agency.
Still, it’s a questionable move with strange timing.
The Dolphins had two weeks to tag Landry, but hitting him with the tag on the first day of the window removes that March 6 deadline from the dynamics of long-term contract negotiations. Now, Landry has little incentive to work with the team to strike a deal before free agency gets underway on March 14.
So there’s a very good chance the Dolphins will kick off free agency with no money to spend. Landry’s tag will cost them about $16 million in 2018 salary cap space, leaving them in the red with free agency looming in three weeks. They’ll have to cut players (Lawrence Timmons, Ja’Wuan James and Julius Thomas are candidates) and rework some contracts in order to find enough wiggle room to re-sign lower-profile players and lock up their rookies.
We’re talking about Antonio Brown/DeAndre Hopkins-level money for a guy who took 65 percent of his snaps in the slot last season. And yes, Landry has caught more passes in his first four seasons (400) than any player in NFL history, but he’s not a home-run hitter.
In fact, Landry became the first wide receiver in NFL history to catch 100-plus passes for fewer than 1,000 yards in 2017. He scored a career-high nine touchdowns, but his yards-per-catch average was a career-low 8.8 and he caught fewer than 70 percent of the passes thrown his way (a low rate for a safety valve).
The Dolphins are committing a ton of salary cap space to a slot receiver who has just seven 40-yard receptions in four NFL seasons. Landry is good, but he might not be worth that sacrifice. And even if you think he is, it still doesn’t make a lot of sense for Miami to apply the tag as early as the team did.