August 11th, 2021 at 4:59pm CST by Andrew Ortenberg
For years the Dolphins have lacked quality receivers, but now they actually have an abundance of depth at the position. It’s a good problem to have, but it also means that some solid players could be on the outside looking in when we get to roster cut-downs.
There’s a lot of uncertainty at the position and a lot to sort through, and fortunately Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald just broke it all down. Albert Wilson flashed a ton of potential during his first season with the Dolphins in 2018, but injuries hampered him then and in 2019. He then opted out of the 2020 season, leading many to believe he’d be on the roster bubble this time around. However, it appears that he’s safe. Wilson is “going to be on the team,” Jackson writes, noting he’s been the most consistent receiver in camp.
The same can’t be said for 2020 third-round pick Lynn Bowden. The Kentucky product has “gone from slight front-runner to make the team to very much on the bubble with an underwhelming camp,” despite being the 80th overall pick just last year. In 10 games and four starts last year, Bowden had 28 catches for 211 yards.
Meanwhile, there’s some bad news on Preston Williams. The 2019 UDFA has looked like a diamond in the rough find the past couple years, but he apparently isn’t over the Lisfranc foot injury that cut his 2020 short. Although the team “originally was optimistic that Williams would be fine to start the season,” the Colorado State product now “appears iffy at best” for Week 1.
Jackson writes that Williams is a candidate to start the year on the PUP list, which would sideline him for the first six games. He also says the “odds are against” veteran Allen Hurns making the 53, even though Hurns has $1.2MM in guaranteed money coming his way.
Jackson also expects the Dolphins to be open to a potential trade of Jakeem Grant if a team in need of a returner is willing to part with a late-round pick. In addition to all these guys, Miami still has Will Fuller, DeVante Parker, and rookie first-rounder Jaylen Waddle at the top of the depth chart.
Dolphins receivers Albert Wilson and Allen Hurns both opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19. Both are now back in Miami for 2021, and both say they don’t regret their decisions to opt out, via Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. “There was never a time I second-guessed” the decision to opt out, Hurns said. Each player’s contract tolled, and each has a little over $1MM in guaranteed money for this season, but Jackson writes that they’re both fighting for roster spots. Wilson looked great after first joining the Dolphins in 2018, but a serious hip injury knocked him out after only seven games.
He came back in 2019, but wasn’t the same as he dealt with injuries. “I wasn’t comfortable doing things that  year [but] I feel great right now — my whole body, including the hip,” Wilson said. Jackson writes that Wilson and Hurns have both looked sharp so far in practices after the time off. “They’re both in good shape,” said Dolphins coach Brian Flores. “There’s always a little rust from any player after having some time off, but I think they look really good.” With DeVante Parker, Will Fuller, and rookie first-rounder Jaylen Waddle at the top of the depth chart, it won’t be easy to get their old playing time back.
Here’s more from around the NFL as the offseason chugs along:
Speaking of players unlikely to get their 2019 playing time back, things don’t appear to be going well for Jaylen Samuels in Pittsburgh. After the Steelers drafted running back Najee Harris in the first round, Mark Kaboly of The Athletic writes that it’s “difficult to envision a scenario” where Samuels makes the team. Kaboly thinks Kalen Ballage and Benny Snell are battling it out for the last running back spot. The Steelers drafted Samuels in the fifth-round back in 2018, and he started three games as a rookie then four in 2019. He played a sizable hybrid role in 2019 as Ben Roethlisberger was sidelined with an elbow injury, rushing 66 times, reeling in 47 receptions for 305 yards, and even attempting five passes. But the NC State product fell out of favor with Mike Tomlin last year, only carrying the ball nine times and getting nine catches. Now it sounds like Samuels, who will turn 25 next month, will need to jump-start his career elsewhere.
The AAF, the XFL, The Spring League. The list of attempted NFL offseason football leagues has grown seemingly endless in recent years, and a new one is trying to throw their hat in the ring. That’s right, the USFL is attempting a re-launch, via ESPN.com News Wire. Owners like Dwayne Johnson purchased the league out of bankruptcy in 2020. The ill-fated USFL, which originally ran from 1983-85, is hoping to start play again in 2022. Their press release claimed they’ll have a minimum of eight teams and will “deliver high-quality, innovative professional football to fans.” They apparently have a broadcasting partnership set up with Fox Sports. These leagues are always long-shots, but the original USFL did attract some big-name star players like Herschel Walker, and with names like Johnson now involved, it’s possible they could overcome the odds.
Speaking of non-NFL football leagues, a former high profile college passer is headed to the CFL. Former Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson has signed with the BC Lions of the CFL, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Patterson came to prominence when he became Ole Miss’ starter as a true freshman, and then later transferred to Michigan and had some tumultuous years under Jim Harbaugh. He signed with the Chiefs as an UDFA in 2020, but didn’t come particularly close to making the team.
After sitting out the 2020 season, Albert Wilson‘s future in Miami is apparently in doubt. According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, the Dolphins wideout “isn’t expecting the Dolphins to automatically plug him into a significant role in 2021.” In fact, Wilson’s camp is uncertain if he’ll make it to training camp at all.
The Dolphins front office wouldn’t see a whole lot of financial relief by simply cutting Wilson. As Jackson points out, releasing the receiver would save the team $2.9MM against the cap, but they’d also be left with $2.3MM in dead money. The 28-year-old will be entering the final year of the three-year, $24MM pact he signed with Miami back in 2018.
Considering the limited financial ramifications, moving on from Wilson would be merely be part of the team’s continued quest to get younger. With DeVante Parker and tight end Mike Gesicki leading the team in targets, Wilson would be relegated to competing with the likes of Preston Williams (23 years old) and Isaiah Ford (25 years old) for a spot on the depth chart. The Dolphins could also easily add to the receiving corps via the draft, further reducing Wilson’s role.
Wilson has struggled with injuries throughout his career, appearing in 16 games only once. As a result, he’s been unable to truly establish himself as a top-two receiver on any of his teams. His best season came in 2017 with the Chiefs, when he hauled in 42 receptions for 554 yards and three scores. In 2019, he finished with 43 catches for 351 yards.
Per an agreement between the NFL and the NFLPA, players with COVID-19 health concerns can opt out of the 2020 season. Initially, the deadline was believed to be Tuesday, August 4. Talks between the league and the union have pushed it to August 6.
“It was a very tough choice,” said Wilson in a statement (Twitter link). “I will stand by my teammates and brothers to support them 100% throughout the season and will be counting the days until I can join them again.”
Wilson joined the Dolphins on a three-year, $24MM deal in 2018. He got off to a good start with his new team, catching 26 passes for 391 yards and four touchdowns in seven games. Two of those touchdown grabs were from at least 70 yards out, and he even threw a 52-yard TD pass. Unfortunately, he was derailed by a serious hip injury in October of that year. He returned in 2019, but couldn’t reprise that performance – he finished out with 43 catches for just 351 yards in 13 games, averaging out to 8.2 yards per catch.
This year, Wilson agreed to drop his base salary to $3MM, plus $1MM in incentives. Now, that deal will be pushed into next year.
AlbertWilson and the Dolphins have agreed to a renegotiated deal, reports ESPN’s Field Yates (via Twitter). The veteran wideout’s contract now has a base value of $3MM with another $1MM in incentives.
Wilson was set to make just under $9.5MM in 2020, and he had a cap hit close to $11MM. While he’s certainly not making that kind of money under his new deal, ESPN’s Cameron Wolfe opines (on Twitter) that it’s still more than he would have made on the “free market.”
Meanwhile, Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald tweets that a pay cut seemed inevitable at some point this offseason. The move should free up between $5MM and $6MM for the Dolphins.
Wilson has spent the past two seasons in Miami, but he’s been limited to only 20 games (seven starts). In total, the 27-year-old has hauled in 69 receptions for 742 yards and five touchdowns during his stint with the Dolphins. He also has 61 rushing yards on 13 attempts, and he’s completed two of three passing attempts for 72 yards and one touchdown.
January 25th, 2020 at 8:31pm CST by Andrew Ortenberg
Albert Wilson started his Dolphins career off with a bang in 2018, but a serious hip injury quickly derailed his momentum. He wasn’t the same player this past year, and ended up racking up only 351 yards and one touchdown in 13 games. Wilson has one more year left on his deal at $9.5MM, but it’s entirely non-guaranteed. The blazing fast slot receiver has shown a lot of flashes, but that’s a hefty price tag for any slot receiver. To that end, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes that Miami is “likely to discuss a restructuring in the weeks ahead.”
It sounds like Wilson is going to have to accept a pay-cut if he wants to stay in Miami for 2020. Wilson did start to make a case for himself down the stretch, gaining at least 59 yards in each of their last three games. Unfortunately, he hadn’t topped 33 yards in any game before that. Wilson signed with the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent back in 2014, and slowly started to breakout in Kansas City. He’s never produced huge numbers, but the Dolphins placed a huge bet on his potential.
Here’s more from Miami:
Speaking of players who might have to take pay-cuts, Jackson writes that Reshad Jones “returning under his current contract is inconceivable.” Jones is due $11.5MM in 2020, but only $2MM of that is guaranteed. Jackson writes that as of right now their plan is to start Bobby McCain and Eric Rowe at safety, but that Jones returning on a “restructured deal isn’t entirely out of the question.” Jones made the Pro Bowl in 2017, but his relationship with the franchise quickly deteriorated and for a while it looked like a divorce was inevitable. He had a falling out with Adam Gase but was apparently able to patch things over with new head coach Brian Flores, and Jones said back in September that he wanted to stay with the Dolphins for the long haul.
Another Dolphins starter on the chopping block is center Daniel Kilgore. Kilgore is due a non-guaranteed $3.1MM, and Miami can cut him right before the start of the season with no cap penalty. Jackson expects the team to look for an upgrade at center this offseason, and he points out that GM Chris Grier was recently non-committal about his status. Jackson indicates that the ‘Phins will be completely revamping their O-line this offseason, which isn’t surprising considering the beatings that Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen were taking last year.
The Colts are expecting DevinFunchess to return soon, but head coach Frank Reich didn’t want to say anything definitive when talking with reporters on Monday.
“Yeah, we’re gonna monitor him as we go,” Reich said (via Andrew Walker of the team’s website). “You know, we’ve already talked about his injury a bunch; I mean we’ve gotta make sure that thing’s 100 percent healed, so we’ll monitor it this week and see how it goes.”
Reich did note that wideout T.Y. Hilton didn’t suffer a setback with his calf injury during Thursday’s night loss to the Texans, and he also revealed that receiver ParrisCampbell could return this week from a fractured hand. Running back MarlonMack won’t play this weekend against the Titans, according to the head coach.
Let’s check out some more notes from around the NFL…
The Dolphins will likely be on the hunt for wide receiver help, according to ESPN’s Cameron Wolfe (via Twitter). JakeemGrant (ankle) and AlbertWilson (rib) both suffered injuries during Sunday’s loss to the Browns, leaving the team with only two healthy receivers in DeVanteParker and AllenHurns. Head coach Brian Flores noted that he’s uncertain if Grant or Wilson would end up missing the rest of the season due to their injuries (via Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald).
Buccaneers linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul played 76-percent of his team’s defensive snaps this weekend, earning him another $600K. As Greg Auman of The Athletic tweets, the veteran has already earned $3MM in bonuses in five games, and he could earn another $3MM through his team’s final five games. Pierre-Paul has a $3MM base salary this season.
Take this for what it’s worth, but Vic Fangio told reporters that Broncos quarterback Drew Lock could “possibly” be on the roster this Sunday and could “possibly” start vs. the Chargers (via Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post on Twitter). The second-round rookie has been on the IR since September, but he was designated to return earlier this month.
Former NFL running back KarlosWilliams has signed with the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL, the team announced on Twitter. Williams ran for 517 yards and seven touchdowns as a rookie, but he was later slapped with three separate suspensions. The 26-year-old was reinstated from his indefinite suspension last February, and he’s finally found his next gig.
Dolphins wideout Albert Wilson was in pads Sunday and appeared to be practicing, as Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald tweets. That is certainly welcome news for the Fins, as it was reported last month that Wilson may not be ready to go until the start of the season.
Miami signed Wilson to a three-year, $24MM contract last March, and his first season in South Beach got off to a good start, as he caught 26 passes for 391 yards and four TDs in seven games. He pulled in two touchdown grabs of at least 70 yards, he threw a 52-yard TD pass, and he was averaging 11.2 yards per target.
Unfortunately, Wilson suffered a serious hip injury in October, which cut his season short. His agent, Drew Rosenhaus, recently indicated that Wilson would be back on the field by Week 1 at the latest, but it appears that his timeline has been accelerated a bit.
And while the Dolphins are not going to be challenging for a playoff spot this year, Wilson is still young enough (he just turned 27) to perhaps be a part of the next competitive Miami team. It will be good for the the club to see what it has in him and to get him some reps with second-year QB Josh Rosen in camp.
The 2018 free agent class of wide receivers reshaped the market in a number of ways and set the table for lucrative extensions for players like Odell Beckham, Brandin Cooks, and Stefon Diggs. But even allowing for the premium that teams often have to pay in the first wave of free agency, the size of the contracts that the 2018 FA wideouts landed raised a lot of eyebrows throughout the league. As we look ahead to Year 2 of some of those contracts, let’s examine the early returns.
Sammy Watkins‘ three-year, $48MM deal with the Chiefs topped the class in terms of total value, average annual value, and guaranteed money at signing ($30MM). And while his talent certainly merited that type of payday, his injury history was a concern, as he had missed 10 games over the prior three seasons. He ended up missing six games during his first year in Kansas City due to a foot injury, though he did manage to suit up for both of the club’s postseason contests. His raw numbers obviously don’t look too impressive as a result of the missed time, but he did rank fifth among all qualified wideouts in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric, meaning he was very valuable on a per-play basis. He also tallied 10 catches for 176 yards during the Chiefs’ two playoff games, and while injury problems may always plague him, he continues to be a factor whenever he’s on the field. KC is likely not regretting Watkins’ deal at this point.
The Bears doubled up at wide receiver by signing Allen Robinsonand Taylor Gabriellast March, which allowed them to part ways with Cameron Meredith. Chicago brought in Robinson on a three-year, $42MM pact, even though he suffered a torn ACL in Week 1 of the 2017 season and had only posted one elite season in his career (which came back in 2015). And after his first year with the Bears, Robinson is still looking for his second 1,000-yard campaign.
There is some reason to hope that he can get there, especially with a fully-healthy offseason and a year of building chemistry with quarterback Mitchell Trubisky under his belt. A-Rob played in just 13 regular season games last season but was targeted 94 times, and he was brilliant in the Bears’ lone playoff game, posting 10 catches for 143 yards and a score. Football Outsiders’ metrics didn’t love him, but Pro Football Focus assigned him an above-average grade that made him the 28th-best WR in the league. He may not have quite lived up to expectations, but there is still time for him to get there.
Chicago signed Gabriel to a four-year, $26MM deal in the hopes that he could become a big-play threat for Trubisky. But while Gabriel played in all 16 games for the club and saw 93 targets, he managed a fairly modest 10.3 yards-per-reception and two touchdowns. Advanced metrics weren’t overly fond of his work either, and he will be hoping for a bounce-back year in 2019.
It’s still too early to evaluate some of the other significant contracts given to 2018 wide receivers, because the signees saw their seasons derailed by injury. Marqise Lee, who re-upped with the Jaguars on a four-year, $34MM deal, missed the entire 2018 season due to a preseason knee injury, and he is not expected to be back until the end of this year’s training camp. The Dolphins were thinking highly of their three-year, $24MM accord with Albert Wilson, who was performing well for Miami until he landed on IR in October with a serious hip injury. He is expected to be ready for the start of the 2019 regular season, but he may not see the field until then.
Likewise, Paul Richardson showed flashes in the first year of the five-year, $40MM contract he signed with the Redskins last March, but he landed on IR in November with a shoulder injury.
But at least the aforementioned players are still on their respective teams. Michael Crabtree signed a three-year, $21MM deal with the Ravens after being cut by the Raiders, but he disappeared from Baltimore’s offense when Lamar Jackson became the starter, and Baltimore sent him packing in February (as of this writing, there has been no reported interest in his services). And Donte Moncrief signed a one-year contract for a surprising $9.6MM with the Jaguars, but his mostly disappointing performance in Jacksonville had him searching for a new team this offseason. He ultimately caught on with the Steelers.
All in all, then, the 2018 class of free agent wideouts was a mixed bag. None of the contracts those players signed look like a home run at this point, and while that could change in 2019, those who were surprised by the amount of money thrown at WRs last March were right to be a little skeptical.