Jerome Baker

Dolphins To Extend Jerome Baker

The Dolphins and Jerome Baker have agreed to an extension (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport). The linebacker is now inked for another three years at a max value of $39MM. The deal includes $28.4MM guaranteed, though it’s not clear how much of that is fully guaranteed at signing. 

Just recently, Baker told reporters that the Dolphins “haven’t really” approached him about a new contract this offseason. Apparently, he was playing coy. Baker has quietly turned himself into a solid starting linebacker for the Dolphins, averaging 119 stops over the past two seasons. He also showed a knack for pass rushing last year, compiling seven sacks. Now, he has a contract to match his performance.

Previously, Baker was set to make $2.433MM in 2021. His new deal gives him an average annual value of $13MM/year, ahead of fellow ‘Fins inside linebacker Benardrick McKinney. In terms of new money, Baker now ranks as one of the ten highest-paid ILBs in the NFL.

The Dolphins believe in Baker, though he did miss ten tackles last year while ranking as a middle-of-the-pack LB, per Pro Football focus. Still, the Dolphins are clearly encouraged by his evolving coverage and pass rushing skills.

I definitely look myself in the mirror and know what I need to do to get better,” Baker said earlier this month (via Adam H. Beasley of the Miami Herald). “For me, locking in on the run game, being one of those linebackers that secures the inside, not just in the pass game but in the run game.”

No Contract Talks Between Dolphins, LB Jerome Baker

2018 third-rounder Jerome Baker has quietly turned himself into a solid starting linebacker for the Dolphins. He has averaged 119 tackles over the past two seasons, and he even displayed some real pass-rushing chops in 2020, compiling seven sacks.

The Ohio State product is entering the final year of his rookie deal, but it doesn’t sound as if there have been any substantive contract talks between player and team at this point. When asked if the Dolphins had approached him about a long-term accord, Baker said, “I guess? We haven’t really talked about anything. We’re just going into this year” (via Adam H. Beasley of the Miami Herald).

Baker is due to earn $2.433MM in 2021, though he would surely love a multi-year deal with an eight-figure average annual value. His new running mate at inside linebacker, Benardrick McKinney, has a $10MM AAV — which positions him just outside the top-10 for ILBs — and given Baker’s performance to date and potential for further growth, that seems like a fair starting point in negotiations.

Still, Baker understands that there are things he can work on. Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics painted him as a fairly average defender in 2020, and he received a subpar 47.4 mark in run defense. As Beasley points out, Baker missed 10 tackles last season, though those deficiencies were largely counterbalanced by his improvements in coverage and the pass rush.

“I definitely look myself in the mirror and know what I need to do to get better,” Baker said. “For me, locking in on the run game, being one of those linebackers that secures the inside, not just in the pass game but in the run game.”

He added that he would be perfectly content to continue his career in South Beach. “I want to play here the rest of my career. I love it here. I love the fans, I love the organization. I love everyone here. I can definitely see myself playing here a long time. … The contract stuff’s the contract stuff. I really don’t care for that right now.”

We heard earlier this year that it could be extension-or-bust for Baker and the Dolphins, as the club is unlikely to use the franchise tag on him in 2022.

Dolphins To Consider Extension For TE Durham Smythe?

The 2018 draft class will be in line for extensions this offseason. In Miami, that means there will be plenty of focus on the future deals for Jerome Baker and Mike Gesicki. However, another player who could end up garnering a long-term fontract is tight end Durham Smythe, per Adam Beasley and Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.

The reporters note that an extension for Smythe “would not be surprising.” After all, the 25-year-old has continually received praise from his coaches for his versatility, especially as a blocker. Plus, the former fourth-rounder proved that he could be an actual offensive weapon in 2020, an important development for a young and emerging Dolphins squad.

Smythe caught only 13 receptions through his first two seasons in the NFL, but he put up bigger numbers in 2020. The tight end ultimately started 13 of his 15 games, hauling in 26 receptions for 208 yards and two touchdowns. Smythe also saw consistent time on special teams, collecting seven tackles.

Beasley and Jackson also briefly preview the potential negotiations for Baker and Gesicki. If the two players aren’t extended, they’ll hit free agency during the 2022 offseason. The reporters opine that the organization could ultimately use the franchise tag on Gesicki, adding that it’s unlikely that the organization would go that route with Baker. Either way, the organization will have plenty of financial flexibility, especially this offseason; the reporters estimated that Miami will have around $34MM to spend.

Dolphins Cut Kiko Alonso

The Dolphins cut Kiko Alonso en route to reaching the 53-man max. Both moves were rumored this week, but the Fins were waiting to see if they could arrange a trade for the linebackers before letting them go.

Alonso requested a trade during training camp when he realized that he would be squeezed out of the Dolphins’ plans in one fashion or another. New coach Brian Flores is overseeing a defensive overhaul and he didn’t have much use for the veteran, despite his three years of starting experience in Miami. Originally drafted by the Bills in the second-round back in 2013, Alonso won’t play out the two years left on his four-year, $28.9MM deal.

Here are the other moves made by Miami to make their roster kosher by Week 1:

AFC East Rumors: Patriots, McMillan, Bills

A calf injury forced Marcus Cannon to miss the Patriots‘ preseason slate and resurfaced in New England’s Week 1 win over Houston. But the Pats’ right tackle starter looks on track to return on Sunday night. Cannon made progress this week, per The Athletic’s Jeff Howe (subscription required), and the Patriots announced he did make the trip to Detroit on Saturday. LaAdrian Waddle started for Cannon against the Jaguars. Cannon was signed to an extension to be the Patriots’ long-term right tackle, but he played in only seven games last season. It looks like he’ll have a chance to establish some consistency beginning in Week 3.

Here’s more out of New England and other AFC East locales:

  • Although Brandon Beane serves as the Bills‘ GM, it’s Sean McDermott who establishes the franchise’s tone “from top to bottom,” Tim Graham of The Athletic writes in an expansive piece about how the Bills’ rebuild is going thus far. The offseason mistakes Beane made in adding Vontae Davis, Jeremy Kerley, Corey Coleman and Russell Bodine may increase McDermott’s voice within the organization, Graham adds.
  • It will be a stretch for Trey Flowers to play this week. Howe notes Bill Belichick hasn’t deployed a player who’s missed an entire week of practice in at least 10 years. The Patriots’ top pass rusher was sidelined all week because of a concussion. Patrick Chung is in the same boat. Of course, the concussion protocol being in place means it’s not up to Belichick whether or not Chung and Flowers can suit up Sunday. Both are listed as doubtful to face the Lions. A Flowers absence could free up a spot for 2017 third-rounder Derek Rivers, who has yet to play in a regular-season game.
  • The Dolphins‘ intentions for Raekwon McMillan — set to be their starting middle linebacker in 2017 prior to a season-nullifying injury — was not to play him in their nickel package, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald notes. However, McMillan is now being used as a three-down player this year. Pro Football Focus has graded McMillan as one of its worst coverage ‘backers through two games, and Salguero adds Jerome Baker was brought in this year via third-round pick to help in coverage. While McMillan remains a part of Miami’s nickel set, Baker is pushing for a role there, per Salguero, as passing-down backs like James White, Giovani Bernard and Tarik Cohen loom on the Fins’ first-half schedule.
  • On the subject of nickel work, the Patriots‘ bringing back Cyrus Jones for a possible nickel role, Howe adds. Although the former Pats second-round pick was re-signed to serve as the punt returner, he worked as a safety and was given a chance to play in the slot during practice this week. Third-year Patriot Jonathan Jones currently serves as New England’s slot man. He’s graded well through two games, per PFF, which slots him as the NFL’s No. 21 corner thus far. Jonathan Jones, though, was in coverage during Dede Westbrook‘s back-breaking touchdown last week.

Dolphins Sign Three Draft Picks

The Dolphins announced the signings of three draft picks on Wednesday. Third-round linebacker Jerome Baker, fourth-round tight end Durham Smythe, and fourth-round running back Kalen Ballage have inked their deals, leaving second-round tight end Mike Gesicki as the last straggler in the team’s eight-man class. 

Baker was Ohio State’s leading tackler last year as he registered 72 stops in total. He also had eight tackles for a loss and 3.5 sacks in his final year on campus. As shown on Roster Resource, Baker projects to be one of the team’s first linebackers off of the bench behind starters Kiko AlonsoRaekwon McMillan, and Chase Allen. Some evaluators feel that Baker is too small to play linebacker at the pro level, but Alonso doesn’t seem concerned about the 6’1″, 229-pound prospect.

Nowadays it’s all about, ‘Can you run?’” Alonso said recently (via Jason Lieser of the Palm Beach Post). “You see what linebacker position is nowadays. It’s getting smaller and smaller.”

Smythe, a Notre Dame product, put himself on the NFL radar with his blocking ability. He figures to do the dirty work while fellow rookie Gesicki figures to play a bigger role in the passing game.

Ballage, a tall running back at 6’3″, averaged 4.4 yards per carry while at Arizona State. He’ll likely serve as the Dolphins’ No. 3 running back this year behind Kenyan Drake and veteran Frank Gore.