PHOENIX—One of the most difficult parts of being a head coach taking future financial considerations into account when deciding how important a player is, and Dolphins coach Adam Gase admitted he hates that part of free agency.
“You just want to get your guys back,” he said.
One of those guys was receiver Kenny Stills, who was up and down in his first three years in the league before having a solid season in his first year under Gase. Stills led the team with nine touchdown catches and 17.3 yards per reception (third in the NFL) and was so vital to Gase that he said he’d probably have to rework the offense if Miami couldn’t re-sign him.
So when critics ripped the Dolphins for the four-year, $32 million contract they gave him this month, Gase vehemently disagreed.
“I was very excited, obviously,” he said. “It’s no secret that Kenny’s a guy that I connected with last year. I really appreciated that he came in and worked from Day 1. When you’re a first-time head coach and you’re trying to develop a new program… we needed as many guys as possible to come in and don’t ask any questions and put your head down and grind, and he did that.”
The Dolphins now have Stills and DeVante Parker (as well as quarterback Ryan Tannehill) locked up through 2020. Jarvis Landry is heading into the final year of his deal, but the team would like to extend him at the right price.
“To be able to keep that group together, that’s our goal,” Gase said. “How many years can we stay together with that receiving corps, with the quarterback and develop the continuity between those guys?”
Stills took on a leadership role last season that was new for him. When he realized he was the oldest receiver on the team—he’s 24, about seven months older than Jarvis Landry—he decided it was time for him to set the tone in his position group.
Stills said he learned that from playing with Marques Colston and Lance Moore in New Orleans the first two years of his career. Greg Jennings had that type of influence when he played for the Dolphins in 2015, but there was a void once he left and Stills stepped into it.
“He did a lot of good things on game days as well and a lot of things in practice that people don’t see,” Gase said. “He never missed a practice. I’m sure there were times in the spring when he had hamstring issues, but he just came in and kept working. I thought he was a great example for younger guys.”
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