DAVIE—Every year it’s easy to hammer the Dolphins—or pretty much any team but New England—for some overspending that didn’t work out well.
But, Miami also got some excellent value in 2017. Many of the team’s cheaper players were some of its best, and that’s a good start toward executive vice president Mike Tannenbaum building a winner. The Patriots find ways to perpetually fill holes with low-cost, high-talent players.
Based on their salary cap hits, here are the Dolphins’ top five values from this season:
5. DT Davon Godchaux
This is more about great drafting than anything, and credit general manager Chris Grier—head of Miami’s draft operations—for finding Godchaux in the fifth round at No. 178 overall. He cost them $515,484 in salary cap money and the Dolphins have him at $800,000 or less per season throughout his four-year rookie contract. This is exactly the type of payoff they need on the defensive line when they’ve committed so much to Ndamukong Suh.
4. RB Kenyan Drake
For $800,315, the Dolphins had a running back who outperformed Jay Ajayi once he got his shot. Drake led the NFL with 444 rushing yards over the final five weeks of the season, outdoing Todd Gurley and Kareem Hunt, among others. Miami coach Adam Gase would ideally pair him with Damien Williams, but if the Dolphins don’t re-sign Williams this offseason, they still have very promising option in Drake, who will be 24 next season and doesn’t tip $1 million until 2019.
3. WR Kenny Stills
Overpaid? Maybe underpaid. The Dolphins got some criticism for Stills’ four-year, $32 million deal last offseason, but the first season of it was a steal. His cap hit was just $3.8 million (it goes to $9.8 million each of the next two years), and he delivered 58 catches, 847 yards and six touchdowns—second only to Jarvis Landry in each category. Miami got in on Stills at the right time and locked up what should be the prime of his career at a reasonable price.
2. OL Jesse Davis
This is great story for the Dolphins’ player development program. No NFL team wanted Davis out of college, the Seahawks and Jets (twice) cut him and he would’ve been fixing farm equipment if Miami hadn’t seen potential. The 2017 offseason program is where the team really saw progress, and that produced a starting lineman for a mere $465,000. He’s also under contract for $555,000 next year.
1. WR Jarvis Landry
There’s a good case for Landry being the biggest value in the entire league, let alone the Dolphins, considering his $1.1 million salary cap hit ranked 847th overall. Taking him in the second round four years ago already looks like one of the franchise’s best draft picks. He set a team record with 112 catches this season to go with 987 yards and a career-high nine touchdowns. He was the Dolphins’ best offensive player, and this was their last year getting him on the cheap.
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