Jarvis Landry saga: Miami Dolphins master art of letting best draftees walk away

How could the Dolphins let Jarvis Landry go so easily? Because they’re the Dolphins. (Getty Images)

Pop quiz: Which receiver would you rather have, Mike Wallace or Jarvis Landry?

I’d say you have five seconds to think it over, but if you’ve been paying any attention — heck, even if you’ve barely paid attention — you should ace this in 0.1 seconds.

I can hear you saying the correct answer obviously is Landry. I also can hear you saying why even ask such a stupid question?

Because the question isn’t stupid if you’re the Miami Dolphins. In fact, their answer isn’t the same as yours, mine and just about anyone else in the waking football universe.

They once valued Wallace more than they value Landry today.

The Dolphins handed Wallace a fatter free-agent contract that in today’s salary cap dollars was greater than what they could have been paying Landry right now to avoid absurdly giving him away to the Cleveland Browns — a deal that goes straight into the Wes Welker Hall of Fame.

Landry came within an eyelash of becoming the franchise’s first player with three consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons, yet he’s valued less today than the day he walked in the door as a second-rounder in 2014, according to the Miami Dolphins’ calculator or abacus or whatever it is they use to do their math.

Just how is it a guy can enter the league as a 2, perform like a 1, yet get traded away for nothing more than a 3?

[Miami Dolphins make all-time franchise mistake in dealing Jarvis Landry]

[What Jarvis Landry said after trade from Miami Dolphins]

Dolphins fans can be forgiven for having a range of emotions. Angry? Sure. Skeptical over where the passion and yards are going to come from? Yes and yes.

But shocked? Don’t be naive.

Even though the Dolphins swore all along they wanted Landry, even though Landry swore he wanted to be here, and even though Landry never held out for even one optional practice when others would have, the way this played out couldn’t have been more laughably predictable if it were splashed across three billboards outside Davie.

This is a franchise for which there are two inalienable truths:

1. Its draft record is poor.

2. Its record of retaining draftees who outperform their draft position is worse.

In 2012, the Dolphins hit in Rounds 3 (Olivier Vernon), 4 (Lamar Miller) and 7 (Rishard Matthews). Not one received his lucrative second NFL contract from the Dolphins. Neither, for that matter, did Charles Clay, a sixth-rounder in 2011.

(Reminder: We are talking about the Dolphins here, not the Marlins.)

It never even reached a boiling point with Jay Ajayi, a fifth-rounder who like Landry was a recent team MVP. The Dolphins weren’t thrilled with his attitude, but his impending pricetag hastened his trade to Philadelphia.

And you wonder where this team’s offensive playmakers are? Simple. Everywhere else.

Let’s not forget the case of Vontae Davis, the first-rounder in 2009 who developed into a Pro Bowl cornerback. For Indianapolis, after Joe Philbin showed him the door.

Credit the Dolphins for extending Pro Bowl safety Reshad Jones (fifth round, 2010), but why are such transactions the exception? Why perennially procrastinate, the NFL equivalent of starting your taxes the evening of April 15?

In 2013, the Dolphins took a stab at a home-run hitter by signing Wallace, but like so many splashy free-agent signings (which Mike Tannenbaum adores), the love affair was fleeting. Wallace was given a five-year contract averaging $12 million per year, which swallowed 9.75 percent of that season’s salary cap. If Landry could have been signed for about $14 million per, he’d represent 7.86 percent of next season’s cap.

(And while we’re on the subject of cap management, indulge me with a question only those inside the building are qualified to answer: Would the numbers look this ugly if Dawn Aponte’s fingers were still tapping the calculator keys? Just askin’.)

Even good teams lose some good players. They swallow those losses by replenishing with shrewd drafting. The top three rounds alone have netted such recent Dolphins selections as the Thomases (Daniel and Dallas) and the Turners (Billy and Patrick). When there are enough such flops to form a name game like this, that’s a problem.

At least this routine probably will spare us next offseason. The 2015 draftees whose contracts will be up for renewal are DeVante Parker, Jordan Phillips, Bobby McCain and Tony Lippett. Taking various factors into account, I’d peg McCain as the one worth paying the closest attention to, given his emergence last season, which should boost his pricetag.

As for the Kenyan Drakes out there, who are busting a gut for that coveted second contract, a word of caution:

Don’t be shocked if it doesn’t come here.

[Here’s what the Miami Dolphins’ offense will be missing without Jarvis Landry]

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