Top 10 Miami Dolphins who must outperform their rookie deals

DeVante Parker can do wonderful things, when healthy. (Andres Leiva/The Post)

The best NFL teams pay their best players the most money.

The best NFL teams don’t clog up their Top 10 salary cap slots with under-performers.

But even more important: the best NFL teams get excellent production from much lower-paid players on rookie contracts.

For example, some fans are upset that the Dolphins chose not to pay Jarvis Landry $14-$15 million a season on a long-term deal. But even if you are outraged, you must agree with this:

  1. Selecting Landry in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft was a shrewd move.
  2. Landry, with more catches than any player in NFL history over his first four seasons, turned in a remarkable cost-result ratio, considering the club paid him only $3.47 million over 4 seasons.

That’s how the NFL is structured now. Landry had to wait to get paid. The Dolphins received excellent production at a low cost.

With that said, who are 10 Dolphins who must outperform their reasonable rookie deals in 2018 for the Dolphins to be successful?

It’s hard to say who Miami might still add in free agency and who they might draft, but it’s quite possible at the start of next season, Las Vegas oddsmakers will once again peg Miami to win between 6 and 8 games.

What The Daily Dolphin believes is that if 5 of these 10 players truly explode on the scene in 2018, perhaps they win 9 or more. Incidentally, Ja’Wuan James’ fifth-year option of $9.3 million cap hit for 2018 is technically part of his rookie deal, but he’s in a separate category and so his situation will be handled in a separate story.

Here are 10 who can truly swing Miami’s 2018 season:

  1. WR DeVante Parker ($3.5 million cap hit) — Will he be shopped, or given one more chance?
  2. OT Laremy Tunsil ($3.4 million cap hit) — He must be a dominant left tackle. On Day 1 of training camp.
  3. CB Xavien Howard ($1.7 million cap hit) — If he really is a lock down, shutdown corner, everything changes.
  4. RB Kenyan Drake ($900,000 cap hit) — Can he hold up an entire season? Can he do Chris Johnson-like things?
  5. LB Raekwon McMillan ($1 million cap hit) —  Hasn’t played a regular-season down. Will be a young QB of D.
  6. DT Jordan Phillips ($1.4 million cap hit) — Played only 38 percent of snaps in ’17. Go replace Ndamukong Suh.
  7. CB Cordrea Tankersley ($760,000 cap hit) — Does he hold off Tony Lippett? In best case, both play well.
  8. DE Charles Harris ($2.5 million cap hit) — Only 2 rookie sacks. Jason Taylor had only 5 as a rookie.
  9. DT Davon Godchaux ($605,000 cap hit) — Miami’s most eye-opening rookie in 2017. Great motor.
  10. CB Bobby McCain ($1.9 million cap hit) — Solid in the slot last season. Has talent to make even more plays.

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