This article was originally posted on TheInsideZone.com, to follow the author on Twitter, @TomLikeNFL.
The Miami Dolphins failure to reach a contract extension with star wide receiver Jarvis Landry last offseason proved that like the rest of us, they are questioning whether he is and indeed should be remunerated like a number 1 wide out. Landry has been a highly popular figure the past couple of years, however, fans around the NFL question whether he's a glorified slot WR or if he should be paid like the No.1/ X-receivers round the NFL. Below I will debate whether "Juice" should be paid like a no.1 WR and try to estimate his market value.
Yes, look at his receptionsJarvis Landry is a receptions machine. Since entering the league in 2014, the 2nd round pick out LSU is third in receptions. Only two players have caught more catches than Juice's 400 - Julio Jones (411) and Antonio Brown (472). Landry has done this on the sixth most targets behind superstars Brown, Demaryius Thomas, DeAndre Hopkins, Julio Jones and Mike Evans. Landry led the league with 112 receptions and was able to consistently make plays no matter if Jay Cutler or Matt Moore was throwing the football.
(Photo Source: Jasen Vinlove/ USA TODAY Sports)[/caption]
Landry has been able to catch passes despite playing in multiple schemes during his first four years in the NFL. Landry has shone under Bill Lazor, Zac Taylor and most recently Adam Gase/ Clyde Christensen. A wide receiver who is able to catch machine will always have value on any NFL roster.
No, look at his average yardagesWhile teams will always value receivers who can get there hands on the football, it's the separation they're able to create on the outside or ability to take short passes the distance which separates the good from the great. While it's true Landry has racked up a tonne of catches in his first four years, his average yards per reception is poor when compared to other elite WRs. 2016 was Landry's best performance when he averaged 12.1 y/r, yet this was still 69th in the NFL. Despite pulling in 112 receptions off the 4th most targets, Landry finished 17th in receiving yards, failing to eclipse 1,000 yards for the first time since his rookie season (987yds in 2017). He also finished 22nd in yards per game averaging 61.7.
There is no hiding the fact that in a contract year when asked to step up he was ranked 108th in y/r with the likes of Jason Witten, Kyle Juszczyk and Trent Taylor averaging more! While his deployment by the Dolphins him might have something to do with this, ever since coming out of college the knock on Landry has been his lack of top-end speed and inability to seperate at the top of routes. Landry makes up for this with extremely polished route running, excellent hands and a kick returner mentality where he's both elusive and looks for, even craving contact when DBs close in on him. The question must arise what value should be placed on one of the NFL's top slot receivers who is unable to consistently win lined up on the outside?
Yes, look at his increase touchdown productivityDespite a lower average yardage total, Jarvis Landry answered the call of the coaching staff and improve his TD productivity in 2017. Previously posting 5, 4 and 4, Landry came up money with 9 TD grabs in 2017. This put him tied 4th in the NFL alongside Antonio Brown, Alshon Jeffrey and Marvin Jones with only Jimmy Graham, Devante Adams and DeAndre Hopkins pulling in more TDs. Red zone productivity is key for wide receivers and the inability to break 10 TDs in any one season might be held against him at the negotiating table.
No, look at how he's deployed and utilised by the DolphinsWhile 9TDs is a good campaign in 2017, his market value is hurt by failing to produce a TD catch over 9 yards this season. This constant knock of not being able to produce chunk plays will hurt Landry's value. The only TD catches over 15+ yards of Landry's career were a 42 yard catch and run vs the Browns in week 3, 2016 and a 50 yard similar scamper against the Texans in 2015 - a play which shows his elite run after the catch ability.
A closer look at how Landry is deployed compared to how other wide receivers in the Top 10 to 5 tier which Landry is pushing for shows some of his deficiencies. If he's allowed to walk and suddenly dominates from the outside at another team, I would be surprised. Landry's height and speed work against him being an X or even Y WR but what he does, he does at an elite level which will certainly see him get paid.
Devante Adams who was drafted ten spots higher than Landry is likely the starting point for Landry's representation in negotiations. In December 2017, the Packers and Adams signed a 4-year $58m contract with $30m guaranteed. With an average hit of $14.5m, Adams is currently the 4th highest paid WR - yet this will likely change as more contracts come up for renewal. Miami will likely try and offer Landry somewhere in the Keenan Allen range. Allen signed a 4-year $45m contract with c.$20.6m guaranteed back in June 2016. Allen is currently the 11th highest paid wide receiver with the contract Miami handed to Kenny Stills coming in at 21st (avg $8m).
A quick look at how Miami utilises Landry's skillsets and deploy him will make the investment case clear as to why the team might be having second thoughts on breaking the bank to retain him. The below next gen stats are all from week 11 of this past season and are indicative of their capabilities and what Landry, Adams and Allen offer their teams.
Landry solely lines up in the slot and all his production comes off short dump offs where he's tasked with trying to make the first defender miss to pick up a first down and extend the chains. While this has proved effective as he picked up the 7th most first downs in the NFL, unlike the other WRs he is unable to dominate outside. What Landry does do - operating out of the slot - he does at a high level and racked up the 4th most yards after catch among wide receivers in 2017.
Yes, he's still the focal point of the offenseJuice as he is affectionately known in South Florida is undoubtedly the focal point of Miami's offense and when in key situations such as 3rd down, more often than not the ball is going to him. A mic'd up Bill Belichick this season was caught speaking into his head set "Landry, where is he?" and "Let's make sure we get Landry" on another play. On money downs, you can almost guarantee that Landry will be Miami's hot route.
Landry can line up outside, however, often he will be close to the line of scrimmage in a heavy run-orientated formation. In the below play Landry demonstrates his smooth and polished route running to beat Ronald Darby to the outside. This is classic Landry, beat the DB out of his shoes with some misdirection before pulling in a pass to move the chains and extend the drive.
Verdict - Landry's market valueClearly Landry and his management will be looking for Dez Bryant type money. Their client since entering the league has caught the third most catches in that time and accumulated 22TDs, 4,038 yards in 57 starts. He is also the focal point of the Dolphins on offense and is a fan favourite who both the team and fanbase have a strong emotional attachment to.
The Dolphins do not think like Bill Belichick. Belichick, like he proved with Malcolm Butler last year, would likely discard Landry and instead sign Allen Hurns for similar money - a player with potentially more upside. Miami last season made it a priority to re-sign "their guys" handing extensions to Stills, Kiko Alonso, Reshad Jones and Andre Branch. The question now arises whether Landry's likely lofty expectations will match those of the Dolphins who are struggling against the cap due to the mammoth contracts handed to DT Ndamukong Suh and QB Ryan Tannehill.
For me, the sweet spot would be somewhere between Doug Baldwin's $11.5m per year and Tavon Austin's $10.5m. In a market where the aging Pierre Garcon can fetch $9.5m per year, the 25 year old Landry's services will be in high demand and any less than what Emmanuel Sanders is earning would likely be seen as an insult and rejected.
Devante Parker has potentially a greater upside than Landry but he has been unable to stay healthy and put together a solid campaign. If I was the Dolphins I'd hand Landry a 4-year $46m contract with $20+ guaranteed in the first two years. In essence the Dolphins would therefore have an option in the third and fourth years on whether or not to keep Juice. If Parker develops and turns into a talented X-receiver as everyone in Miami believes, the Dolphins could trade Landry and sign Parker to a meaty extension in the future. That might not be popular with the fans but the Eagles just won a Super Bowl by constructing a roster where no one player is ridiculously overpaid but instead relies on a team-wide contribution.
Follow Tom Like on Twitter, @TomLikeNFL.