Putting the Jaylen Waddle Contract into Perspective

The Miami Dolphins and WR Jaylen Waddle agreed on a 3-year, $84,750,000 contract this past Thursday with $76,000,000 fully guaranteed. This contract makes Waddle the fourth highest paid annually for a receiver and gives him the third most guaranteed money on a contract for a receiver in the NFL.

There’s no way around it, this is a massive contact for the Dolphins to hand out. At first glance, it seems like a massive overpay, Waddle isn’t the third or fourth best receiver in football, in fact, he isn’t even the best receiver on his own team. I imagine many fans of both the Dolphins and the NFL are going to balk at the amount and say it’s a horrible deal.

Any sports personalities will point to the price and point out how it’s a crazy overpay and how Miami won’t be able to keep a competitive team together. I’m going to put this contract into a deeper perspective and explain why this deal is a slam dunk. Hopefully, reading this will put some minds at ease. 

Waddle’s Performance Through His First Contract

Let’s start with his production and the reasons he was given this extension. In his first three years since being selected sixth overall in the 2021 NFL draft, Jaylen Waddle has impressed. He has accumulated 251 receptions, 3,385 yards, 18 TDs, and has only missed three games in his career. He has the 15th most receiving yards ever for a players first three seasons. To add, the 12th most catches all-time in that same period. He also had the record for most receptions for a rookie WR in NFL history until he was surpassed by Los Angeles Rams receiver Puka Nacua this past season. For the record, Puka also had an additional game to do it. 

His production cannot be understated, he’s put up those numbers on a number two receivers target volume and he has lived up to his draft status, and has caused no issues off the field. He has refined his route running and, alongside his elite speed, has become paramount to the timing offense.

Mike McDaniel has created this system to enhance the strengths of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and the rest of the offense. Waddles’ presence in the offense allows Miami to run the ball more effectively; it doesn’t allow defenses to push linebackers and safeties towards the line of scrimmage or routinely double team or roll coverage towards Miami’s superstar Tyreek Hill. I believe he Is the third most important player in that offense behind Tua and Tyreek. Jaylen Waddle is a player you draft and retain, the question is, was the price right?

Valid Criticisms

Arguments against Waddle getting this type of pay day start with the fact that despite his gaudy production he has never been selected to a pro bowl or all pro team. He currently serves as the WR2 behind arguably the best receiver in football and, while he’s only missed three whole games in his career, he often exits games with minor injuries, missing entire drives at times. 

He is a body catcher more often than you’d like to see, often letting balls get into his chest leading to critical drops. For someone with his speed and athleticism, his yards after catch ability leaves something to be desired.

Miami also has yet to have any type of playoff success since he’s been drafted. These are all valid criticisms, but even with them in mind I believe Waddle is comfortably a top 15 receiver, with upside to go even higher in the rankings when he’s finally given the chance to serve as the teams undisputed number one target.

Why There Shouldn’t Be Panic

The reason I believe Miami was smart to pay him now and give him what seems like an overpay is because of the receivers getting paid after him. Ja’marr Chase, Ceedee Lamb, Brandon Aiyuk and Justin Jefferson all stand to now make more than him on their next contracts; meaning his contract value will be out of the top five after all of them sign the dotted lines. Amon-Ra St Brown and AJ Brown signed right before Waddle and both are making more than him, Tyreek Hill’s contract is also larger in terms of annual salary. 

After this season, receivers like Garret Wilson, Chris Olave, Tee Higgins (barring a trade to another team), and George Pickins will be up for new deals, and they could feasibly surpass Waddles contract. Miami made the right decision to pay him now and pay him well. After a year or two, as the cap continues to increase and new receiver contracts are signed, his deal will look better and better.

The longer you wait to get a deal done with a player of Waddles caliber, the higher the price goes. This was a no brainer, and the type of deal a stable, forward-thinking organization makes to retain elite talent at a good value. Keeping a homegrown talent builds stability and a good culture, unfamiliar terms to Dolphins fans for so many years. 


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