April 24, 2024

MIAMI — Even the NFL’s top offense has room for improvement.

In 2023, the Dolphins lead the league in passing yards per game, thanks to quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and receiver Tyreek Hill. However, their passing game struggled down the stretch, failing to reach 250 passing yards in six of their final eight games, including the playoffs.

Miami’s dip from 287.4 yards per game in the first half of the season might be attributed in part to improved opposition, particularly in December. It also had to play without Hill and fellow receiver Jaylen Waddle in three of its final four regular-season games.

The experience has made acquiring a third receiving option a more priority this offseason.

Hill and Waddle had the most targets and yards, 171 for 1,799 yards and 104 for 1,014 yards, respectively. Durham Smythe, Miami’s next-leading receiver, had 35 receptions for 366 yards on 43 targets. Cedrick Wilson and Braxton Berrios, both wide receivers, combined for 534 yards.

The third receiving option is not required to be a wide receiver; it is more of a notion than a specific position. However, Tagovailoa and the Dolphins’ offense would benefit from identifying and developing a trustworthy pass-catcher to complement Hill and Waddle.

Here are a few options:

In house

Considering Berrios and River Cracraft ‘s approaching free agency, Miami must make upgrades to its wide receivers room regardless of who is currently set to return. The Dolphins’ offseason roster includes Hill, Waddle, Wilson, and 2022 fourth-round pick Erik Ezukanma.

Ezukanma’s career is yet to take off, despite a promising 2022 preseason. He spent the majority of the 2023 season on injured reserve due to a neck issue, but he provides size and versatility if he can stay healthy.

However, the Dolphins were determined last season to generate targets for a guy not in their receivers room: running back De’Von Achane, who finished with 37 targets in 11 games. The rookie was unpolished as a route runner, but he is one of the league’s most exciting players when the ball is in his hands. An offseason of refinement would transform him into a dangerous safety valve in the passing game.

Free agency

The presence of Hill and Waddle means Miami will not have to spend heavily in free agency. There are only so many targets to go around, thus players like Tee Higgins, Calvin Ridley, and even Gabriel Davis are unlikely to be in the Dolphins’ plans (or budget).

But a player like Kendrick Bourne, who last played for the New England Patriots in 2023, could fit the bill. He may be available at a discount after hurting his ACL in Week 8, and he is a talented route runner who has played for a terrible Patriots offense the last two seasons. Tyler Boyd is also a free agent, having accumulated 6,000 yards in eight seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals.

Draft

The Dolphins have six picks in this year’s draft, including a first-round selection, which they have not had since 2021.

Mel Kiper Jr. has receivers Adonai Mitchell and Troy Franklin from Texas and Oregon, respectively, targeting Miami’s No. 21 overall choice. However, given their offensive line’s more serious flaws, the Dolphins are unlikely to target a receiver in the first round.

However, Georgia’s Ladd McConkey, North Carolina’s Devontez Walker, and Washington’s Ja’Lynn Polk might all be choices on day two.

Alternatively, the Dolphins might go with Texas tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders, who had over 600 receiving yards in each of the last two seasons. He’s a converted edge rusher who is explosive as a ball carrier, which coach Mike McDaniel values.

 

Ja'Tavion Sanders - Texas Longhorns Tight End - ESPN

 

Adding a trustworthy third option isn’t at the top of Miami’s priority list this offseason, but it should be close if the team wants to move forward in its rebuild and start winning playoff games.

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