July 21, 2024

Waddle’s basic wages in 2024 and 2025 are totally guaranteed, and according to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, the Dolphins are providing their younger 1,000-yard receiver with early security in 2026. Waddle’s base pay for 2026 ($16.6MM) will transition from an injury guarantee to a full guarantee in March 2025.

In addition to the player-friendly structure, the Dolphins will guarantee a large amount of Waddle’s 2027 basic salary ($23.4MM) a year early. Florio adds that by March 2026, $15.2 million of the ’27 pay will have converted from an injury guarantee to a full guarantee. The remainder of the income is fully guaranteed in March 2027. Waddle’s 2028 salary ($25.8MM) is not guaranteed.

The Dolphins’ decision to exercise Jaylen Waddle’s fifth-year option added another year to their extension window, and as of Thursday, only one team in the fifth-year option era had extended a wide receiver with two years of rookie-contract control remaining. Miami will join Philadelphia in bucking the norm.

Waddle and the Dolphins have agreed on a three-year contract worth $84.75 million, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. This deal, which had been on Miami’s radar for a while, will come with a whopping $76 million guaranteed. With Waddle’s option exercised, the 2021 first-round pick will be tied to the Dolphins through the 2028 season.

Waddle’s $28.25 million average annual value is fourth among wide receivers, after only Tyreek Hill and Davante Adams’ 2022 contracts. While Waddle’s contract is lower in terms of AAV than that signed by A.J. Brown and 2021 draft classmate Amon-Ra St. Brown earlier this year, it offers greater total guarantees than Hill’s two years ago. Waddle’s guaranteed salary of $76 million places him below only Brown ($84 million) and St. Brown ($77 million). It is unclear how much the Dolphins will guarantee Waddle upon signing.

On several levels, this deviates from current tendencies. Early this summer, the Eagles signed ex-Waddle Alabama teammate DeVonta Smith to a three-year, $75 million contract extension. In the option era (2014-present), this was the first time a team extended a rookie-deal wideout with two seasons of control left. In comparison, the Dolphins are venturing into deeper waters, employing Hill and Waddle, two of the NFL’s top five highest-paid wide receivers.

The Dolphins, like the Eagles, Buccaneers, Bears, and Texans, have two $20 million-per-year receivers, demonstrating the growing value of the receiver market. However, only Philadelphia and Miami have two wideouts earning $20 million every year until 2026.

Hill’s $30 million-per-year contract, the highest number for the post between March 2022 and April 2024, featured a large final-year pay to support AAV. According to NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo, Waddle’s contract has no fluff to reach the $28.25 million per year amount. It will be intriguing to see whether the Dolphins change their All-Pro wideout’s contract, which extends until 2026. While Hill’s contract includes the oft-mentioned $30 million per year average, the future Hall of Famer’s guarantees expire by 2025. And Hill has always been regarded as unlikely to play on his 2026 base contract ($43.9MM), necessitating another negotiation between the parties.

Waddle, like Smith, has provided strong WR2 work in a high-octane attack. The Dolphins, who dropped nine spots to help the 49ers sign Trey Lance in 2021, exchanged a future first-round pick for Waddle in that round, moving up from No. 12 to No. 6. They ended up with an instant weapon, although one that was demoted to No. 2 until the squad got Hill in 2022.

 

Dolphins' Jaylen Waddle should benefit from Tyreek Hill's addition

 

Waddle, 25, has had three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons to begin his career. His 3,385 receiving yards over three seasons rank sixteenth in NFL history. However, that figure ranks third in his own draft class, trailing only St. Brown and Ja’Marr Chase. Waddle is the first player in Dolphins history to start a career with three straight 1,000-yard seasons.

Despite missing three games last season, Waddle had only missed one game in his first two years. In 17 games with Hill in 2022, Waddle accumulated 1,356 yards and eight touchdown receptions. The younger of Miami’s two outstanding WR speedsters led the NFL with 18.1 yards per reception that season, and he played a key role in Tua Tagovailoa’s rise under Mike McDaniel. Waddle’s 2.73 yards per route run ranks fourth in the NFL (among wideouts with 800 or more routes run) over the last two years, according to ESPN.

The Dolphins have not officially extended Tagovailoa, but they are committing to his old Crimson Tide teammate early. Given where the WR market could be by the end of the offseason, this could be a prudent move.

The Vikings and Cowboys are on the verge of approaching or exceeding the $35 million-per-year barrier for their best wideouts — Justin Jefferson and CeeDee Lamb — and Waddle’s agreement will most certainly have an impact on the 49ers’ talks with fellow 2020 first-round pick Brandon Ayuk. The Bengals still have some time with Chase, but with three other receivers from the 2021 draft inked to second contracts, the price is growing for Cincinnati.

For Miami, it will be intriguing to see how they handle Tagovailoa. The talented quarterback’s negotiations, which have already resulted in one rejected offer, remain the main narrative of this Dolphins summer. A re-up above the $50 million-plus market rate will shift the equation for the Dolphins, who now have both of Tagovailoa’s main weapons locked up long term. While the organization acted quickly with Waddle, Tagovailoa is on a contract year.

The Colts are thought to have pursued Waddle during Jonathan Taylor trade talks with the Dolphins last year, but GM Chris Grier declined the request. Less than a year later, Waddle had a five-year contract with the Dolphins. The Dolphins’ decision to sign the fifth-year veteran likely eclipse its other moves, while the Waddle deal continues a significant offseason for receivers and will have an impact on other clubs in the WR extension negotiations.

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