The Miami Dolphins lost 19 percent of their receivers' production recently in cutting veterans Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson. The moves were not surprising because it will save Miami approximately $6.5 million on the salary cap, and potentially more if Hartline is designated a June 1 release.
However, with more expected moves on the way, you start to wonder if the Dolphins are changing too much around quarterback Ryan Tannehill, heading into his fourth season.
In addition to Hartline and Gibson, top receiver Mike Wallace's roster spot also is in jeopardy, and tight end Charles Clay is free to negotiate with other teams next week. The Dolphins used the transition tag Monday on Clay, which pays Clay at least $7.017 million for one season and allows Miami the right to match outside offers. The Dolphins know the value of Clay and didn’t want him to walk into free agency without any restrictions. Now they have to hope the transition tag scares off enough potential suitors.
If the Dolphins lose Clay and Wallace, four of Tannehill's top five targets from last season will not return in 2015. Wallace (862 yards), Clay (605), Hartline (474) and Gibson (295) accounted for 55 percent of Miami's receiving yards last season. The only productive returning receiver would be second-year player Jarvis Landry, who led the team in receptions (84) and was second in yards (758) during his rookie season.
As Miami looks to clear cap room, the team also walks a fine line with losing continuity. It took time for Tannehill to learn a new offensive system last season. This year it could take Tannehill time getting used to throwing to new receivers.
The Dolphins clearly believe in Tannehill and are in the process of working out a contract extension, either via a fifth-year option or something long-term. But it’s also important for Tannehill to have a strong comfort level with his receivers and tight end and hit the ground running next season.