If The Miami Dolphins Lose Charles Clay…O.k.


It’s not a popular choice or for that matter a popular opinion but if the Miami Dolphins lose Charles Clay to free agency I’m o.k. with that. It’s not that I don’t like Clay, I do. In fact I like him quite a bit and hope that the two sides can come together to get a deal done that keeps him in Miami for the next several years.

My opinion though is what it is and if Clay leaves or wants too much money, then let him go.

When building a franchise, let me rephrase that, when building a championship franchise you work with the players you draft. You build them into football players and shape them to your system. Very few drafted players in the last 15 years are players you build around or even retain for that matter. Charles Clay is one of those players you would want to keep around. Which makes my opinion on the subject that much harder to get across.

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Charles Clay has had one really good season in his four years. Yes I am fully aware of the injury issues that he dealt with in 2014 and yes I realize he still posted over 50 receptions and 600 yards and I also know that he was targeted over 80 times. Of those passes 18 were legit red-zone targets. Of those 18 only two receptions went for touchdowns, his 3rd touchdown of the season was for 23 yards.

Regardless of how many targets he had, Clay has not been very good in the red-zone where you want your TE to be a big threat. Clay has the ability to use his body to shield defenders but his best attributes are in space to the outside and so far that has been great to advance the ball down the field but not into the end zone.

Clay has developed into a much better blocker in the last two seasons but he still isn’t great at either pass or run blocking. Improving? Absolutely. Is that enough to warrant a $7 million dollar transition tag contract? Is that enough to warrant matching what the Buffalo Bills might give him to take him away?

There is also the question of Clay’s health. Yes he was banged up last season but when he returned he never really returned with the same form from a year earlier. Do you risk a big salary on a guy with some injury risk? Probably in Clay’s case it wouldn’t be that big of a concern but you still have to think about it.

For me the question comes down to two things, is Clay an absolute playmaking TE and is Clay a legitimate TE. Clay came to Miami as an H-back/fullback/tight-end hybrid which means he does a few different things well but not one thing great. Clay has made some very good plays for the Dolphins but most of those seem to be in picking up a first down instead of a touchdown. He is not a seem threat tight end that will force defenders to play linebackers one on one or commit safeties to.

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Ravens work out veteran tight end Charles Clay, per report
Ravens work out veteran tight end Charles Clay, per report /

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  • Clay is an outside swing threat more than anything else. Last year Clay was on the receiving end of four deep left passes and four deep right passes and only two in the middle/seam. Of those plays none resulted in scores except the 23 yard pass from the Jets 23 yard line. In addition none of the plays except that one were attempted outside the Dolphins 37 yard line.

    A look at Clay’s incompletions in the longer passes show three incompletions all on the right side with two coming in opposing territory. The other incompletion was from the Miami 21.

    In 2014 only six passes were completed to Clay up the middle. The longest a 14 yard strike from the Dolphins 18 yard line.  17 passes were completed to the short left while the remaining passes were completed to the short right. Here however is where I start to sway against re-signing him.

    Of Clay’s 58 receptions in 2014, 20 of them came between the Miami goal line and their own 30 yard line. 20 more receptions came between the Dolphins 30 yard line and the 50 yard line. The remaining receptions were divided between the eight red-zone completions and the 20-49 yard line of the opposition.  The point is whether by scheme, design, or coverage, Clay’s value lands more on the Dolphins side of the 50 than the oppositions where he should be getting his touches. Where Miami needs to be getting their TE the touches.

    It may sound nit-picky and that’s fine. Like I said re-signing him to a deal is a good thing but I wouldn’t break the bank on him. His value to the offense if good but not great. The Dolphins need more reliability from their tight end and while Clay has shown that he has that ability, it’s questionable that he will ever have the season he did in 2013 when he was voted one of the top 100 players in the NFL. Is Miami looking to buy that Charles Clay or the average one from last year? Injury or no injury?

    The best reason I see to re-sign Clay is the show of commitment to the players on the roster. Showing that the team values what they are culling from the draft and buying in themselves to what they are teaching. Having Clay back with the team sends a clear positive message to the Dolphins draft picks. Losing Clay may send the wrong message depending on how he is lost. Regardless salary should determine whether he stays or goes and Miami should be making an effort to lock him down ahead of Tuesday, but to a contract that makes a lot more sense than the transition tag tender of $7 million.

    Whatever team offers a contract to Clay will have to wait up to seven days for the Miami Dolphins to decide if they will match. The transition tag only guarantees the Dolphins a chance to bring him back but they receive no compensation from the team who eventually signs him if the Dolphins opt not to match. The next few days are very important for the Dolphins and Clay if Miami wishes to get him on a contract that is good for them. After that it will likely become whether or not they can match another offer.

    The good news is the Dolphins do appear to be very interested in keeping Clay. As I said, I’m fine with it, at the right price.

    O.k. so now you get to sound off.