Dolphins need to extend Jaylen Waddle and Jaelan Phillips this year not next

Miami's first-round picks from 2021 will be unrestricted free agents following the 2025 season. The Dolphins need to lock them up to long-term contracts that are cap friendly, which would also lower their cap number for 2024.

Jaelan Phillips celebrates after making a play against the New York Jets. He would tear his achilles tendon later in the game and his season would come to an end. The Dolphins would be wise to sign him to a new contract now, before his club option in 2025 as long as it is cap friendly and lowers his cap number for 2024.
Jaelan Phillips celebrates after making a play against the New York Jets. He would tear his achilles tendon later in the game and his season would come to an end. The Dolphins would be wise to sign him to a new contract now, before his club option in 2025 as long as it is cap friendly and lowers his cap number for 2024. / Jim McIsaac/GettyImages
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Two of the mainstays of the Miami Dolphins, the center pieces, if you will, were selected together in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Miami executives have a decision to make on whether to let the pair, Jaylen Waddle and Jaelan Phillips, play out the club option in 2025 and potentially lose them to free agency, or lock them up to long-term, cap-friendly deals this spring.

Jaylen Waddle is a top-tier wide receiver and he needs to be paid like one

According to spotrac, Waddle is scheduled to have a cap number of $8,618,270 in 2024, while Phillips is looking at a cap hit of $4,460,337. With numbers that large, and growing larger in 2025, the Dolphins should enter into negotiations with the pair and sign them to a longer-term contract and prorate the signing bonus over the life of the deals.

Waddle, paired with Tyreek Hill, makes the Dolphins' vertical passing game very dynamic and tough to stop. If they can add a speedy third receiver this offseason, the trio could be even more special. Waddle is not a player that you want to lose to free agency and get nothing in return for. I would not wait for his option year to look to extend his contract. I think that he is capable of big things in 2024 will be injury-free and will be able to entertain his fourth consecutive season with more than 1,000 yards.

In 14 games in 2023, Waddle played 611 snaps and caught a career low, but still amazing 104 balls for 1,014 yards and four touchdowns. He did this while missing three games with an injury. He also had the fewest drops in his career with six.

If you compare his contract value with that of Seattle wide receiver D.K. Metcalf, who was drafted a year ahead of Waddle, Metcalf has statistics that do not rival that of Waddle, but his average annual value is $24 million per season. Deebo Samuel of the 49ers was drafted the same time as Metcalf, and he trails Metcalf by only $150 in annual average value. Waddle's club option is $15 million and for that kind of cap hit, he should be signed to a longer term deal.

This proves that Waddle is underpaid and has to be compensated in accordance with the top receivers in the league. Waddle is also not the type of player that you want to look to replace in any given offseason as players like Waddle do not grow on trees.

Jaylen Waddle
Jaylen Waddle, shown here in a game against the Dallas Cowboys on Christmas Day, has developed into one of the best receivers in the NFL and gives quarterback Tua Tagovailoa a great tandem with fellow receiver Tyreek Hill. / Megan Briggs/GettyImages

Jaelan Phillips has turned into one of the best edge rushers in the league.

Phillips, meanwhile, has developed into one of the most fierce edge rushers in the league. In 2023 Phillips played in just eight games before losing his season to injury as he tore his Achilles tendon against the Jets while playing on a fake grass substance. Aaron Rodgers tore his Achilles tendon on the same field.

Despite only playing eight games, Phillips was well on his way to a Pro Bowl season. He had 6.5 sacks and 43 tackles on only 367 snaps. He also garnered an interception. He paired well with Bradley Chubb who was the edge rusher on the opposite side to make quite the tandem in rushing the quarterback.

His fifth year option is valued at approximately $12.5 million according to Spotrac, an industry leader in analyzing player contracts and reporting salaries and cap numbers. The Dolphins would be better served by signing him to a contract similar to that in which Chubb signed after the latter was acquired from the Broncos in 2022.

Chubb will have a cap hit of roughly $27 million in 2024, but I look for that to be restructured so that the Dolphins can sign their free agents and draft class. Chubb signed a five-year $110 million contract and is locked up until after the 2028 season. His 2023 cap number was a more modest $7.5 million and that is where I look for him to stay. Phillips should sign a contract in the same neighborhood with the idea of restructuring for cap sake down the road.

The last thing that the Dolphins want to do is take their good young players and develop them for some other team. Miami has to get serious put the pencil to the paper and work out how they are going to keep their top players together. With Chubb and Phillips on the edge and free agents Christian Wilkins and Zach Sieler in the middle, Miami has a murderer's row on the defensive line.

They have to resign Wilkins, which is a story for another day.