Would Carolina WR Curtis Samuel be a free agent fit for Dolphins?

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The Miami Dolphins’ ongoing evaluation of their wide receiver room is going to prompt changes this offseason. The Dolphins’ pass catchers have been molded from a template rooted largely in size to this point — with big-bodied receivers like DeVante Parker and Preston Williams, when healthy, commanding the featured reps. Yes, there’s more versatility in the room with gadget types and specialists like Mack Hollins (also a big receiver) and Jakeem Grant. But Miami needs to push their starters and acquire more depth that can run quality routes for quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in 2021.

One possible receiver to watch is Carolina’s Curtis Samuel. Samuel is a versatile weapon who enjoyed a career year with the Panthers in 2020 — his 851 receiving yards set a high water mark despite receiving 8 less targets on the year than he did in the previous season (97 versus 105). Going into free agency coming off of a career year is always a slippery slope for NFL teams — but could Samuel be a fit for Miami?

Fit In Dolphins’ Scheme

The Dolphins have pursued this type of player in the past year with the additions of Lynn Bowden Jr. and and Malcolm Perry to the roster. Perry was a late-round draft pick and Bowden Jr. came over via trade near the start of the season — but neither put together any kind of season resembling what Samuel put on display for the Panthers. But here’s the thing: Samuel’s rookie season out of Ohio State in 2016 wasn’t all that different than Bowden Jr’s this year in Miami.

Samuel, in 2016, logged 15 receptions for 115 yards and logged 4 rushes for 64 yards for a total of 179 yards. Bowden Jr. this year tallied 28 receptions for 211 yards and an additional 9 rushes for 32 yards.

Miami will need to weigh the cost of bringing Samuel onto the roster versus taking an optimistic outlook that Bowden Jr. can continue to progress and improve as a player. The Dolphins’ decision makers are the only ones who can accurately make that call as things currently stand.

The primary difference between the two is the explosiveness they bring to the field. That’s the challenge the Dolphins will need to assess with deciding if Samuel is worth their pursuit: Samuel and Bowden Jr. fit within the same bucket of the Dolphins’ receiver room and would likely fill the same role on the roster. Samuel? He ran 4.31s in the 40-yard dash coming out of Ohio State and brings a whole different level of explosiveness to the field versus what Miami currently has on the roster.

The good news for a potential fit is that there’s clearly a role on the Dolphins’ roster for this kind of player. If the price is right.

Fit In Dolphins’ Cap

Samuel will look to cash in on a career year — and the market appears poised to oblige. Spotrac forecasts Samuel to roll in a contract that averages approximately $12.4M in annual average salary. That price point would make him presumably the featured signing for the Dolphins this offseason. If Samuel hits and replicates some of his big play abilities in Miami, that would be perfectly fine. But giving a receiver that kind of contract average based off of one good season of receiver production is a dangerous game to play.

If the NFL ends up seeing their free agent market deterred by the ongoing financial implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, signing Samuel may be an easier proposition to get behind financially.

Final Verdict

Samuel is undoubtedly a fit within Miami’s receivers. And, best of all, he’s more explosive than any receiver not named Jakeem Grant on the roster. Samuel showcased his ceiling as a player in 2020 and any team who brings him in would be thrilled to have a repeat performance in 2021 and beyond. Best of all, Samuel wins after the catch! DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki combined last season for 340 yards after the catch on 188 targets. Samuel logged 320 yards after the catch on 95.

But the price point is a hard pill to swallow. And Lynn Bowden Jr. showed some promise as a cheaper version of the same kind of player during his rookie campaign.

If the Dolphins are ready to upgrade that role, they’ll need to spend somewhere this offseason. Samuel would be an investment that makes plenty of sense.