First in a series: Examining each of the Miami Dolphins’ receivers and their futures

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Barry Jackson
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Over these next two weeks, we’re taking an in-depth look at every player on the Miami Dolphins roster, with revealing metrics, how they compared to others in the league, their contract status and their futures here.

Today, in part 1 of an 8-part series, we explore the wide receivers:

DEVANTE PARKER

Contract status: Entering second season of four year, $40 million contract that runs through 2023. Will earn $7.75 million in 2021.

How he played: Pretty well, but not quite at the level of his 2020 breakout season. Parker had 63 catches for 793 yards, a 12.6 average, and four touchdowns in 14 games after producing 72-1202-16.7 and 9 TDs in 16 games in 2020.

Pro Football Focus ranked him 29th of 127 NFL receivers.

He caught 61 percent of the passes thrown to him, which was 66th in the league. Parker had seven drops; only eight players had more.

And Parker’s 1.7 average yards of separation from the player covering him (on passes thrown to him) was tied with AJ Green for worst among qualifying receivers.

What’s more, Parker’s 2.7 YAC, on average, was 173rd of 197 NFL receivers. That’s second-worst among players targeted with at least 100 passes, ahead of only Detroit’s Marvin Jones.

Of passes thrown at least 20 yards in the air, he caught 5 of 11 for 129 yards and a touchdown. When he lined up in the slot, he caught 16 of 21 passes for 163 yards.

But despite the drops and poor YAC, Parker is still a major asset, a player Miami should build around.

The future: Parker, at his best, is a legitimate No. 1 receiver, a receiver capable of outfighting defensive backs for difficult catches. He’s safe for 2021. But the limited YAC makes it essential the Dolphins pair him with another No. 1 or No. 2-caliber receiver — or at least a starting slot receiver — who excels in that area.

PRESTON WILLIAMS

Contract status: Will earn $850,000 in 2021 and then become a restricted free agent in the spring of 2022.

How he played: Decently before a season-ending foot injury in the Nov. 9 Arizona game. He caught 18 passes for 288 yards (16.0 per catch) and four touchdowns. But he also had three drops in 33 targets.

Yards after catch wasn’t a strength; he was 177th of 197 receivers in YAC at 2.5 before the foot injury, which required surgery.

Pro Football Focus ranked him 83rd among 127 qualifying receivers.

On passes thrown at least 20 yards in the air, he caught 5 of 10 for 160 yards and a touchdown.

The future: Williams is healthy now, fully recovered from the foot injury. But he has now missed the final eight games of his first two NFL seasons — one because of an ACL tear and another because of a major foot injury — and the Dolphins likely will seek a new potential starting receiver in the draft and/or free agency.

Still, Williams could settle in as a valuable third boundary receiver, and starting again isn’t out of the question. It’s probably no coincidence that Tua Tagovailoa was at his best last season in the Arizona game, when Williams was available and involved.

And playing Williams more in the slot — because of his size advantage over nickel cornerbacks — has potential even though he’s not the traditional short, shifty slot: Last season, he lined up in the slot 19 times and caught all three passes thrown to him for 39 yards and two touchdowns.

ALBERT WILSON

Contract status: Will earn $2.1 million this season in a contract that tolled after he sat out the 2020 season due to the pandemic. This will be the final year of his contract.

How he played: Opted out of the 2020 season.

The future: An associate of Wilson said he isn’t sure the Dolphins will retain him. Releasing Wilson would clear out $2.9 million in cap space, with $2.3 million in dead money. But $1 million of his $2.1 million base salary in 2021 is guaranteed. His status with the team is tenuous.

ALLEN HURNS

Contract status: Due $1.9 million in 2021 and $2.5 million in 2022. His contract tolled after he sat out last season due to the pandemic.

How he played: Opted out of the 2020 season.

The future: Murky. The Dolphins could bring Hurns to training camp, but it’s iffy if he makes the team. Here’s the problem: His cap hit is $2.9 million if he makes the team, but there’s a $2.2 million dead money hit if he’s cut. So releasing him doesn’t come with much cap benefit, though it saves the Dolphins $1.9 million in 2021 salary.

JAKEEM GRANT

Contract status: Entering second year of a four-year, $19.7 million extension that runs through 2023. Will make $3.6 million in 2021.

How he played: Very well as a punt returner and had his moments as a receiver. His 11.4 average on 29 punt returns was third in the league. As a receiver, Pro Football Focus rated him 60th among 127 qualifiers.

Grant was the only Dolphins receiver in the top-half of the league in average YAC at 5.1 per catch.

But he also dropped four of the 52 passes thrown to him. And the Dolphins couldn’t maximize his speed on deep routes. Of the eight passes thrown to him that traveled 20 yards in the air, none were completed and one was dropped.

The future: Grant’s skills as a punt returner give him a good chance to return. But if the Dolphins need to clear out cap space, he could be at risk. Grant has a $4.8 million cap hit. There would be a $2.9 million cap savings but a $1.8 million hit if he’s cut.

LYNN BOWDEN JR.

Contract status: Has three years remaining on four-year, $4.7 million deal signed with Las Vegas before his trade to the Dolphins. Will earn $824,064 in 2021.

How he played: Well over the final half of the season. Bowden developed into a competent slot receiver with good instincts to elude defenders. He caught 28 passes for 211 yards - 7.5 yards per reception - and also ran 9 times for 32 yards (3.6 average), primarily out of the Wildcat.

PFF rated him 68th among 127 qualifying receivers.

Among all 197 NFL receivers who played in a game, Bowden was 107th in average yards after catch at 4.2. Considering his speed and elusiveness, it’s expected that number to be a bit higher eventually.

Most of his targets were shorter throws. He was thrown only two passes than traveled 20 yards in the air and caught one of them for 22 yards.

The future: Encouraging. Bowden flashed the type of skills this offense needs. Whether he can evolve into a 40-snaps-a-game slot receiver remains to be seen, and we hear the Dolphins will be looking for another starting-caliber slot receiver. When Bowden lined up in the slot, he caught 21 of 26 passes for 167 yards.

MALCOLM PERRY

Contract status: Has three years remaining on four-year, $3.4 million rookie deal. Will earn $780,000 in 2021.

How he played: Showed flashes in limited opportunities.

After Isaiah Ford’s trade to New England, Perry passed Bowden on the depth chart for a few games in November, but then played much less in December. He caught 9 of 13 targets for 92 yards and two drops, plus a touchdown catch during garbage time of the Bills finale.

He ended up playing 156 snaps on offense, compared with 336 for Bowden, 374 for Ford and 287 for Mack Hollins.

The future: Will compete for a roster spot in training camp.

MACK HOLLINS

Contract status: Unrestricted free agent.

How he played: Competently as a fill-in, with the wide receiver room depleted because of injuries and opt outs.

PFF ranked him 113th of 127 receivers. Hollins had only 29 passes thrown to him and dropped three. But he made one of the most important catches of the year — adeptly getting his feet in bounds — to set up Jason Sanders’ field goal to win the game in Las Vegas.

The future: Hollins has value on special teams (he’s an excellent gunner) and that conceivably could earn him a minimum contract. But it’s difficult to see a spot for him if the Dolphins upgrade their wide receiver room to the extent that’s expected.

ISAIAH FORD

Contract status: Unrestricted free agent.

How he played: Was serviceable during a most unusual season for him. He began the season with Miami, caught 18 passes for 184 yards while appearing in six of Miami’s first seven games, was traded to New England, didn’t play a snap there, was released and returned to the Dolphins and caught 10 passes for 92 yards over the final three games.

Pro Football Focus rated him 103th of 127 receivers. He had two drop - including a particularly egregious one in the Buffalo game.

The future: Ford, mature and always prepared, has cemented a career as a player good enough to make a roster and help when a team has injuries or is lacking at the position. Even if the Dolphins bring him to camp, it’s difficult to see him sticking around on the 53 next season.

Also under contract: Kirk Merritt (who played one offensive snap in 2020).