Last off-season, the Miami Dolphins traded a third round pick for receiver Kenny Stills. One year later, his tenure in Miami looks like it could end soon.
The Miami Dolphins expected a big season from wide receiver Kenny Stills in 2015. They traded linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and a third-round pick to the New Orléans Saints for the services of the then 23-year old receiver.
Still was coming off a 63-catch and 931 yard season. He scored three touchdowns for the Saints, rewarding them for the franchise selecting him in the fifth round of the 2013 NFL draft.
The thought process for Miami was that Stills would replace the overpaid and loudmouth Mike Wallace as the main deep threat in the Dolphins receiving core. The team felt Stills would be a good fit next to emerging Jarvis Landry in the Dolphins offense, as the team tried to build an offense more suited for quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
Unfortunately, the modest investment the team made in Stills did not pay off in 2015. For the season, Stills was targeted 63 times, hauling in only 27 of those targets for 440 yards. His longest catch of the season went for only 49 yards.
The season was no doubt a disappointment for both the franchise and Stills. Pro Football Focus ranked Stills the 82nd receiver in the league and gave him a grade of 61.5.
Stills will look to bounce back in 2016, as he enters his age 24-season. Stills’ is also entering his contract season, as he’ll become an unrestricted free agent after the season. Stills will likely look for a raise from his $1,671,000 salary he will receive in 2016.
He would drastically need to improve on his 2015 numbers to earn such a raise in his contract though. With rookie head coach Adam Gase taking over the play-calling and the Dolphins offensive line looking as good as ever, his quarterback is poised for a breakout season, which could mean great things for Stills.
However, if Stills has a big season for the Miami Dolphins, it could also lead to his exit from the franchise. With the big deals the franchise has awarded Ryan Tannehill and Ndamukong Suh the past two off-seasons, the franchise is unlikely going to be able to afford another large contract, especially if they have other, cheaper options waiting in the wings.
Which is something the Dolphins do have. Back in July during the NFL draft, the Miami Dolphins drafted two wide receivers, potentially making Stills potentially expendable after the season.
The Dolphins traded up in the third round to select wide receiver Leonte Carroo. The selection earned them an A grade from Pro Football Focus.
"Miami takes one of our favorite receivers in Carroo. Late in 2015 Carroo took over games, ultimately posting a huge +17.8 grade on only 363 snaps. He separates well on vertical routes and he’s sure-handed, dropping only two passes all season."
That is not a typo. Carroo only had two drops last season and was a monster for the Rutgers program at the receiver position.
Carroo has 122 receptions for 2,373 yards in his Rutgers career, scoring 29 touchdowns and averaging 20.7 yards per reception.
While Stills is penciled in to be the starter at this stage, the Dolphins have left open the opportunity for Carroo to steal that spot from Stills. If not in training camp, Carroo could be emerging for the job down the line during the season.
Carroo has already drawn praise and emerged as an option for his new quarterback.
"“He’s a strong, physical guy that’s going to be a weapon for us,” quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. “He’s going to be able to have some run-after-catch, be physical with the corners and be physical down the field.”"
Playing in a pro-style offense at Rutgers also will give Carroo a leg up in his transition to the NFL.
Beyond Carroo, the more over-looked and explosive player the Dolphins added in the draft was the 5-7 receiver Jakeem Grant.
Grant caught 254 balls for 3,286 yards at Texas Tech, also adding 199 yards on the ground. He scored a grand total of 29 touchdowns with Tech, while also averaging 12.1 yards from scrimmage.
While his height might be a concern, his teammates have been impressed with his speech so far during June practices. He has apparently earned the nickname “Kevin Hart II” from his teammates.
Early on, Grant has become the favorite to steal the number five receiver spot on the Dolphins roster and is close to running away with it.
With his height being an obvious disadvantage, Grant has had the opportunity to pick the brain of Wes Welker, a 5-9 receiver that had plenty of NFL success during his time in the league.
"“Wes set the tone for shorter receivers like me,” Grant said. “Just getting advice from him as a receiver and punt returner is awesome. He’s coached me up on all those aspects.”"
If Grant can become anything close to what Welker was for the New England Patriots, the Miami Dolphins would surely take that and be happy with that result. In fact, if Grant can become a strong slot receiver, he’d be a good option for the Dolphins to replace Jarvis Landry with, when Landry eventually seeks to be paid more than he is worth as a slot receiver himself.
When the Miami Dolphins traded a third round pick for Kenny Stills, they thought they could potentially have a receiver that would be around for years as a part of the next Dolphins core.
However, a slow 2015 season and a strong draft class of wide receivers now leaves Stills future with the franchise in doubt. Regardless of what happens for Stills in 2016, the two parties are likely headed for a separation after the season, it seems.