Dolphins position review: Does Miami need to make wide receiver a priority?

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The Dolphins once again had one of the most potent wide receiver duos in the NFL with Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. However, injuries throughout the position group exposed some depth issues.

Now, Miami enters the offseason with a bare wide receiver room and a need to upgrade the unit despite big contributions from its top two options.

In the third of a series of position reviews, the Miami Herald will examine the team’s wide receiver situation. Next up is tight end.


No wide receiver duo combined for more yards than Hill and Waddle in 2023. The tandem’s 2,813 yards were almost 300 more yards than the next-highest pair (the Philadelphia Eagles’ AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith) and a big reason why the Dolphins were second in scoring.

But behind them, contributions were minimal. Cedrick Wilson Jr. was the third-most productive wide receiver on the team with 296 yards and three touchdowns. Injuries to Hill and Waddle late in the season only magnified the team’s lack of depth. Hill missed one game but was hobbled because of an ankle injury, while Waddle missed the last two games of the regular season because of an ankle injury. Miami made a midseason trade for Chase Claypool but he wasn’t a factor.

Of the receivers who finished the season on the active roster, only Waddle and Hill are under contract for the 2024 season.


Tyreek Hill

Skinny: Hill fell short of his 2,000-yard goal but he still led the NFL with a career-high 1,799 yards. He was named to the Pro Bowl and a unanimous first-team All-Pro selection.

Contract: Hill, who turns 30 in March, is entering the second year of a four-year extension he signed in 2022. He has a cap hit of $31,323,750, the largest on the team.

Jaylen Waddle

Skinny: Waddle missed three games because of injury but caught 72 passes for 1,014 yards, becoming the first player in franchise history to begin his career with three straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons.

Contract: Waddle, who turns 26 in November, is entering the fourth year of his five-year rookie contract, which includes a team option for the fifth season. He has a cap hit of $8,618,295, the 10th-largest on the team.

Cedrick Wilson Jr.

Skinny: There was trade speculation surrounding Wilson last offseason but he reworked his contract to remain in Miami and become a free agent after the 2023 season. He ended the year as Miami’s third-most productive wide receiver, catching 22 passes for 296 yards and three touchdowns.

Contract: Wilson, who turns 29 in November, is an unrestricted free agent. He has a cap hit of $2.5 million because of a void year that was created in his reworked deal.

Braxton Berrios

Skinny: In his first season in Miami, Berrios caught 27 passes for 238 yards and one touchdown and was the team’s top return specialist.

Contract: Berrios, who turns 29 in October, is an unrestricted free agent.

River Cracraft

Skinny: Cracraft appeared in 10 games and caught nine passes for 121 yards and one touchdown.

Contract: Cracraft, who turns 30 in November, is an unrestricted free agent.

Chase Claypool

Skinny: The Dolphins made a midseason trade for Claypool in October but he failed to make an impact in Miami. Claypool appeared in nine games and caught four passes (seven targets) for 26 yards.

Contract: Claypool, who turns 26 in July, is an unrestricted free agent.

Robbie Chosen

Skinny: Chosen appeared in nine games and caught four passes for 126 yards and one touchdown.

Contract: Chosen, who turns 31 in May, is an unrestricted free agent.

Erik Ezukanma

Skinny: Ezukanma appeared in the first two games and carried the ball five times for 22 yards. But he was inactive for the Dolphins’ Week 3 game against the Denver Broncos and then missed the rest of the season on the non-football injury list because of a neck injury that coach Mike McDaniel said was a re-aggravation of a college injury. The injury is not career-threatening.

Contract: Ezukanma, 24, is entering the third year of a four-year rookie contract. He has a cap hit of $1,166,248 but none of his $985,000 base salary is guaranteed.


1. Will the Dolphins be on the search for a new No. 3 wide receiver?

In Hill and Waddle, the Dolphins have arguably the best wide receiver duo in the NFL. But 2023 showed that Miami might need another formidable pass-catcher between them. The team has been intentional about limiting their snap counts throughout the season; Hill only missed one game to injury but played 67 percent of the offense snaps, a career-low since he became a full-time starter in 2017. Waddle battled injuries throughout the season and played a career-low 68 percent of the snaps.

Aside from Hill and Waddle, the only other wide receivers under contract for the 2024 season are Ezukanma, Braylon Sanders, Anthony Schwartz and Matthew Sexton, who have a combined 17 career catches. This only exacerbates the need to get quality depth behind Waddle and Hill.

2. Can Erik Ezukanma make an impact in 2024?

Ezukanma’s injury diagnosis was a disappointing development for a player who effectively redshirted his rookie year but has shown glimpses of being a playmaker. In the preseason and the first two weeks of the regular season, the Dolphins used him in a nontraditional role, getting carries and snaps out of the backfield.

He played sparingly in his rookie year as he adjusted to the nuances of an NFL offense but Miami thinks highly of him as a player who can contribute when the ball is in his hands. The Dolphins might not be able to use significant cap space or draft capital to bring in a third wide receiver so the most ideal scenario is that Ezukanma, a 2022 fourth-round pick, is ready to step into a bigger role in 2024.

3. Will the Dolphins sign Waddle to a long-term deal?

Miami has a May 2 deadline to exercise Waddle’s fifth-year option and the decision to fully guarantee a $15 million salary in 2025 seems like a no-brainer. But could the Dolphins get a jump start on locking up one of their young stars? It could be a fruitful offseason for many of the NFL’s top wide receivers; Waddle’s draftmate Ja’Maar Chase is also eligible for a lucrative extension and Justin Jefferson is likely to sign a deal that makes him the highest-paid wideout in the NFL.

A new deal for Waddle likely wouldn’t come in as high as that of Chase and Jefferson but would still probably be upwards of $20 million. It would also be much cheaper now than it will be in a year or two after Chase and Jefferson have reset the market. Locking up Waddle now would be a good way to ensure one of the franchise’s core players is in Miami for years to come, especially as Hill enters his age-30 season.


In NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah’s first mock draft, he predicted the Dolphins would select LSU wide receiver Brian Thomas Jr. with the No. 21 overall pick, noting that the 6-4 and 205-pound Thomas “gives the Dolphins some size -- without sacrificing speed.”

If Miami is looking for a cheaper, outside addition in free agency, the Los Angeles Rams’ Damarcus Robinson thrived in a similar offense in 2023.