Dolphins extend contracts of two young standouts Jaylen Waddle and Jaelan Phillips

The Miami Dolphins backed up a commitment made a little more than a week ago by picking the fifth-year option on contracts for two of the team’s top young talents.

Receiver Jaylen Waddle and pass rusher Jaelan Phillips, who were both first-round picks in the 2021 NFL Draft, had their four-year rookie deals extended one more season because the team triggered the fifth-year option that comes with a first-round pick’s contract.

While the deadline for NFL teams to exercise fifth-year options for the 2021 draft class is Thursday, general manager Chris Grier said last week the Dolphins planned to extend the South Florida tenure of Waddle, who was the first receiver in Dolphins history to produce three consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons, and Phillips, who has contributed 146 tackles, 22 sacks, one interception, one forced fumble and three fumble recoveries in 42 games he has played the past three seasons.

Waddle, who was selected sixth overall, will be guaranteed $15.6 million for the 2025 season, while Phillips, who was taken with the 18th pick, will get $14.4 million based on the NFL salary scale, which factors in things like playing time, and Pro Bowl appearances to determine the salary.

Picking up the fifth-year option certainly won’t prevent the Dolphins from signing either player to a long-term extension, but it does set the floor of a price point for those two standouts, who each play positions that are relatively expensive.

Most NFL teams typically trigger the fifth-year option heading into the first-round pick’s fourth season, but multiyear extensions typically don’t get done until after that fourth season. However, exceptions are made, like the three-year, $75 million extension the Eagles gave receiver DeVonta Smith, Waddle’s teammate at Alabama, a couple of weeks ago.

Last year the Dolphins picked up the fifth-year option on only one [quarterback Tua Tagovailoa] of its three 2020 first-round picks. Miami declined the option on offensive tackle Austin Jackson and cornerback Noah Igbinoghene. However, Miami signed Jackson to a three-year extension that could be worth $36 million late last season, after he had established himself as the team’s most consistent offensive lineman in 2023.

Igbinohene, a disappointing first-round pick, was traded to the Dallas Cowboys before the 2023 season started, and never panned out.

The Dolphins have little doubt that Waddle and Phillips are legitimate playmakers, and plan to continue the team’s investment in them despite their medical history.

Waddle struggled to stay healthy for at least half of last season, and Phillips is recovering from a torn Achilles tendon he suffered in late November in a win over the New York Jets. He’s facing a nine-to-12-month recovery that might force him to start the 2024 season on injured reserve.

The Dolphins drafted Chop Robinson in the first round and Mohamed Karama in the fifth round, to hold down the defensive edges while Phillips and Bradley Chubb, who tore his ACL in Miami’s January loss to the Baltimore Ravens, work their way back from those troublesome injuries.

Miami needed to add depth at receiver and selected two – Virginia receiver Malik Washington and USC receiver Tahj Washington – in the 2024 draft. But the odds of either eventually replacing Waddle are slim considering both rookies are respected for being slot specific weapons.

But Waddle and Phillips aren’t the only members of the 2021 draft class whose contract status the Dolphins are worried about. Safety Jevon Holland is entering in the final year of his rookie season, and is slated to make $3.36 million this season. He and his camp are pulling for a multiyear extension, one that would make him one of the 10 highest paid safeties in the NFL.

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