We’ll be breaking down all the major and minor moves for NFL Free Agency with grades and analysis. You can find the comprehensive list of moves and grades here.
Reported deal: One year/$10 million
It’s been a strange market for wide receivers and the long-term deals might have already dried up. That’s left some value on the table for teams to pounce on one-year deals. The Miami Dolphins needed some receiver help to build around Tua Tagovailoa and Will Fuller might have been the best-case scenario as a scheme fit.
Last season, the Dolphins didn’t really have a receiver who could win down the field and separate to create open throwing lanes. That led to a lot of forced throws into tight coverage. Ryan Fitzpatrick thrives in that type of environment (and he had unsustainable positive plays under pressure) but that shouldn’t be how teams build a passing offense for a young quarterback. Miami already has DeVante Parker who wins in those contested catch situations, so Fuller will offer a dynamic that wasn’t available for the Dolphins last season. Due to that, Tagovailoa struggled to throw down the field with the ninth-lowest on-target rate for throws of at least 20 air yards among 36 quarterbacks with 20 or more attempts.
Fuller’s deep speed has a defense-changing impact. The geometry of the coverage has the shift when Fuller is on the field. Last season, Fuller was 12th in EPA among 76 players with at least 75 targets and his positive play percentage (the rate of targets that produced positive EPA) of 65.3% ranked sixth.
Despite being a deep threat, Fuller also killed the intermediate area of the field in 2020 with 24 targets between 11-19 air yards. Among 58 players with at least 20 targets in that area, he was sixth in positive play rate.
Fuller’s availability has been an issue and he’ll be suspended for the first game of the 2021 season, but the Dolphins won’t be paying him like a true No. 1 receiver with a $10 million price tag closer to the No. 2’s around the league.
There is plenty of upside here and without a long-term commitment, there is not a lot to dislike.