Ryan Tannehill's development as a starting quarterback in
Miami has progressed along much quicker than many ever expected. And the
addition of a reliable set of hands will only further that development.
Jabar Gaffney, who was released by the Patriots during
training camp, signed a one-year contract the Dolphins on Tuesday, as confirmed
by the team.
Gaffney's addition should provide Tannehill with something he hasn't found
since arriving in Miami: a dependable wideout.
Throughout the course of HBO's Hard Knocks this season, the Miami Dolphins were in a desperate
search for a No. 1 receiver. Chad Johnson was supposed to be that No. 1 option
for the Dolphins, but a domestic dispute led to the Dolphins parting ways with
the enigmatic receiver.
Brian Hartline, who leads the NFL in receiving yards
following a 12-catch, 253-yard breakout on Sunday, appears to have emerged as
an option on the outside. But as the Dolphins looked to close out a win in
overtime, Hartline was unable to be the trustworthy pair of hands that
Tannehill needed to succeed. That's where Gaffney can help.
Finally, Tannehill will have a reliable receiver to look for
in crunch time. Following a slow start to his career, Gaffney has developed
into one of the most reliable receivers in football. That reliability
culminated in a career season in 2011, where Gaffney set new personal bests
with 68 receptions and 947 yards for the Redskins.
That success was expected to translate into Gaffney taking on the role as
New England's third receiver, but a slow-healing quad injury saw him released
ahead of the regular season. Now healthy, Gaffney should offer Miami the
consistent receiver they've coveted since drafting Tannehill.
At 31, Gaffney won't bring the type of deep threat that the
Dolphins might have been searching for in Johnson. But what they are getting is
a receiver with steady hands, good instincts and knowledge of coverages. Even
more importantly they are empowering their young signal caller with somewhat of
a safety net.
Gaffney was one of Tom Brady's all-time favorite targets, a
big reason he was even given another opportunity with the Patriots this
offseason. Brady doesn't come back to receivers unless they are
worthy and have earned his trust. And if Gaffney was able to develop that sort
of rapport with one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history, then Tannehill can
only stand to benefit from the relationship.
Gaffney won't be the difference in the Dolphins' playoff chances this season.
But his impact on Tannehill's development is far more important to Miami's
success long term