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2019 Miami Dolphins Mock Offseason

Travis Wingfield

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Forecasting Miami’s Free Agency and Draft Classes for the 2019 Season

The new league year begins Wednesday, but we are merely hours away from the official legal tampering period. Under the guise of an oxymoron, the NFL doesn’t divulge the behind-the-scenes mischief of free agency. Discussions between agents and teams regarding the crop of players set to hit the market start way back in the fall, leading up to a primetime event as the league seizes the spotlight, yet again, in mid-March.

Retention of a coaching staff helps forecast the future of a given team. Under Adam Gase, predicting the Dolphins moves became easier each year. Now, with Brian Flores at the controls, pundits are left to connect their own dots.

Despite their best efforts, the Dolphins’ brass pulled back the curtain, ever-so-slightly, to give us an idea of the new direction. Under Flores, and first-time General Manager Chris Grier, we can gather that the Dolphins will seek the following traits in a player:

– High character
– High football acumen
– Prioritize football
– Team-oriented individuals
– Leadership and communication skills

Those are the buzz words provided to us by Flores and Grier during their otherwise mundane press availability appearances. We also ascertain the types of players Miami might prefer under the new tutelage. Based on previous roster decisions regarding individual position groups, coaching staff connections, draft visits, and the carefully crafted media responses, we assume the Dolphins will prioritize the following on-field traits:

Offense

– Athletic quarterback
– Capable backs in the passing game
– The reintroduction of a fullback in Miami
– Tight ends that can squeeze down in-line and block
– Offensive linemen that are athletic enough, but play with power (allows for scheme versatility)

Defense

– Heavy-handed defensive linemen with astute eye-discipline (two-gap players)
– Linebackers that can run, hit, blitz, and cover
– Cornerbacks that excel in change-of-direction (short-shuttle and 3-cone standouts)
– Match-up oriented and role-based safeties (cover the TE, play MOF SAF, etc.)

Limited by current cash considerations, the Dolphins need to clear the decks before any spending can occur. So, we start with player cuts (some already enacted).

Dolphins 2019 Cuts: ($5,900,000 available pre-cuts)

Position Player 2019 Cap Relief
QB Ryan Tannehill $13,188,332
WR Devante Parker $9,387,000
WR Danny Amendola $6,000,000
TE Nick O’Leary $900,000
LG Josh Sitton $5,000,000
OG Ted Larsen $1,524,998
DE Robert Quinn $12,932,332
DE Andre Branch $7,000,000
DT Akeem Spence $3,250,000
LB Kiko Alonso $4,772,500
SAF T.J. McDonald -$1,002,000

Total Cap Savings = $62,953,162
Estimated available cap space for 2019: ~$68.8 M 

Some serious house-cleaning had to be done. Mike Tannenbaum lived up to his reputation of burying the organization with contracts for veteran players priced way above the market. Miami could maintain the status quo by rolling these salaries forward and continue to kick the can down the road, and this will be looked out through a “tanking” lens, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Purging the roster of over-valued players isn’t taking, it’s smart business.

Dolphins Renewed Contracts:

Position Player Contract (Years/Total $)
RT Ja’Wuan James 4 years, $36 M ($9 M APY)
DE William Hayes 1 year, $4 M
DT Ziggy Hood 1 year, $1.5 M
RB Brandon Bolden 2 years, $3 M ($1.5 M APY)
ILB Mike Hull 1 year, $900 K
OC Jake Brendel 1 year, $650 K
WR Leonte Carroo 1 year, $700 K
WR Isaiah Ford 1 years, $600 K

Total 2019 Money Spent on Renewals: $18,850,000
Remaining Cap Allowance: $49,950,000

Future Ring of Honor inductee Cam Wake’s Dolphins’ career comes to an end with 98 sacks in aqua. Other notable names not renewed: LB Stephone Anthony, RB Frank Gore, TE MarQueis Gray, OT Sam Young, QB Brock Osweiler, QB David Fales.

This leaves significant holes at quarterback, interior offensive line, defensive line and cornerback. The safety position needs more bodies as well, as Miami will be playing exponentially more dime and quarter defense in 2019.

Free Agency:

SIGNED: DE Trey Flowers (Patriots)
Total: 5 years, $75,000,000
2019 hit: $15,000,000

The Dolphins entered the market with plans to avoid the big contract, but Brian Flores won the power-struggle and nabs his guy. Flowers is a unique exception to the big spending alarms during free agency. He’s already had success in this program and scheme, so Miami might view this as “keeping their own.”

Flowers slots in as a base five-technique with the flexibility to kick inside and play the three-technique, or slide outside and rush from the seven-technique; essentially, he can play any position on the defensive line. Expect Flowers’ 70% defensive workload from 2018 to increase closer to 80%.

This deal makes Flowers the sixth highest-paid defensive end in the NFL.

SIGNED: DT Mike Pennel (Jets)
Total: 2 years, $9,000,000
2019 hit: $4,500,000

At 330 pounds, Mike Pennell serves as the space eater in Patrick Graham’s defense. Pennell played with Graham in Green Bay from 2014-2016 and just finished a two-year stint with the Jets. Pennel is a productive player that fits the mold (heavy-handed, excels with his eye-discipline).

Pennel played 16 games in both of the last two seasons and functions as a two-gapping run-defending mountain.

This contract makes Pennel the 32nd highest paid interior defensive linemen in the NFL.

SIGNED: RG A.J. Cann (Jaguars)
Total: 3 years, $12,000,000
2019 hit: $4,000,000

Cann hit a valley in 2018 after an impressive 2017 campaign. Cann has the power Miami is looking for on the offensive line (drops his anchor, rarely allowing a bull rush), but bends and moves well enough to operate in space.

The Dolphins will value players of Cann’s makeup that allows the scheme to change from gap to zone on a week-by-week basis. Cann spend each of the last two seasons playing under Dolphins new Offensive Line Coach Pat Flaherty.

This contract makes Cann the 19th highest paid Right Guard in the NFL.

SIGNED: TE Dwayne Allen (Patriots)
Total: 2 years, $7,000,000
2019 Cap Hit: $3,000,000

The one signing already official, Allen serves as a beefed-up inline blocker to help institute Miami’s ground-and-pound attack. Fundamentally sound, capable in pass protection, and a force in the run game, Allen’s workload likely increases tenfold from his 32% snap percentage in 2018.

This contract makes Allen the 21st highest paid tight end in the NFL.

SIGNED: FB Anthony Sherman (Chiefs)
Total: 2 years, $4,000,000
2019 Cap Hit: $2,000,000

Miami will more than likely employ a fullback on the roster for the first time in several years. Anthony Sherman was recently cut by the Kansas City Chiefs, where he was drafted by Dolphins New Assistant G.M. Marvin Allen.

This contract makes Sherman the 3rd highest paid fullback in the NFL.

SIGNED: QB Teddy Bridgewater (Saints)
Total: 2 years, $20,000,000
2019 Cap Hit: $10,000,000

There’s the shoe everyone was waiting to drop. After much delineation on the best approach for the position, Miami caves and finds its 2019 starter in free agency. Brian Flores talked about mobility and accuracy as traits he likes in a quarterback. Bridgewater isn’t going to win a lot of footraces, but he’s mobile enough to navigate crowded pockets and was a 65% passer his two years starting in Minnesota.

Bridgewater is a Miami native and has expressed his interest in coming home. That, plus the glaring vacancy at the position, attracts Teddy-Two-Gloves to try to resurrect his career in his hometown.

This contract makes Bridgewater the 22nd highest paid quarterback in the NFL.

Positions to look for low-level deals are linebacker, safety, cornerback, and on the interior offensive line.

Remaining Money: $11,400,000

The Draft:

Finding a dance partner for a trade-down is no easy task. The Raiders are flushed with draft picks and, after missing out on Kyler Murray, Jon Gruden goes to work building the offense around Derek Carr. So when all of the offensive line prospects slide to the Dolphins pick at 13, Gruden and Mike Mayock pounce.

Dolphins get: Pick 24, pick 35
Raiders get: Pick 13

 

Round (Pick) Position Player School
1 (24) SAF Jonathan Abram Mississippi State
2 (35) CB David Long Michigan
2 (48) OG Chris Lindstrom Boston College
3 (78) OC Lamont Gaillard Georgia
4 (116) QB Tyree Jackson Buffalo
5 (151) WR David Sills V West Virginia
6 (188) RB James Williams Washington State
7 (234) LB Blake Cashman Minnesota

 

Final 53-man Roster:

QB: Bridgewater, Ruddock, Jackson
RB: Drake, Ballage, Williams, Bolden
FB: Sherman
WR: Wilson, Stills, Grant, Butler, Sills, Ford
TE: Allen, Gesicki, Smythe
OT: Tunsil, James, Davis
iOL: Cann, Lindstrom, Kilgore, Gaillard, Brendel

DL: Flowers, Hayes, Taylor, Godchaux, Pennel, Woodard, Carradine, Hood
LB: McMillan, Baker, Allen, Hull, Harris, Cashman
CB: Howard, Long, McCain, Tankersley, McTyer, Armstrong, Davis
SAF: Fitzpatrick, Jones, Abram, Aikens

Notes:

Jesse Davis serves as sixth man at every OL positions except center.
Charles Harris serves as a pseudo linebacker/outside rusher

There is still a lot of work to be done, but this roster keeps Miami competitive in the interim while not sacrificing the long-term future. The secondary is now equipped to run the defense Flores will deploy (the need for eight defensive backs each week). The offensive line looks much better on paper and there’s a small shot Bridgewater develops into “The Guy.”

Miami still likely isn’t a post-season contender until 2020, but this would set the team up for another strong offseason to make that dream a reality in one year’s time.

@WingfieldNFL

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Richard

    March 10, 2019 at 9:19 pm

    Fun read but there are a number of problems with your approach. Most notably, the roster you outlined would continue with the 6/10, 7/9 or 8/8 end of season type of record. Which effectively makes the 2 prime QB’s for 2020 out of reach (unless you mortgage future #1’s in order to get one). So it’s either Bridgewater turns into “the guy” or you’re back to where you were. Second problem is… in a draft that has the best D-line talent for the past 10 years and you do not even pick one? Seriously?? Then finally based upon prospect ratings it just seems to me you are taking “most” of them 1 to 2 rounds earlier than where they’re projected to go. Just my take which could be totally wrong. I agree with your traits/capabilities of what we will be looking for but I think there a number of different choices both in free agency & the draft that would better serve the long term vision. Just my two cents….

  2. Rich McQuillen

    March 11, 2019 at 12:59 am

    Ndamukong Suh – 59 tackles, 4.5 sacks in 2018.
    Akeem Spence – 42 tackles, 2 sacks in 2018.
    Mike Pennell – 27 tackles, 0 sacks in 2018.

    Spence was a big downgrade from Suh. It looks like Pennell is a further downgrade from Spence. NT is the qb of the defense, so I’m not fond of this choice.
    ****
    How about skipping Flowers and signing C Mitch Morse + RG Roger Saffold.
    ****
    The trade down is Round 1 is intriguing… but why draft a safety? Is this in preparation for the departure of Rashad Jones? I don’t like drafting safeties in Round 1. I think you can grab a bigger impact position there.

  3. T-Bone

    March 11, 2019 at 4:25 am

    I agree with trading back but instead of getting Oakland’s 1st {#24} this year why not get their 1st next year {2020} while still acquiring #35 this year? Imo we need as much capital as possible for 2020 draft IF IF IF the plan is to get 1 of top QBs next year.

  4. Scott W Osborne

    March 11, 2019 at 5:46 am

    Interesting article Travis (you are a good writer- keep ’em coming) I think they will definitely draft a DL and I’m not sure they will be that active in free agency, but I love to consider your specific ideas.

  5. JOSE BELLON

    March 11, 2019 at 12:36 pm

    Good Article agree with some of the FA but IMO I don’t think they will go for Bridgewater I think it will be Taylor also I rather keep Spencer than to Paid 4.5M to Pennell
    In the Draft I will go all the way for DE at least 2 a Safety in the 1st round doesn’t make much sense to me but Travis you are a good writer and I do like to read your articles
    Keep up the good Job

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins Sign Chris Reed

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Looks like the Miami Dolphins have begun replacing the plethora of offensive linemen they either released or let walk this past offseason.

According to the Dolphins official social media account, the team signed offensive guard Chris Reed.

Details of the contract are currently unknown, but with the losses of Ja’Wuan James, Ted Larsen, Josh Sitton and possibly even players like Jake Brendel and Travis Swanson, the Dolphins need bodies to fill out their roster.

After signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars as an undrafted free agent out of the 2015 NFL draft, Reed was placed on the team’s practice squad and wasn’t activated until September, 2016. Over the past three seasons, Reed has been active for 25 games and started 8 of them.

You can’t expect too much from this signing, as Reed is simply expected to compete for depth on the offensive line and it’s possible he doesn’t even make the team out of training camp. Then again, Ted Larsen was originally supposed to be offensive line depth and he ended up playing 1,272 snaps over the course of his two-year Dolphins career.

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Miami Dolphins

Rebuilding Previous Rebuilds

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Now that we have accepted the notion that the Miami Dolphins are going to start rebuilding their franchise in 2019 (and as a result, a lot of losing will incur), we have moved on to the optimistic hope that this team is going to build their foundation “right”.

Hope is about the only thing that will temper the frustration that comes with going 6-10 with freshly signed Ryan Fitzpatrick as our starting quarterback, so over the next calendar year, you’re going to hear how most decisions are geared towards 2020.

Sure, Fitzpatrick will dazzle us with a couple 400-yard passing games and a few offensive performances that trick us into believing that we don’t need to desperately grab a franchise quarterback, but don’t let those extremely inconsistent anomalies fool you. Miami most definitely needs a franchise quarterback – one that leaves us with minimal doubts at the top of the draft.

Are they going to trade up for one in 2019? Or are they going to, um, conveniently lose in 2019 and attempt to save their assets for 2020, where there’s a chance that four starting-caliber quarterbacks come out of college – all of whom are possibly better than the top-2 quarterbacks in this class: Dwayne Haskins and Kyler Murray?

As Travis echoed on Sunday, the Miami Dolphins are building a treasure trove of draft picks that will allow themselves to navigate the murkiest of trade waters in either 2019 or 2020. With the trade of Ryan Tannehill to the Tennessee Titans netting Miami an extra 4th-round draft pick – along with the assumption that losing Ja’Wuan James to the Denver Broncos will return an extra 3rd-round pick as a compensatory selection – Miami will have the ability to tack on whichever mid-round picks are required to seal the deal for a top-3 draft pick.

But with all of these assets in mind, can we confidently assume that the Dolphins are just one year away from being a relevant franchise that can sustain success? No, not one bit.

Since Chris Grier took over as the Director of College Scouting in 2007, Miami has had 5 drafts in which they have had at least 9 draft picks to work with. Although it’s obvious that not every draft pick is going to pan out, the assumption is that a team should be able to identify enough cheap labor to fill their roster. You don’t need superstars in every round, though it would be nice if the Dolphins drafted even one of them.

Before you get ready to soak in the success of 2020, I’m going to remind you of the somber past we have together. Hopefully, Grier doesn’t allow history to repeat itself:

2007

Chris Grier’s first year on the job yielded Miami with multiple draft steals, but came with an ample amount of draft busts as well.

Whether the selection was general manager Randy Mueller‘s, head coach Cam Cameron‘s, Grier’s, or a combination of the three, the Miami Dolphins shocked everyone by selecting Ted Ginn Jr with the 9th-overall pick in the draft.

Choosing Ted Ginn Jr over Brady Quinn proved to be the correct choice, but was Ginn really the player you wanted to commit a top-10 pick to? Especially when he was coming off of an injury and was seen more as a dynamic kick returner than an elite, #1 receiver?

Here are a few players taken shortly after Ginn was picked #9: Patrick Willis (11), Marshawn Lynch (12) and Darrelle Revis (14). I was going to include Lawrence Timmons (15th-overall), but I don’t think Miami fans are going to think too fondly of that linebacker (though let’s be honest, he was still a better pick than Ginn).

But the Miami Dolphins had 10 draft picks in 2007, and should have been able to build a team with more than just a failed 1st-round pick, right? Alas, this is what they graced us with that year:

Paul Soliai in the 4th-round and Brandon Fields in the 7th-round ended up being phenomenal choices for the Dolphins, as both players combined to play 227 games with Miami. Even Samson Satele was a good selection in the 2nd-round; Miami just doesn’t understand their own talent and allowed Satele to be a good starting center for two other teams instead of their own.

The rest of that draft class? Combined to be active for 32 games with the Dolphins. All of which were off the team by the start of the 2008 season.

2008

Coming off of a 1-15 season that felt less like a rebuild and more like a purgatory, the Dolphins were now poised to genuinely begin their ascension with the 1st-overall selection in the draft.

The thing is, Miami’s biggest mistake wasn’t selecting Jake Long with the #1 overall pick, but bringing an archaic Bill Parcells on board to build a team for the future.

Parcells figured there was no sense having a franchise quarterback if there was no one to protect him (the opposite logic of what the Dolphins did with Ryan Tannehill throughout his career), and selected Jake Long to protect whoever’s blindside.

You might be able to excuse Parcells for selecting a potential hall of fame left tackle (for the first four years of their career) over Matt Ryan, since Miami did have 8 more draft picks that year. Instead, this is how the draft shook out:

Kendall Langford was a solid player on the Dolphins defensive line throughout his rookie contract, but other than Jake Long he was the only player to plug a hole on the roster. You can say Chad Henne played prominently for the Dolphins, but we all know he was a detriment more than a solution, and even forced Miami to pick yet another quarterback in the 2nd-round the following draft.

Phillip Merling gave us that exciting interception against Brett Favre and the New York Jets the year Chad Pennington led the team to the playoffs, but other than that, he was basically an extra 1st-round pick that ended up being a complete bust.

After two years and 19 draft picks, the Dolphins should have set themselves up to be a young team worth reckoning with. Looking back, there were really only 5 players that filled a capable roster spot: Satele, Soliai, Fields, Long and Langford. For reference, NFL rosters held 52 players…

2009

After two failed drafts and nearly 19 wasted draft picks, the Miami Dolphins actually got a draft right. This comes with the caveat that it’s the third-consecutive year in which the team is selecting a quarterback in the 2nd-round, so it tells you just how lost the Dolphins really are.

Pat White was a fascinating college athlete to watch, but he had no business being a quarterback in the NFL. The football community was stunned to see White selected so high, but the Dolphins envisioned a quarterback that could complete their wildcat offense and keep opposing defenses confused at all times.

The only confusion White caused was on Miami’s offense, because the playbook was extremely small for the limited quarterback, and the offense was stale at best.

Miami’s best selections came from Vontae Davis and Sean Smith. The team also envisioned having a pair of young, cheap, shutdown corners to give Tom Brady, Brett Favre and whoever the Buffalo Bills had hell. And they were really onto something for a little bit, but Joe Philbin‘s inability to handle egos mixed with some immaturity on the player’s side “forced” the Dolphins to trade Davis and allow Smith to leave in free agency.

At the time, this was a very good draft, but looking back at it, it’s just some more disappointment:

Brian Hartline received a contract extension with the team and probably outperformed all of our expectations. Maybe it speaks to the lack of playmakers the Dolphins have had over their history, but Hartline has the 7th most receiving yards and 9th most receptions in Dolphins history. We can knock the extension as a separate topic, but selecting Hartline in the 4th-round was a very good draft pick.

Chris Clemons ended up playing 80 games with the Dolphins and served as a valuable depth player for 5 seasons.

This can be deemed a good draft for the Dolphins, but the problem is, we’re excited the team was able to find 3 starters. While every team would love to say they found 3 starters in each draft, the Dolphins didn’t have much of a roster around those guys, which meant the team hadn’t rebuilt much of anything up to this point.

A budding franchise looking to sustain success is going to need more than a good #3 receiver to escape mediocrity.

2012

2012 was another very good draft for the Dolphins that saw virtually no sustained success going forward. This is the point where you have to wonder if the Miami Dolphins legitimately try to win or if they’re fine creating media headlines and bringing in ad revenue.

Ryan Tannehill was the first 1st-round quarterback the Dolphins selected since Dan Marino back in 1983. Between all of the excitement and optimism, fans were sold on the fact that Tannehill was going to turn the team around (after he firmly learned the quarterback position). His old coach at Texas A&M, Mike Sherman, was set to be his offensive coordinator, so you know Miami was really building this thing right because, you know, “chemistry”.

7 seasons later, and there are no surviving members of the 2012 draft class. In fact, only one of them made it past year 4 (Tannehill) – which also happens to be the same number of players eventually arrested from this draft class (Jonathan Martin).

How can a team sustain success when the team doesn’t sustain any of their successful players?

Olivier Vernon and Lamar Miller proved to be great risks that Jeff Ireland took. Coming right out of the Dolphins backyard from the University of Miami, Vernon and Miller were underclassmen that Ireland saw potential in. And he was right.

Both outperformed their draft status and earned themselves wealthy contracts in free agency. This goes back to the argument that the Dolphins are incompetent when it comes to signing their own draft picks, so overall, this draft doesn’t seem like much, but this draft could have been much more than a free agent payday for 3 of their selections.

Rishard Matthews was one of the best 7th-round picks in Dolphins history, but Philbin’s deadpan personality placed Matthews on the bench for most of his rookie contract rather than the starting lineup ahead of players like B.J. Cunningham and Legedu Naanee.

As of 2019, the Dolphins are still looking for a player at every position from the list of 2012 draft picks (QB, RT, DE, TE, LB, WR and DT). You can say Miami doesn’t need a running back, but that’s also the easiest position to find and it’s not even like the team currently has a solidified running back room anyway.

2013

Identifying a “can’t-miss” athlete in an inactive market, Jeff Ireland made one of the best draft-day trades of the century and traded the team’s 1st-round pick (12th-overall) and 2nd-round pick (42nd-overall) to move up to #3 overall. That kind of trade would be unheard of today, where those top picks are commodities that you have to pry away with current and future draft capital.

So what did the Dolphins do with their robbery? Select a stellar athlete with a history of demons that rivals that of Josh Gordon.

Dion Jordan was built to be a football player, but he never actually wanted to be a football player. He wanted to escape reality and realized this was a profession he was good at. Fortunately for Jordan, but unfortunately for the Dolphins, Jordan took 5 years to mature past all of those inner turmoils and emerge as a defensive threat.

But like the theme of this article, his success doesn’t benefit the Miami Dolphins one bit.

Dion Jordan wasn’t the only player to fail Miami’s expectations yet perform better elsewhere.

2nd-round pick Jamar Taylor was always hampered by injuries and was shipped to the Cleveland Browns for a 27 slot draft boost in the 7th-round (a farcry from #54 overall). Dion Sims was a solid backup and blocking tight end before cashing in with the Chicago Bears. Mike Gillislee was a decent kick returner who has seen a good amount of success as a running back with the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots. Even Caleb Sturgis was viewed as a “bust” and has since played 36 games for other teams.

You could argue that Don Jones was Miami’s best draft pick behind Dion Sims that year, and that’s only because he was a very good gunner on special teams.

Truth is, the Dolphins have had plenty of opportunities to rebuild and yet, years later, here we are, still trying to rebuild. So now that Chris Grier has ultimate control, will this be the rebuild the Dolphins finally turn it around? 6th time’s a charm, right?

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Miami Dolphins

Free Agent Analysis: Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick

Travis Wingfield

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Buckle up, Phins Fans – the Fitzmagic Roller Coaster is coming to your town

Ryan Fitzpatrick is on his eight NFL team following a circuitous route that spans 14 seasons as a professional football player. The journeyman stopgap heads to America’s retirement home on a two-year contract that starts at $11 million and could escalate to $20 million if unspecified incentives are met.

Though details of the contract’s structure are not yet available, it’s a near certainty that the bulk of the money will be paid out in year-one. With the Dolphins eating a chunk of dead cap, and pushing assets down the road, this move not only helps Miami get closer to the salary floor, it secures a sturdy backup quarterback for the 2020 season.

Whether it’s Kyler Murray, Dwayne Haskins, Tua Tagovailoa, Jake Fromm or any other quarterback prospect, Fitzpatrick has been heralded for his calm demeanor and approach to providing this very important element to his past teams.

Barring a trade-up for one of the top two prospects in this draft Fitzpatrick will be under-center when the Dolphins open the season on the second Sunday in September. Only one September ago, Fitzpatrick was on an unprecedented roll for a quarterback of his caliber – of any caliber, really.

After the three-game stretch of consecutive 400 yard outputs, Fitzpatrick throttled into a nosedive throwing for less than 250 yards in four of his next five starts. Cumulatively, his passer rating on the season was 100.4, but he failed to eclipse the 90.0 mark in all but one of his final six starts.

The strengths and weaknesses of Fitzpatrick’s game are abundantly clear. Where the flashes with Ryan Tannehill provided false hope, Fitzpatrick is an open book – it only takes a couple of games of all-22 to figure out exactly who he is.

First, the strengths. I’ve talked at length about the importance of a backup quarterback providing the locker room and huddle with a sense of comradery. Whether it’s this season or next, Fitzpatrick will eventually be relegated to the number-two QB. The Ewing Theory suggests that the rest of the roster can elevate its game when the backup enters the lineup, but that typically only applies when said backup is likable.

That clip also showcases the gamer-mentality of Fitzpatrick. With reckless abandon, he’ll take a hit for his team in a way you’d never want your franchise quarterback to play.

As for Fitzpatrick the starter, the strength of his game is also his biggest weakness. He trusts his eyes as much as any quarterback going right now and will let ‘er rip without hesitation. There’s a hint of Matt Moore in his game where he evaluates pre-snap and makes quick decisions based on the leverage of the defense.

The first touchdown of the season for Tampa Bay provides a terrific example of Fitzpatrick’s ability to move the defense with his eyes and hips. The clip also showcases his strength as a play-action passer when given a comfortable pocket.

There’s a reason he’s been on eight teams in 14 years, however. That anticipation, coupled with sloppy mechanics, gets him into a lot of hot water. If the defense is at all nuanced, and capable of disguising coverage, he’s going to turn the ball over a heck of a lot.

Randomly, the ball will sail as he is prone to rushing his setup and spraying bullets all over the field. Pressure in his face only amplifies this shortcoming.

All things told, this was the best veteran option available both in terms of playing time and veteran mentor to the inevitable draft pick coming in a year or two. There will be equal parts excitement and sheer frustration with Fitzpatrick playing in Miami.

As far as the Tank for Tua conversation, this signing likely solidifies that Miami will not be the worst team in football. I’ve argued that they would never reach those valleys to begin, even with a rookie or Luke Falk under-center. I believe too strongly in Brian Flores and the staff he has assembled for this team to lose a number of games in the teens. Fitzpatrick at least gets Miami out of the massive hole of unworthy NFL quarterback territory.

Ideally, the Dolphins find their quarterback straight away and never have to start Fitzpatrick. The more likely outcome is that he starts the season and puts the Dolphins in a tough spot regarding the playing time incentives in his contract.

This signing is great from a financial standpoint right now, but if the Harvard product (had to get it in) starts hitting those contract escalators, that would not be ideal.

@WingfieldNFL

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