Who: Dolphins (3-1) at Bengals (3-1)
When: October 7, 1:00 East
Where: Paul Brown Stadium – Cincinnati, OH
Weather: 86 degrees, 20% chance of rain
Vegas Slant: Bengals -6.5
Dolphins at Bengals
Despite rushing out to a 3-1 record in the first quarter of the season, leading the AFC East and 13 of their intra-conference foes, the Dolphins are being left for dead – again.
All the goodwill built up through an unbeaten three-game stretch toppled in a matter of 60 minutes of sheer futility. Out-classed, out-coached and out-played, the Dolphins’ ship is taking on water – at least from a national perspective.
Walking wounded into the Jungle is the biggest cause for concern. A poor road team with injuries in key areas, going up against a white-hot offense, it’s understandable why Miami enters this sneaky-important game as touchdown underdogs.
Winning this game, however, strengthens Miami’s sole possession of first place in the division and it would register another crucial head-to-head win against a playoff contender (that victory over Tennessee will prove vital in three months).
The Bengals Scheme:
Dolphins fans will recognize this Bengals attack. Bill Lazor runs a variation of the spread scheme with plenty of zone-read options in the running game.
What makes this entire offense more explosive than it ever has been is the vast options in the passing game. This is not the run-of-the-mill Bengals squad that went as A.J. Green went in year’s past. Lazor utilizes Tyler Boyd as his chain-mover, John Ross as his field-stretcher and a pair of highly skilled backs to stretch defenses extremely thin from a match-up standpoint.
The running game, much like it is in Miami, is predicated on getting preferable number counts in the box. Also similar to Miami, it has a built in adaptability to extend the run into a quick-screen substitution.
The football comes out of Dalton’s hands quickly, relying upon this supremely skilled group of pass catchers to win routes early. Lazor also displays a penchant for masking some of the short comings available to him in pass protection.
What makes this offense unique is its ability to attack vertically from the spread/quick-style that it’s centered around. Switch concepts, stacks, bunches and anyway to create a hesitation step from the secondary and Andy Dalton will put the ball up early, in order to let his guys make a play.
Like the offense, the Bengals defense will look familiar to Dolphins fans. Coming from Detroit, a major influence on the current Miami stop-unit, Teryl Austin brings his aggressive zone-based coverage with an even, attacking front on the line of scrimmage.
At times, Austin will call man-coverage or even combo coverage that utilizes William Jackson as the MEG (man everywhere he goes) principle.
Also like Miami, Austin makes heavy use of his linebacker personnel. Unfortunately for Miami, Vontaze Burfict returns this week to bolster a suspect group. Playing downhill, the best counter for this defense is plenty of misdirection and stretch zone running concepts.
The more Miami can stretch this defense horizontally, the better off the offense will be.
For Miami to sustain drives, they will need to keep the offense on schedule, but also handle a variety of blitz packages and stunts from the Cincinnati front-seven – something of a chore for this team dating a few years back.
Andy Dalton is playing like the 2015-version of the Red Riffle that was in the MVP hunt before an injury cut his season short. He’s playing, fast, with confidence, and terrific downfield touch and accuracy.
Perhaps the biggest pendulum for this game is which Dalton shows up, and will Miami make him pay for his disaster decisions? He’s prone to throwing balls into heavily flooded areas and will give the defense opportunities for takeaways – Miami leads the NFL in interceptions.
If Xavien Howard is going to attempt to keep up with A.J. Green, and Minkah Fitzpatrick follows Tyler Boyd into the slot, that leaves John Ross and a slew of backs and tight ends to contend with.
Joe Mixon’s availability looms large. By mere function of this offense, if Mixon plays, he will get reps against these Miami linebackers that struggle immensely in coverage.
Miami’s advantage on this side of the ball comes in the trenches. Cordy Glenn is a bit of a plodder while the right side of the Cincinnati offensive line is, well, offensive.
Robert Quinn and Cameron Wake have to make an impact on this game for the defense to have any success. So long as the coverage holds up for two seconds, the Miami pass rush could help win this game. Glenn is a great match-up for Quinn and Bobby Hart is favorable for Wake.
Geno Atkins is a wrecker of worlds. He’s strong, laterally dominant and technically sound. Most teams will chip and try to use his leverage against him. If Miami can’t execute that, and has to commit a body inside, that frees up the edges of the Bengals pass rush.
This side of the ball will come down to the match-ups between Laremy Tunsil and Ja’Wuan James vs. Carl Lawson, Carlos Dunlap, Jordan Willis and Sam Hubbard. If the bookends can consistently win one-on-one match-ups, Miami has a shot.
Vontaze Burfict returns to a linebacker group that needs a shot in the arm. Because of their over-pursuit and aggressive one-gap style, this is the game that Kenyan Drake needs to be set free. Outside stretch zone with the bend-back lane will be vital to Miami establishing a ground game, but also getting Drake into the flat on swing and screen routes.
The Falcons used this aggressive nature against the Bengals last week with plenty of misdirection, but also variety in the running game (zone, split-zone and even power).
William Jackson isn’t having the year many expected him to, but he will likely stay on the left side of the offensive formation. Dre Kirkpatrick plays the other side with Darqueze Dennard in the slot – these corners are tough, so Miami needs to establish that running game to create the advantage of balance and uncertainty.
Rookie Jesse Bates is having a terrific season on the backend and it’ll be crucial for Ryan Tannehill to displace him with eye manipulation.
Miami is getting Reshad Jones back this week, a massively important addition to the secondary, leadership standpoint and overall tackling on the back-end.
Dolphins (Full participants not listed)
|LB Chase Allen||Foot||Limited|
|RB Brandon Bolden||Hamstring||DNP|
|DE Andre Branch||Foot||DNP||OUT|
|TE A.J. Derby||Foot||DNP||OUT|
|CB Bobby McCain||Knee||DNP||OUT|
|DE Cam Wake||Knee||DNP|
|WR Devante Parker||Quad||Limited|
|RB Giovani Bernard||Knee||DNP|
|TE Tyler Eifert||Ankle||DNP||OUT|
|OC Billy Price||Foot||DNP||OUT|
|LB Preston Brown||Shoulder||Limited|
|DE Michael Johnson||Knee||Limited|
|RB Joe Mixon||Knee||Limited|
|WR John Ross||Groin||Limited|
|OG Alex Redmond||Shoulder||Limited|
Miami’s offensive line was supposed to be a strength of the team. Two season-ending injuries later, it’s a concern – particularly against a team as good in the trenches as Cincinnati. If the interior of the pocket is compromised, Tannehill’s game suffers and Miami’s offense becomes inoperable.
On defense, tackling and handling the multiple looks Bill Lazor is sure to throw at the Dolphins will be paramount.
Under Adam Gase, Miami is an awful road team and a slow-starting squad. Both of those need to be improved if Miami are to stand a chance.
The Falcons offense, with its multiple looks, misdirection and two-man route combinations gave the Bengals’ defense all it could handle. Miami operates on a similar plane (just with less success) but they could copy Steve Sarkisian’s plan and keep pace with the Bengals offense.
Displacing linebackers and flooding the zone with drive concepts could create big run-after-the-catch opportunities. This can’t happen if the back has to stay in and help out with interior pressure, however.
1.) Tunsil and James lock down the edges – Part of the next man up philosophy is having the healthy soldiers elevate their game. They’re going to be on an island as the help will work inside with the new starters – James and Tunsil need to be great.
2.) Winning off the edge on defense – The converse of point one, Miami has to beat the Cincinnati tackles and create pressure on Dalton. If he’s able to scan his array of options, Miami has no chance.
3.) Stay on the damn field – Miami’s offense has been atrocious the last two games at sustaining drives. Giving the Bengals offense 80 plays will lead to a certain lopsided loss.
The Projected Result:
I’m changing my tune and picking a Dolphins win for the following reasons:
– This team plays better when it’s doubted compared to when it’s praised.
– There is typically a progression back up towards the mean after a blowout loss.
– Ryan Tanenhill bounces back, he typically does after stinkers like that one last week.
– Kenyan Drake gets involved in both the pass and running-game.
– Cincinnati, off a thrilling win last week, peeks ahead to Pittsburgh and plays flat.
– Miami gets some takeaways off the turnover-prone quarterback and protects the ball on offense.
I will say, I’m 4-0 picking Dolphins games this year (both straight up and against the spread) and this is my least confident pick. The match-ups lean in favor of Cincinnati, but I expect Gase and company to have this team ready and to hit the Bengals with variety in the play calling.
This game is crucial from a playoff position standpoint. Notching wins against the Titans and Bengals would go a long way towards tie-breaking scenarios.
Miami wins on a buzzer beater field goal with big days from Tannehill, Drake, Wake and Minkah Fitzpatrick.
Fantasy Friday: Week 7
This Sunday the Miami Dolphins will host the Detroit Lions in Miami. Below we will take a look at 3 fantasy players that could potentially have a good day vs the Lions. All projections are based on a PPR scoring system.
- Frank Gore (RB), Projection: 18pts
- Gore has been Miami’s most effective running back between the tackles. He is has shown that his age is not a factor as he looks to be reaching back in time lately and running like his younger self. I expect there to be a heavy dose of Gore with Brock Osweiler back at the helm of Quarterback. Look for Miami to use Gore often in red zone and he should get a touchdown or 2 this Sunday.
- Albert Wilson (WR), Projection: 15pts
- Albert Wilson has been excellent all season. He has been the best WR for Miami this season when it comes to scoring or making plays. His YAC has been ridiculous and look for that to continue vs Detroit’s weak secondary. He should catch plenty of passes and once again very may well find the end zone.
- Jakeem Grant (RB), Projection: 13pts
- Grant, a lot like Wilson in stature and skill set has been involved more and more as the season progresses. With Osweiler at Quarterback again for Miami, look for Adam Gase and Co to try and get Grant in space so he can use his speed to beat Detroit’s defense.
9 Players on the Trade Block for Miami to Consider
In recent weeks, a lot of teams and coaches have been “presumably” shopping players. The list is becoming longer by the day. Let’s take a look of players that are currently being shopped around.
To set the stage, Miami has been reportedly shopping wide receiver and former first round draft pick, Devante Parker. He will be factored into these trades to see if he is possible compensation.
Also, Miami is sitting at $7.5m (million) in cap space on the year, with $24m available for next. It’s probably safe to assume next year’s number will be higher as Miami has been known to cut high-dollar players in the off-season to free up cap.
However, this number still will be relatively low if Miami decides to re-new contracts of players like Cameron Wake, Ja’wuan James, William Hayes, etc. And if Miami was smart, they’d also look into re-signing players on rookie contracts such as Xavien Howard and Laremy Tunsil.
All-in-all, it’s safe to say Miami would need an impact, top-tier player if they would be willing to part with a large cap space chunk.
Le’veon Bell – RB – Pittsburgh Steelers
Let’s start with the biggest name on the trade block — Steeler bell-cow running back, Le’veon Bell. Bell has been holding out since week 1 in hopes to sign a big contract before the tread of playing RB in this league catches up to him.
Bell would be earning close to $14m (million) this year had he signed the franchise tag to begin the year. Last year he earned around $12m. Expect any contract he will sign to be a double digit figure per year.
One would assume Pittsburgh would probably demand a high-end draft pick back for Bell and not a player like Devante Parker in return as they are already pretty set at receiver. With all trade possibilities, Miami has draft capital they could work with.
Miami’s running back situation isn’t A-grade, but it’s far from bad. Considering they also drafted running back Kalen Ballage this last year, it’s safe to say this position is far from a need on this team.
Given Miami would have to give up a first or second round, and take on a double digit salary figure, this trade would be a hard pass.
LeSean McCoy – RB – Buffalo Bills
LeSean McCoy is the other big name running back being shopped around throughout the league. Despite his injury-riddled career, when McCoy plays, he’s one to watch and warrants the price tag that comes with.
LeSean McCoy 75 yard TD run! pic.twitter.com/o9XjZTxsrz
— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) November 27, 2016
McCoy’s cap numbers aren’t quite as bad as what Bell wants — coming in closer $9m a year (contract expiring in 2020). Miami may be able to take on this contract, but like Bell, you’d likely have to part with another team star (e.g. Ja’wuan James, Cam Wake) this offseason to retain McCoy.
The Bills have also been rumored to want a high-pick in compensation; however, given their below average receiving team, it’s possible Devante Parker could be involved in a trade with Buffalo.
All that aside, running back isn’t a need for Miami, let alone a 30 year old, injury-riddled back with looming allegations. Even if you are okay with trading with division rivals, like Bell, McCoy should be a hard pass.
Ameer Abdullah – RB – Detroit Lions
Another running back on the trade block.
Unlike the other two backs on the block, Abdullah is still on his rookie contract. However, that contract expires after this year.
Abdullah would likely hit free agency this offseason if he stays in Detroit, as his talent level probably wouldn’t warrant an extension. This is especially true if rising back, Kerryon Johnson, continues to dominate touches in the Lions backfield.
Abdullah should only be considered if you’re looking for a cheap, stop-gap fill for running back, which is something Miami doesn’t need at this point.
Like all backs in this list, I don’t see this as a trade Miami should pursue.
Amari Cooper – WR – Oakland Raiders
Amari Cooper signed a big contract in 2015 to sign him on until 2019. A good chunk of that contract is due next year — nearly $14m. No wonder Oakland is shopping him.
Despite the numbers, Cooper is still a good receiver in this league. He may not be on the same level as Antonio Brown and Julio Jones, but he can be a legit weapon for teams.
However, Miami is not one of those teams needing receiving weapons. Miami has four legit wide receiver targets, and that does not include Devante Parker. If Miami was unwilling to pay Jarvis Landry a contract that large, why would they want to pay that to Cooper?
Cooper would likely have to take a pay-cut if Miami were to make a deal for him. All-in-all, considering Miami’s current receiving core, Cooper doesn’t bring something drastically different to the table that the other members don’t provide.
Given the lack of need, compensation required, and salary-cap implications, it’d be illogical to make a move for Amari Cooper unless one of those three changes.
Deone Bucannon – LB – Arizona Cardinals
Onto the defensive side of the ball. Deone Bucannon was drafted in 2014 as a strong safety prospect; however, he was quickly transitioned to weak-side linebacker, where he made a large impact on the Cardinals 2015 team that lost in the NFC Championship.
It’s all been downhill from there.
Out of 79 eligible linebackers graded by Pro Football Focus, Bucannon comes in dead last with a grade of 28.8. To put that in perspective, Miami tackle Sam Young, has a 29.2. Do you remember him?
Sam Young – “bet ya I can get you to the QB in less than 2 seconds.” pic.twitter.com/4YKPU03d7M
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) October 9, 2018
Yes — Bucannon is grading worse, according to PFF, than Young this season.
All that aside, is he worth a late-round flyer in hopes he returns to former glory? Maybe.
Patrick Peterson with a fantastic interception off a great defensive play by Deone Bucannon pic.twitter.com/hN0igqbdd4
— Revenge of the Birds (@revengeofbirds) November 19, 2017
Last year, Miami could have used a linebacker with Bucannon’s speed. However, Miami selected a similar player in Jerome Baker in this year’s draft, lessening the need for a speedy linebacker.
Bucannon’s contract is up after this year. It’s likely he hits free agency if he continues to play the way he has.
Unless Miami’s linebacking core takes a turn for the worse in upcoming weeks, it doesn’t make sense at this point to give up draft capital or players for a linebacker on the decline. If Miami wants to kick the tires on him, it’d be a better option to pursue him this offseason.
Haason Reddick – LB – Arizona Cardinals
Our own Kadeem Simmonds wrote a great piece on why Miami should trade for Haason Reddick. Although Miami’s linebacking core is playing better than expected this year, adding depth is never a bad idea.
Reddick was a 2017 first-round draft pick. Coming out of college, Reddick was sold as incredibly athletic with sky-high potential in this league but also marked as raw and as someone who would need time to develop. Knowing he needs time to develop in this league, it’s odd that Arizona is already ready to ship him.
It also didn’t help things that Arizona moved him to the edge, where he was severely undersized. He’s much more suited for an outside linebacker position where he can utilize his athleticism more.
Reddick is still on his rookie contract, so he’d be a great value. Of all players we’ve looked at so far, Reddick makes the most sense.
I expect a mid-to-late round pick would be sufficient for a player like Reddick, or a player like Devante Parker to pair with Cardinal rookie quarterback, Josh Rosen.
He’s cheap in both salary cap implications and trade compensation, has potential, and at the very least, provides depth. Make a move, Miami!
Patrick Peterson – CB – Arizona Cardinals
Huh — three Cardinals on the trade block? Seems like new head coach, Steven Wilks, wants to clean house. It makes sense after watching the beat-down Arizona took at home on Thursday night football.
It’s shocking to see Patrick Peterson on the trade block. He’s been in the pro bowl every year he’s been in this league, been selected to three all-pro first teams, and is only 28!
— Christian 🇵🇷 (@chriscruz2017) October 17, 2018
He’s an elite player in this league at a position some would argue as the most difficult to play in today’s NFL.
He’d be an expensive player to trade for in both salary cap implications and trade compensation. Although it’s not astronomical, he’s due $12m in 2019 and $13m in 2020. It’s also probably safe to assume a trade for Peterson would involve multiple high-end draft picks.
Miami still needs to pay their own star corner, Xavien Howard. Would it make sense to pay another corner to pair with Howard, especially after re-signing cornerback Bobby McCain this past offseason? Maybe not so much if you consider how much draft capital it would cost to attain him.
Although adding Peterson to a secondary consisting of Reshad Jones, TJ McDonald, Xavien Howard, Bobby McCain, and Minkah Fitzpatrick would be a dream secondary and a nightmare for opponents, the cost is just too steep.
It’s best Miami uses that draft capital and cap space elsewhere and continues to build for the future. Peterson is a trade-candidate better suited for a team that is one player away from a super bowl appearance. Miami is not that team.
Gareon Conley – CB – Oakland Raiders
Gareon Conley was selected just after Miami’s first round pick in the 2017 NFL draft. He was projected to go much higher, but due to off-field allegations at the time, he saw a draft day slip.
Raiders take Ohio St. CB Gareon Conley with the No. 24 overall pick. pic.twitter.com/uKVc2t3Ikn
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 28, 2017
Conley is a more intriguing target than Peterson for the simple fact the price is low. He’s on his rookie contract and wouldn’t demand high-end draft picks in a trade.
It’s no secret Miami is not deep at corner, as was on display this past weekend in Chicago. Conley seems like a player that’s worth making an offer for.
However, like Reddick, Conley is a player who hasn’t found success in this league yet.
If he were to come into Miami, he’d need time to grow in this system. He wouldn’t provide much, if any, upgrade over our current depth at corner, but next year — who knows?
Make an offer, Miami!
Karl Joseph – S – Oakland Raiders
Another former first rounder from Oakland on the trade block. Karl Joseph is an interesting trade target.
Like Conley, Joseph also hasn’t found success in this league, and he’s regressed this year having only played less than 3% of snaps in the three games he’s played before going down with an injury.
He had a promising start to his career, so it’s tough to decipher why Oakland would give him limited opportunities to start the year.
Coming out of college and in his limited NFL Career, Joseph has shown promise.
Karl Joseph, coming down from the 2-high alignment with a head of steam is a thing of beauty. pic.twitter.com/raVv3f91IM
— Ted Nguyen (@FB_FilmAnalysis) August 13, 2017
It’s tough to imagine Joseph will be a costly addition, possible a late round pick. It’s also clear Oakland is unhappy with Cooper given the trade rumors and his lack of production in some games this year. It’s possible a player like Devante Parker could be used as trade compensation for either Conley or Joseph.
Joseph seems like a player who could fit in this defense if he heals up and continues to build on his 2016 and 2017 season.
Miami’s own safety, TJ McDonald, is signed on until 2021, but Miami could move on from him after next year with minimal dead money. If Miami could get Joseph back on track, he may be a suitable, cheaper, and younger replacement to McDonald. At the least, he’d provide depth to a safety core that has seen Reshad Jones miss two games thus far this year.
Like Reddick and Conley, Joseph joins the list of players Miami should strongly consider making an offer for.
I’d be interested to here what you think. Follow me on Twitter @skylertrunck and let’s discuss.
So You Want A Franchise QB?
So you’ve come to the conclusion that this is the time to invest in a franchise quarterback.
Maybe you realized this 5 years ago, after having given up on Ryan Tannehill a few mediocre years into Joe Philbin‘s tenure.
Maybe you rode the Tannehill train for the past 7 years, only to come to the conclusion that you can’t go around the uncertain merry-go-round again.
Maybe you’re one of those critics that believe a football team should draft a quarterback every year until they get it right.
You may have started down a different path, but you joined together with plenty of other Dolphins fans and have become unified in the notion that the Miami Dolphins need a new quarterback.
So what does this mean for your beloved Miami Dolphins? A lot, actually. Everyone likes to fantasize over the latest draft possibilities at quarterback each season; it’s how we trick ourselves into thinking Jake Locker and Blaine Gabbert are better than J.J. Watt.
In fact, look at the next four players drafted after Ryan Tannehill (who was 8th-overall in the 2012 NFL Draft):
Pick 9: Luke Kuechly (CAR)
10: Stephon Gilmore (BUF)
11: Dontari Poe (KC)
12: Fletcher Cox (PHI)
All of those players have gone to the Pro Bowl and are viewed as top players at their respective positions.
This isn’t to say that Tannehill was the wrong choice. Miami needed a quarterback and it’s fair to conclude that they weren’t going to select Russell Wilson in the 3rd-round. But this is just one example among many of how a quarterback is taken prior to better football players.
Let me get this out of the way up front. I like Ryan Tannehill as a quarterback and believe he received an untimely mix of poor coaching and poor offensive line play. Matt Ryan wouldn’t have succeeded in this environment and neither would Wilson. I don’t think it’s fair to take a different quarterback (that isn’t a Hall of Fame quarterback), insert them into Miami, and conclude that the team would have performed better. Look at what Jeff Fisher did to Jared Goff in one season with the St. Louis Rams. You don’t think Philbin had a big part in Tannehill’s (lack of) development early on? Insert the best coach/offensive coordinator Tannehill has had in his career and he has his best season cut short by an injury. It’s no coincidence Adam Gase was able to turn Tannehill into a legitimate franchise quarterback.
It’s just unfortunate that we might never really know how successful Tannehill would have been in Miami if he had a better situation around him. You want a hot take? I think Ryan Tannehill will win a playoff game for another team, and it’s going to be a smack in the face.
This is the play that Adam Gase believes is causing the issues with Ryan Tannehill’s right shoulder. Watch Tannehill’s right arm as Carlos Dunlap hits it for the sack-fumble-TD. pic.twitter.com/E7IKgeffeQ
— Cameron Wolfe (@CameronWolfe) October 15, 2018
But it’s also fair to to want a quarterback that is going to bring you certainty and not anxiety.
And that’s where we have to be careful with what you wish for.
Ryan Tannehill isn’t the reason this team wasn’t successful. This was a collective failure by the Miami Dolphins – a continuation of the mediocre ways they’ve developed this 21st century. Getting rid of Ryan Tannehill doesn’t solve your problem. In fact, it magnifies it greatly.
Unless your solution is to obtain Teddy Bridgewater (a player who had a worse knee injury and has seen less game-action than Tannehill has), or obtain a freshly-cut Eli Manning at season’s end (which, lets be honest, is extremely likely from the New York Giants‘ perspective), then you’re best avenue is to draft a quarterback. And for everyone’s sake, lets stop going with the retreads and start building a team.
Risk of Paying for a Prospect
This is the biggest push back fans make for trading up. It’s too risky.
Those with common sense realized that the Miami Dolphins were not going to finish in the top-10 of the 2019 NFL draft. They are too talented of a team (even without Tannehill) to go 5-11. And, given their current status, they’re not about lose 8 of the next 10 games, so it’s safe to say that the Dolphins are going to have to give up a lot of draft capital to obtain the guy they want.
I’m not content with “waiting” for a quarterback to fall. Miami hasn’t gotten lucky since Dan Marino wore #13, so I’m not hedging my bets that Aaron Rodgers falls to them in the late-teens/early-20s in the draft. Nor do I believe they’ll be able to identify a 1st-round talent like Russell Wilson in the 3rd-round.
This is the riskiest part of your decision. Are you willing to risk the next 4-5 years on a quarterback that might force you to do this same exercise all over again?
Keeping it easy, lets say Miami will have to give up (at least) 3 1st-round draft picks and 2 2nd-round draft picks to move to the top-3 spots of the draft. If you get this quarterback selection wrong, you’ve now eliminated 5 potentially productive players from your roster. As Dolphins fans, we know these draft picks don’t always pan out as such, but taking away 5 starting players on rookie contracts is a lot to overcompensate for.
With that said, does anyone remember what the Philadelphia Eagles gave up to get Carson Wentz? Anyone remember what the New York Giants gave up for Eli Manning? If you get the pick right, all future assets are instantly forgotten.
Shot 1 – The #Eagles were 9-of-16 on third down, and at one point Carson Wentz was 10-of-10 passing in those situations. Part of why was that he was completely in-sync with his WRs. Two big-time conversions here for big plays #FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/6jibRwOW2K
— Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) October 12, 2018
Draft picks replenish annually. Miami can give up their 2019 and 2020 1st-round draft picks and by the time the Dolphins have figured out if their fresh new quarterback is the answer or not, they’ll have their 2021 and 2022 1st-round draft picks waiting for them, ready to be used in another blockbuster trade.
The fear is that getting this selection wrong means you’ve now set your franchise back for the unforeseeable future. Miami has avoided this risk and look what they’ve accomplished over the last 15 years. How much worse can a regrettable draft trade be than the current trend this team is on?
Benefit of a Young Quarterback
This is where you analyze how important a quarterback on a rookie contract is.
Carson Wentz brought the Philadelphia Eagles to a Super Bowl on a rookie deal.
Joe Flacco won a Super Bowl on a rookie deal.
Aaron Rodgers won a Super Bowl on a rookie deal.
Russell Wilson won a Super Bowl and went to another Super Bowl on a rookie deal.
Ben Roethlisburger won a Super Bowl on a rookie deal.
Eli Manning won his first Super Bowl on a rookie deal.
How else do all of those teams end up with such dominant defenses? Mark Sanchez went to back-to-back AFC Championship games because he cost nothing compared to the offensive and defensive talent they were able to build around him. That was a product of Mike Tannenbaum, and he followed the blueprint each other team above followed. Young quarterback mixed with a dominant (and expensive) team.
Happy 4 Year Anniversary, #ButtFumble!
It's been 1462 days since the unforgettable play. pic.twitter.com/oar50vINRt
— NFL GameDay (@NFLGameDay) November 23, 2016
Of all the teams that have gone to the Super Bowl in the last 6 years, only three quarterbacks weren’t on rookie contracts: Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Matt Ryan. One of those quarterbacks accepts abundantly less than what he deserves to make (allowing his team to reap the benefits of the additional salary cap space) and the other happens to be a legitimate exception to the rule (Ryan). Manning only made $17.5m the years he took the Denver Broncos to the Superbowl – which is still pretty low for a quarterback that’s discussed in the “greatest of all time” conversation.
The NFL runs on its quarterbacks, but Super Bowl success is reliant upon a dominant team, not a specific individual. The Eagles won last year’s Super Bowl because their team (and Fletcher Cox) was dominant, not because Nick Foles was their quarterback.
Having a quarterback on a rookie contract allows you to obtain the other assets necessary to build a championship-caliber team. The Dolphins aren’t going to be able to lock up Xavien Howard, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Davon Godchaux, Vincent Taylor, Jakeem Grant and Jerome Baker if they’re too busy spending $20m on a quarterback.
What This Means for Your Roster
If you’re planning on drafting a quarterback next year, then say goodbye to most of your favorite players. Even if they do get the pick right, and they have a franchise quarterback, it’s going to take some time before everything gets turned around (not like anyone would complain with the ‘franchise QB for veteran talent’ trade off). The quickest turnarounds the NFL has seen come in Year 2. The Los Angeles Rams with Jared Goff and the Eagles with Carson Wentz are the latest examples of this. Big Ben won a Super Bowl in Year 2. Russell Wilson won his in Year 2. Even our own Dan Marino made it to a Super Bowl in Year 2.
But you need a Super Bowl-caliber team around them to accomplish that, and it’s hard to say Miami has that right now. They’re a young team, but they aren’t dominant (yet).
Cameron Wake? Won’t be part of the turnaround
Reshad Jones? Won’t be around
A message from Cameron Wake.https://t.co/LxPaNYnaLL
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) May 8, 2016
In fact, it’s probably easier to list who will be around if Miami selects a quarterback in the 2019 NFL draft – figuring the team will see the full turnaround in 2020-2021:
Laremy Tunsil: Most likely, but you’re paying him to be a top-3 LT in this league
Kalen Ballage: By default, rookie deal
Jakeem Grant: If the team extends him and he develops hands softer than stone
Albert Wilson: If he’s still the multiple-trick pony he currently is
Kenny Stills: A speed receiver that’ll be close to 30; unlikely to be around
Charles Harris: If the Dolphins exercise his 5th-year option; currently unlikely
Davon Godchaux and/or Vincent Taylor: Do you have the money to extend both or are you just picking one?
Xavien Howard: Did you pay him?
Minkah Fitzpatrick: By default, rookie deal
Raekwon McMillan: Did Miami extend him?
Jerome Baker: By default, rookie deal
Mike Gesicki: By default, rookie deal
Bobby McCain: it’s likely he’s still around and on his current contract
John Denney: he’s immortal
Assuming all of the above players are kept (they won’t be), and taking John Denney’s immortality out, that’s 13 players out of a possible 52-man roster that remain from the currently constructed Dolphins squad; and 4 of them will still be on your team because they’re on their rookie deals.
Again, if you guaranteed me that Miami would find a franchise quarterback for the next 10 years at the expense of the current roster, I’d probably sign up for it every time.
If you thought the 2018 draft speculation was intense for Miami, just wait and see what the 2019 draft will bring. This topic is going to float around a lot, and we’re not going to get a clear-cut answer until the Dolphins make their selection next April. Until that selection is made, keep in mind all of the various aspects that go into this decision. It’s easy to say “give me a quarterback”, but the repercussions are vast and last for years.
This decision won’t come down to “if” Miami will take the risk; they’re going to. We just have to hope that they made the right selection. Otherwise, expect to see this post pop up again in 2021 – except with a bunch of different names (and John Denney).