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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins 2020 Cap Situation

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Money must grow on palm trees, because the Miami Dolphins are set to own the league in 2020.

According to Brian Flores and Chris Grier, “tanking” isn’t occurring, but if you believe the Miami Dolphins are exclusively planning for 2019, you’re falling for the trap the front office wants you to believe.

How gullible do they expect us to be?

If the 2020 quarterback class (mixed with the sub-par 2019 QB class) wasn’t enough enticing evidence that the Dolphins were planning to obtain their franchise quarterback at the turn of the decade, the trades of Ryan Tannehill and Robert Quinn for 2020 draft picks, as well as allowing Ja’Wuan James to sign with the Denver Broncos for a 2020 compensatory pick, further teases us with Miami’s plan.

A roster that needed to be expunged of expensive contracts, paired with an ever-increasing 2020 draft capital, tied together with a group of quarterbacks that rivals the 2004 draft class (that yielded Eli Manning, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger), and you have all the makings for a team that has formulated a plan directed at 2020.

Now, for the final piece of the puzzle. I present to you, Dawn Aponte‘s dream come true, a football team with minimal contractual obligations and a boat load of money to play with (or was that Mike Tannenbaum‘s dream…?):

Current Roster Situation:

Since 2014, the salary cap in the NFL has grown between $10m-$12m per year. With the salary cap currently sitting at $188.2m for 2019, let’s go ahead and assume that the cap increases another $12m and gives us a pretty $200m to work with for 2020.

At this very moment, the Miami Dolphins have ~$100m tied to the 2020 salary cap – giving us another $100m in cap space.

Their 5-biggest cap hits in 2020? Might not be on the 2019 roster let alone the 2020 squad:

If the Miami Dolphins are able to get anything for Reshad Jones before the beginning of the 2020 season, Chris Grier can consider himself Gandalf’s most formidable opponent, because that would be some kind of magic.

But frankly, even with Jones’ contract on the books for 2020, let’s look at how much more money Miami can remove from their cap:

  • Albert Wilson may be Miami’s 2018 offensive MVP (behind Frank Gore), but his season-ending hip injury raises enough cause for concern. While I expect Wilson to return to Miami in 2019 and perform, I’m not sure how much the Dolphins are willing to wager on a player we don’t currently know the status of.
    • $10m in salary cap space for any receiver is a lot. The dead cap space tied to Wilson’s 2020 salary ($1.33m) is extremely manageable, and much more appealing than the $10m roster option.
    • Depending on how Chad O’Shea views Wilson, he might choose to restructure his contract and remain with the team at a reduced rate. If he’s released prior to 2020, it’s a $9.5m cap savings for Miami.
    • Looking at the differential between Wilson’s cap hit and dead cap hit, it appears as if the original contract was essentially looked at as a two-year deal. I don’t think Miami ever expected to pay Wilson $10m in 2020.
  • Kenny Stills has been a professional workhorse and an off-the-field role model for children everywhere, but how valuable is a 28-year-old receiver entering his 8th NFL season?
    • In a vacuum, as a player, Kenny Stills is worth that $8.75 salary cap hit. But for a team looking to get younger and rebuild, are they going to retain Stills at an increased rate for his leadership qualities, or are they going to utilize the 2019 and 2020 draft to replenish their receiving corps?
    • With a $1.75m dead cap hit versus a $8.75m salary cap hit, Miami can save $7m in cap space by releasing Stills prior to 2020.
  • Kiko Alonso is simultaneously a fan favorite and a source of fan frustration. Set to cost $8.2m against the salary cap in 2020, the decision on Kiko may have already been made, and it’s just a matter of getting through the 2019 season before he’s off the roster.
    • Lets get a few things straight, Kiko’s durability and reliability are two things we thoroughly like about the linebacker, but with that reliability comes inconsistency, coverage liability, and average run defense.
    • With Raekwon McMillan and Jerome Baker set to cost $1.5m and $1.05m against the salary cap respectively in 2020, the Dolphins are able to afford Alonso, but would also be able to utilize the ~$6.4m salary cap savings to spend on any potential free agent they desire.
    • If Kiko is willing to renegotiate his contract and accept a salary cap hit that is under $6m, I think it’s more likely he stays. Anything above that $6m mark is best utilized elsewhere, even if it creates a hole at the position (a hole I expect them to fill in the 2019 or 2020 draft).
  • T.J. McDonald‘s dead cap hit in 2019 ($6.5m) is higher than his regular cap hit next season ($6m), but that shouldn’t keep the Dolphins from dealing the team’s other strong safety if they receive an offer. With McDonald, it almost doesn’t matter if the draft pick is in 2019 or 2020, the Dolphins are looking to purge his contract rather than pay a player to be a roadblock for Minkah Fitzpatrick at safety (since Reshad Jones isn’t going anywhere anytime soon).
    • The hope with McDonald, similar to Alonso, is that Flores’ defensive influence and an entirely new coaching staff will maximize their strengths rather than try and evolve their pitfalls. Cameron Wake should never drop back into coverage, but it was something he was asked to do on numerous occasions under Matt Burke‘s defense. Likewise, having Alonso cover a running back on a passing route is asking for an automatic first down.

After these top-5, your next-most expensive Miami Dolphins in 2020?:

Bobby McCain is one roster move away from becoming one of the top-5 most expensive players on the team. Poor contract or great cap management? Guess that can be viewed both ways – especially with his inconsistent performance last season after he was awarded with the new contract.

The only other player on this list that looks daunting is Minkah Fitzpatrick, and that’s only because cutting him would accelerate all of his bonuses and cause a heavy dead cap hit in 2020. I think it’s fairly obvious that Miami will not only retain Fitzpatrick at that rate, but he will be viewed as a bargain for that price.

The rest? Are almost a take-it-or-leave it skeleton crew of players that would only cost $1.5m in dead cap space between the 3 of them.

Miami’s cap space throughout Mike Tannenbaum’s tenure was always minimal, but it just shows that no matter how much hell one person voluntarily tries to create, it only takes a single season to undo all of the mistakes.

Granted, who here is enjoying a lost season while we have friends and family cheering for other successful franchises, but when you look at 2018 as a year in which the Dolphins tried to make a playoff push and “bought” towards it, it’s amazing how one offseason later they can be free from all of those restraints.

For an interesting reference, below is Miami’s salary cap space by year (since Mike Tannenbaum officially took over in 2015):

  • 2015: $8.05m
  • 2016: $14.21m
  • 2017: $38,597 (that’s $39k…)
  • 2018: $6.92m

Buying a Supporting Cast:

If you were envious of the New York Jets‘ spending spree this past offseason (where they landed Le’Veon Bell, C.J. Mosley, and Jameison Crowder), then be ready for a similar offseason from your Miami Dolphins in 2020.

Barring any crazy signings over the next few months, the Miami Dolphins will go into 2020 with $100m in available cap space, and that’s before they carry over any additional money from 2019.

As of this moment, the Miami Dolphins are set to carry-over $28m from 2019. Granted, Miami is going to have to sign injury-replacements, draft picks, various veterans that other teams cut as well as field an overall 90-man roster for training camp (they currently have 58 players on their roster…).

Expect that number to dwindle down to somewhere near $12-15m when the 2019 season is said and done, but that’s still a decent chunk of change to add to 2020. Essentially, that’s Le’Veon Bell savings right there.

Now the question is, would you be content with the Miami Dolphins utilizing their cap space to extend current players like Laremy Tunsil, Xavien Howard and Kenyan Drake? Or do you want to dip your toe in the free agency pool?

This is what happens when teams convince themselves a player they know nothing about is going to be better than a proven player they already have on their team (see: Miami Dolphins).

We all know how much we’re going to have to pay Tunsil and Howard – and if Drake breaks out in his contract year, you can expect him to sign a contract similar to Lamar Miller‘s 4-year, $26m ($14m guaranteed) contract back in 2016.

Outside of their own free agents (restricted, unrestricted or otherwise), the Dolphins would have the ability to sign potential 2020 free agents such as:

Offense:

  • Russell Wilson
  • Michael Thomas
  • Amari Cooper
  • Melvin Gordon
  • A.J. Green
  • Hunter Henry
  • Kyle Rudolph
  • Eric Ebron
  • Allen Hurns
  • Nathan Peterman
  • Josh Gordon

Defense:

  • Jadeveon Clowney
  • Leonard Williams
  • Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
  • Kevin Johnson
  • Ronald Darby
  • Bradley Roby
  • Marcus Peters
  • Grady Jarrett
  • Michael Brockers
  • Kyle Van Noy
  • DeMarcus Lawrence
  • Frank Clark
  • Dante Fowler Jr.
  • Bobby Wagner
  • Trae Waynes
  • Vic Beasley
  • Brent Grimes

Who needs to draft defensive linemen in 2019 when you can buy an entire defensive line in 2020 – and still have money to spare!

What Miami needs to ensure is that they don’t sign the wrong players.

Mike Wallace was the wrong player. Ndamukong Suh was a very good player, but signed to the wrong contract. Branden Albert was a good player, but what exactly did we get from that signing?

Similar to what the Jets are doing now, the Dolphins are set to build a roster around a young quarterback. The team already has a formidable group of core, young players that they can plug into various spots on the roster (McMillan, Baker, Fitzpatrick, Tunsil, Kalen Ballage, Jesse Davis, Davon Godchaux, Vincent Taylor).

What the team needs to do is utilize the 2019 and 2020 drafts to supplement the roster with more young, cheap talent and then use free agency for its intended purpose which is to patch any holes your roster might have – not to be the solution for your overall roster problem. Until 2020 hits, we’ll be impatiently waiting to see who the Dolphins future franchise quarterback is, but once they have their selection, you can bet he’ll have a proper supporting cast around them.

It will be really hard for the Miami Dolphins to get this wrong – especially after doing everything right this current offseason to set themselves up. Then again, another failed rebuild would be the most Miami Dolphins’ thing they could do.

(contract statistics courtesy of Spotrac)

Growing up a passionate Dolphins fan in Jets territory, Jason learned from an early age that life as a Dolphins fan wasn’t going to be easy. Previously the Sports Editor for his university newspaper, Jason has experience writing columns, creating game recaps and conducting interviews with Hall of Fame athletes (Harry Carson and Yogi Berra are two of his proudest interviews). When he’s not dissecting the latest sports news, you can find him perplexed over the Dolphins offensive line woes or involuntarily introducing music to his neighbors.

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins Week 9 Monday Morning Thoughts

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Tua Tagovailoa has IT.

Brian Flores is THE guy.

And I have to admit, Chris Grier has done a phenomenal job.

After an exciting 34-31 victory over the Arizona Cardinals (5-3), the Miami Dolphins (5-3) solidified themselves as a legitimate playoff team in the AFC. Sure, you can say we’re getting a bit cocky – we’ve watched our team falter plenty of times before. But do you get the sense that these are the same Dolphins we’ve been watching this century?

Right now, are you skeptical or optimistic?

Do you have butterflies because you’re nervous or because you’re excited?

Do you think the Dolphins are trying to survive each game or do you have confidence that they’ll win?

Coming off of 4-straight victories, it’s easy to feel like we’re on top of the world, but this team looks different. It feels different. They act different.

Below are a few thoughts following Miami’s promising 34-31 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

Monday Morning Thoughts

Tua Tagovailoa is the franchise quarterback we’ve been waiting for

Admit it, when they originally ruled that throwaway an interception, you saw shades of every failed quarterback to come since Dan Marino.

That play was so comically bad that it easily could have defined Tua’s career if it didn’t pan out. Thankfully, it was ruled that the receiver’s foot was out-of-bounds and it was an incomplete pass – but imagine the memes that would have been unleashed if Miami lost this game and that play counted.

But, it didn’t count….and the Dolphins didn’t lose….and Tua Tagovailoa out-dueled Kyler Murray when it mattered most.

When the Dolphins needed a game-winning drive, Tua delivered. When Kyler Murray had an opportunity to tie it, he didn’t (along with an obscure Zane Gonzalez kick).

Tua’s elite pocket presence, accuracy, decision-making, and ball placement were all on display. And none of that accounts for the plays he made with his legs.

If you’re a Dolphins fan, you’re thrilled with what you saw. And though it’s only a small sample size, I think we can all exhale – he looks like he’s the guy.

Byron Jones is still a damn good Cornerback

After three-straight dominant performances, Byron Jones was a bit humbled this game. We’re so used to watching him shut down opposing receivers that a game like this really sticks out.

He was absolutely burned by Christian Kirk on a beautiful deep ball from Kyler Murray late in the first quarter, but that wasn’t his worse play.

Dolphins fans and Byron Jones both thought he hauled in his first interception since October, 2017. Instead, Darrell Daniels’ first career touchdown reception is one of the highlights of the year as he snatches the ball right out of Jones’ hands.

I mean, Byron Jones had that ball in his hands for an interception, and before they hit the ground Darrell Daniels steals it into his possession. AND somehow had his knee down so it would count as a catch. Crazy.

Miami’s (really, it’s Brian Flores’) now infamous “zero” boom-or-bust scheme is susceptible to the long-ball, as our corners are expected to cover their receivers 1-on-1; with no safety help behind them. So far this season, it has worked tremendously to their advantage (as seen below)

But, if your coverage isn’t on par, this will happen:

With all of that said, Byron Jones is still a great cornerback in this league. Was this a bad game? Definitely. But I don’t expect this to become a trend. Lets not take for granted the elite secondary we currently have.

Christian Wilkins should NOT stop celebrating

Just please celebrate responsibly.

One of the reasons Dolphins fans adore Christian Wilkins is because of his infectious personality. He’s notoriously running in and celebrating every offensive touchdown with his team. His trash talking is innocently intimidating. The way he pumps his team up is perfect for any locker room culture. On top of the fact that he’s a pretty good defensive tackle.

Which is why I want him to keep celebrating – and I want him to continue celebrating excessively.

Preston Williams‘ unfortunate injury during a touchdown celebration is a huge reason why professional coaches like to contain their million-dollar players. Not just on the field, but off the field as well. It makes sense, they’re valuable commodities, but Wilkins’ spirit is too valuable to douse.

If something like this happens again, then we can talk about stifling his excitement, until then….celebrate smarter.

Xavien Howard’s “penalties” tell half the story

Xavien Howard was tasked with shadowing DeAndre Hopkins, and he ended up accounting for more penalty yards (43) than receiving yards against him (30).

The real testament to Howard’s coverage throughout the game? DeAndre Hopkins, one of the best wide receivers in the league, didn’t see a single target in the first half of the game.

A couple (terrible) penalties shouldn’t overshadow the fact that Xavien Howard and Byron Jones may be the best cornerback tandem in the league.

The Miami Dolphins need a Running Back in the worst way

Jordan Howard‘s 8-yard run on the last drive of the game – which helped seal the victory – was his biggest play as a Miami Dolphin. Up to that point, I was kind of rooting for Howard to continue his 1 YPC average. If you take away that 8-yard run (EASILY his longest of the year), Howard has gained 25 rushing yards on 27 rushing attempts (0.93 YPC).

Rookie Salvon Ahmed had a solid game, with 7 carries for 38 yards (5.4 YPC). I’m not sure how reliable he is, but he can’t be worse than Howard. If Matt Breida is available for next week’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers, I’m sure Howard will once again be inactive, giving Ahmed another shot to prove himself.

We probably should have given Austin Jackson the week off

Austin Jackson returned to the lineup for the first time in 4 weeks (due to a foot injury) and was “ok”. He was beat on a few plays, but it’s evident he wasn’t 100%. I wouldn’t make any presumptions based off of this game; if anything, the reps help from an experience/mental perspective.

Jason Sanders is a stud

Jason Sanders connecting on 56 and 50-yard field goals are that much more impressive when you take into account that weird Zane Gonzalez miss (where he was short from 49 yards).

The conspiracy floating around is that the ball died (on Gonzalez’s kick) because the roof was open. Yet, Sanders made his 50+ yard field goals with room to spare.

Today’s the day we will never take Jason Sanders for granted as he surpassed Olindo Mare‘s franchise record of 19-straight field goals made.

The Miami Dolphins are going to “have to” extend Emmanuel Ogbah

I think we all would love to see a contract extension, but it’s bordering on a “necessity” at this point. Not just because we want to lock up a top-notch defensive end, but because he’s going to (rightfully) demand more financial security.

Though it always felt like he was on a one-year deal, this is technically the first year of a 2-year, $15m contract for Emmanuel Ogbah, but there’s no guaranteed money tied to 2021 – and there’s no way he’s playing like a $7.5m defensive end.

Jordan Phillips averages $10m a year with his recent contract, and I think it’s fair to say that Ogbah is worth more than that. Expect a holdout if the Dolphins don’t give him a raise and an extension this offseason. That’s not to say we should be concerned – I think Miami will look to make this extension a priority – but if they don’t see eye-to-eye expect a holdout to occur.

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Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins – A Tale of Two Franchises

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Football is a team sport.

Wins don’t individually define a quarterback’s success.

Yet everyone agrees that the only way to win in the NFL is to have a quarterback that is better than (just about) every other franchise in the sport.

Once you have an upper-echelon quarterback, then you can talk about the nuances of creating a team. Whether it’s surrounding that quarterback with the proper talent, ensuring you’ve built the right scheme around them, or complimenting them with a staunch defense to complete a championship run, developing an entire roster means nothing if you don’t have a quarterback that can lead you to the playoffs.

38 years ago, the Miami Dolphins selected a quarterback that would revolutionize the NFL.

A man decades before his time, the immediate success Dan Marino brought us – after 13 championship-caliber years with Bob Griese – shielded us from the horrors of football purgatory. Maybe it’s this curse of #13 that has us clamoring for football relevance after almost 50 years without a Super Bowl Championship.

We watched our franchise devolve from the model of perfection to a team without an identity; floundering desperately to find a viable quarterback for two decades.

And with one swift decision, the Dolphins simultaneously expunged their football idiocy of years past and exhibited the type of football prowess that should lead them to salvation.

Image Credit: South Florida Sun Sentinel

As we’re destroying the team for wasting 2nd & 5th-round picks on Josh Rosen, we’re praising them for building the foundation for future success. Gone are these false prophets of yesteryear, as the real prodigy we’ve all been yearning for is one step closer to leading the helm.

Once Tua Tagovailoa was selected 5th-overall in the 2020 NFL draft, Rosen’s exile was cemented. He was never going to have an opportunity to make it here, it was always going to be Tua Tagovailoa backing up Ryan Fitzpatrick. The grizzly, 13-year veteran handles the nuances of a young football team while the young, energetic and extremely talented rookie spends valuable time learning and developing.

That move…that single transaction…will forever symbolize the moment the Miami Dolphins transitioned from football purgatory to football relevance.

The Purgatory We Built

No one remembers the cost of a successful trade.

Off the top of your head, what did the New York Giants trade to swap Philip Rivers for Eli Manning? How much did Carson Wentz cost the Philadelphia Eagles when they traded up for him? I bet you all remember the litany of picks the Washington Football Team paid for Robert Griffin III, or how badly the Chicago Bears missed on Mitch Trubisky when they gave up a bunch of picks to move up from #3 to #2.

It’s because mistakes are always magnified for franchises that fail. As a fan base, we’ve been groomed to remember all the negative aspects of our favorite football team, because that’s all we’ve known for the better half of our adult lives.

After trudging through this wasteland for so long, we are finally ready to move past all of the detrimental mistakes that have cost us 20+ years of our lives – including the Josh Rosen trade.

Sure, you have your classics like failing to draft (and then sign) Drew Brees, drafting Ronnie Brown over Aaron Rodgers with the 2nd-overall pick, drafting Jake Long over Matt Ryan with the 1st-overall pick, and trading a 2nd-round pick for A.J. Feeley.

It’s not that the Dolphins haven’t tried, it’s just that they have failed almost mightily when doing so.

I respect that Miami was aggressive in their pursuit of Josh Rosen – or for any of the other quarterbacks they’ve attempted to put under center – but their aggression was either misguided, ill-informed, or even desperate at best.

A year prior to Rosen’s draft-day trade, another draft-day trade was occurring – one that would transcend the Baltimore Ravens organization for the prolonged future. With the 32nd pick in the draft, the Ravens selected Lamar Jackson – a quarterback some Dolphins fans wanted with the team’s 11th-overall pick.

To move back into the first round and secure a quarterback with the 5th-year option, all Baltimore had to give up was an additional 2nd-round pick (see the full trade at the end of the article).

With their draft-day trade, the Baltimore Ravens landed an MVP.
With their draft-day trade, the Miami Dolphins landed a quarterback that was released for nothing.

Again, I don’t fault the Dolphins for being aggressive, but their pursuit was often awry.

The frustrating part of all of this may be that this team actually “spent” both in assets and money, they just didn’t seem to take that extra step at the right time.

Spending 2nd-round picks was fine 3 years in a row (with Chad Henne, John Beck and Pat White), but spending 2nd-round picks then became “too much” when they could have moved up in the 2017 draft to select Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson – instead, they stayed put at #22 and drafted Charles Harris.

Think about it, Miami’s best quarterbacks since Dan Marino were:

  • Castaway by the New York Jets (and subsequently got his shoulder destroyed like everyone predicted)
  • (Allegedly) Forced upon us by Stephen Ross because he knew what a new quarterback would inject into a flat-lining brand (ie: making $$)

Between Chad Pennington and Ryan Tannehill there is 1 playoff appearance and 0 playoff wins.

There are definitive reasons why the Dolphins are executing a rebuild in 2019-2020 – after attempting to rebuild numerous times already this century – and you can say that lots of it has to do with the Head Coaches that have been in place.

Watching Ryan Tannehill lead the Tennessee Titans to the AFC Championship came was the most-conflicted I’ve felt in a long time as a Dolphins fan. I was thrilled he was able to prove himself, but frustrated that my team was once again watching from the couch.

Heck, for all the praise we give Brian Flores, he couldn’t get Minkah Fitzpatrick to buy into his system – ultimately losing a near-Defensive MVP player to an organization that has been breathing success since the Dolphins’ perfect 1972 season.

Miami hasn’t lacked talent – it’s why they’re constantly hovering around 8-8. The problem is, they lack the most important piece on the football field combined with the right leader to mold them. Which explains why they constantly sit around 8-8.

The Future We Created

But thoughts of perpetual 8-8 seasons are a thing of the past. The Dolphins may have drafted their future franchise quarterback back in April, but they officially rolled out their #1 prize just a few days ago. Coincidentally, just 3 days after Rosen was released.

The timing is likely coincidental, but who says omens have to be a bad thing?

This Dolphins team is young (thanks to Chris Grier), determined (courtesy of Brian Flores’ mindset), talented (after accumulating so many draft picks) and they’re wise beyond their years.

With a bounty of draft picks at their disposal once again in 2021, and with a franchise quarterback seemingly set to take over by season’s end, the future for the Miami Dolphins looks EXTREMELY bright.

After most “experts” predicted the Dolphins would go nearly winless – some even calling for criminal investigations to be conducted – Flores showed off his leadership and led Miami to a 5-11 record.

If the worst roster in the NFL can win 5 games, what can an improved roster accomplish?

Last year, there were too many holes on the roster to count. Now, you’re desperate to find a missing piece. In 12 months, we’ve gone from cringe-worthy to dynasty-bound in some expert’s eyes.

So have the Dolphins finally returned to football relevance?

If this team really identified the right Head Coach, and if Tua’s hip can stay healthy, then there’s no reason why the Miami Dolphins aren’t about to embark on a successful crusade that takes the rest of the NFL by storm.

Earlier this year, we lost one of the greatest leaders to ever bless our organization. In honor of the all-time wins leader, the Miami Dolphins will wear a patch signifying Don Shula’s record-setting 347 career wins.

And who knows, maybe this renaissance is Shula’s last gift to an organization – and a community – that he spent his life already giving so much to. The symbolism would be all-too coincidental otherwise.

The Baltimore Ravens/Lamar Jackson Trade:

Yes, I understand every other team passed on Jackson. I also understand the Ravens passed on him once when they selected Hayden Hurst with the 25th-overall pick that year, but Baltimore has built a championship-caliber organization over the past two decades, while the Dolphins have accomplished one playoff win – I think they’ve earned the benefit of the doubt here.

The Lamar Jackson trade can be broken down like this:

  • Baltimore traded pick 52 (2nd-round) to move up to 32nd-overall (1st)
  • Baltimore also sent Philadelphia pick 125 in the deal, but they received pick 132 in return – a downgrade of 7 spots in the 4th-round.
  • Otherwise, all Baltimore spent was a 2nd-round pick in 2019 (which ended up being pick #53).

Full trade:

Eagles Receive Picks: 52 (2nd), 125 (4th) and pick 53 (2nd) in the 2019 draft
Ravens Receive Picks: 32 (1st) and 132 (4th)

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Miami Dolphins

There’s A Fine Line Between Being A Genius & Being Dumb in the NFL

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Think Brian Flores & Chris Grier aren’t smart?

After successfully navigating through all of the pre-draft smokescreens better than teenagers can survive the high school rumor mill, the Miami Dolphins are in a position to flourish for the next decade.

Yes, it’s something we’ve said before almost annually, but this time, there’s a clear foundation that will allow the roots of this franchise to prosper.

We’ve Heard This Before

Tony Sparano blossomed under the Bill Parcells‘ coaching tree in Dallas, bringing with him an aura of prominence and a pedigree for smash mouth football.

After a miraculous 10-game turnaround that took Miami from #1 overall in the draft to division winners, fans felt they had the proper leadership in place.

That was soon debunked when the Dolphins followed an 11-5 (2008) season with 7-9 (2009), 7-9 (2010) and 6-10 (2011). It’s not that any of us feel that Sparano was a bad coach, but it was more-than-evident that he was handicapped at the quarterback position.

The Dolphins go 11-5 in 2008 because their quarterback was the runner-up in the MVP race, and they falter to 7-9 after that because they decided to build around Chad Henne.

Good coach, but poor coaching decisions.

From there, the Dolphins hired one of the best human beings on the planet – Joe Philbin. The notorious problem with Philbin was: he couldn’t lead a football team.

Failing to rein in Vontae Davis‘ hangovers, everything regarding Richie Incognito, the Chad Ochocinco saga (check out this damning ESPN article from 2012, which gives you a glimpse into how the player’s felt about Philbin early on), and all of the Mike Wallace drama. Those football teams had some decent talent, yet were never better than a mediocre 8-8 in Philbin’s 4 years.

Great person, but terrible with people.

Adam Gase then took a 1-4 season and made the playoffs at 10-6. All the optimism surrounding Ryan Tannehill seemed justified, and we were ecstatic for the future. But we came to learn that Gase’s coaching talents resembled more of a glorified offensive coordinator, which left players feelings ostracized and without a sense of direction – especially those on defense.

Like Philbin, Gase wanted a group of players that followed him, rather than developing a strategy that tailored to his players’ strengths. He traded away (or failed to re-sign) productive players drafted by Grier in years past, just because he couldn’t handle them.

After a 10-6 start to his coaching career (2016), we watched our hopes dwindle to 6-10 (2017) – accompanied with $10m worth of embarrassing Jay Cutler highlights – and then 7-9 (2018) after the “quarterback guru” couldn’t get any production out of a 2019 Pro Bowl & AFC Championship quarterback in Ryan Tannehill.

Offensive visionary, but he couldn’t see past his own shortcomings.

So Why is This Different?

This would be the definition of insanity….if it meant that we were following the same trend.

Yes, we understand the eternal caveat that we won’t know for sure until we see the results, but after a successful 2019 – and a stellar 2020 draft that features plenty of starting potential – we’re not going too far out on a limb to say that they have our trust.

Going into a vital 2020 NFL draft where the team held 3 first-round picks, the Miami Dolphins’ future rested solely on the leis of Tua Tagovailoa. For months we were on edge, because, as Dolphins fans, we just figured they would screw it up. But once they secured their quarterback of the future, the plan was simple: protect him.

Not only was the plan to build a wall in front of him, but Grier and Flores identified that some of these positions take more time to develop than others. Rarely do offensive and defensive linemen jump right in and become dominant players. The difference between pancaking teenagers in college to moving a mountain-of-a-man in the NFL is colossal.

Rookies go through such a strenuous process to improve their draft stock – immediately after completing a full college season – that they are burned out by the time their rookie year is over. That’s exactly what happened to Michael Deiter towards the end of last season; it’s no surprise we see their performance start to slide after putting in so much work throughout the year.

Drafting Austin Jackson (18th-overall pick), Robert Hunt (39th), and Solomon Kindley (111th) means Miami is giving their rookies time to grow before being asked to protect their most-important asset since Dan Marino.

Instead of a trying to learn the nuances of the NFL with a rookie quarterback, they can learn how an offensive play is properly setup, executed and audibled under a veteran, Ryan Fitzpatrick.

When it comes time to protect Tua Tagovailoa in 2021, they won’t have to worry if they understood the protection, if they’ll make a rookie mistake, or if they’ll naively and unintentionally do something embarrassing or costly. They’ll be able to focus on executing the play properly, giving Tua an ample amount of time to handle his own “rookie” adjustments.

With Raekwon Davis, the Dolphins acquire another player at a position that tends to need some time to grow. This move makes me wonder what the future holds for Davon Godchaux, who is expected to receive a very nice payday in free agency after this season, but for now, Miami can rely heavily on Godchaux and their 2019 1st-round pick, Christian Wilkins. Davis has the opportunity to learn under these two as he prepares to take on a much bigger role in 2021.

With their final 1st-round pick, Miami selected another young player at a cornerstone position. The adjustments rookie cornerbacks need to make when guarding an NFL receiver are somewhat substantial, and Noah Igbinoghene will be able to learn and make these adjustments while covering the opponent’s third or forth receiver – with the added security that he has an array of established and Pro Bowl veterans behind him.

This might hint at an ugly and somewhat inconsistent 2020 season, as roughly half of this roster is new to the team, but all of these young players will start to excel as Tua begins to transition into our full-time starting quarterback.

Which means the Miami Dolphins are ready to make a legitimate playoff run in 2021.

Is it possible all of these risks falter? Of course! Austin Jackson just turned 21 years old, and he wasn’t viewed as the best left tackle in college last season – he is a projection. Noah Igbinoghene wasn’t viewed as a 1st-round caliber cornerback, as most “experts” think he’s restricted to covering the slot rather than becoming a boundary corner. And then you have the general, inevitable fact that some of these picks just won’t pan out.

But we watched players like Mike Gesicki, DeVante Parker, Raekwon McMillan, Vince Biegel and Nik Needham take the “next step” under Brian Flores stewardship. It only makes us wonder who he’ll coach up next.

Now that Flores is more-comfortable as a sophomore coach, and the team understands his “win no matter what” philosophy, Miami should naturally thrive in year two….right?

Like all of these other coaches before him, Flores is an absolute genius after year one. And like all those coaches before him, he’s one season away from looking like a dunce.

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