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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins 5 Worst Free Agency Signings

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins have had their fair share of mistakes throughout the years, and with free agency set to begin this week, I’m here to remind you about all the bad times we had together before you get excited for the “hope” that lies ahead (see what I did there….)

Maybe it’s a coincidence that all of the players listed are relatively current. Only one of these players played for the team in the 2000s, with some of them being on the team as recently as 2017.

Recent memory serves us best, but with player contracts annually increasing, you’re going to find plenty more-recent Dolphins bust.

Not a single person is going to say Brian Hartline‘s 5-year, $31m ($12.5m guaranteed) contract was more detrimental to the team’s cap space than any of the players listed below. Not even Daunte Culpepper‘s $8m contract was that bad (even though he’s technically a trade acquisition, not a free agent) – even if his production was far worse than Ryan Tannehill‘s.

The Miami Dolphins have had plenty of underwhelming players throughout the 21st century, below are the five free agent contracts that were abysmally worse than all the rest:

Note: this list does not include extensions – this list strictly looks at players that came from another team. Which means players like Ryan Tannehill, Reshad Jones, Mike Pouncey and Bobby McCain will not show up here)

5) Philip Wheeler: 5-yr, $25m ($13m guaranteed)

The perfect example of a player performing in a contract year and happily walking off into the sunset; Philip Wheeler was a head-scratching free agency signing and an even worse linebacker.

Paired with the #3 player on our list, Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe were an atrocious duo for the Dolphins. Brought on to replace Kevin Burrnett and Karlos Dansby respectively, both players were role players rewarded with starting contracts. They were anomalies that the Dolphins fell in love with (just like Andre Branch).

In his first season with Miami, Wheeler started all 16 games and recorded 118 tackles – mostly because opposing teams realized they could be productive running/passing at Wheeler. Wheeler did record 5 tackles for a loss and 5 QB hits, but that average comes out to less than 1 every 3 games, which is pathetic for a linebacker meant to stop the run and close gaps.

I wasn’t able to find the clip, but there was one play of Wheeler’s that will always stick out at me. He was turning around to call out a play to his fellow defenders and then turned back towards the opposing offense to get into his stance – ready to attack the play. Except the play already started and the opponent was tackled right by his feet. It took until the player was tackled for Wheeler to diagnose that the play had actually started.

This play perfectly sums up Wheeler’s career in Miami and perfectly sums up what every fan feels about him. Confused and unmotivated.

4) Jake Grove: 5-yr, $29m ($14.5m guaranteed)

This signing may have swayed us because of how poorly the Miami Dolphins misdiagnosed everything involved in this “prized” free agency signing.

After an Oakland Raiders career marred by injuries, the Dolphins thought they were lucky to find their future center and signed Jake Grove to a ridiculous $29m offer (half of which was guaranteed).

Sure enough, Grove got injured in his first season with the team and started only 10 games. He didn’t even make it to his second season with Miami, and was released during the 2010 preseason.

Grove hasn’t played another snap in the NFL since.

A few things play into this monstrosity:

  1. No one else was interested in Jake Grove – which made the length and price of the contract completely unnecessary.
  2. Jake Grove played 1 full season in the NFL (2006). He was active for 54/80 games with Oakland (67.5%) and started just 46 of those 80 games (57.5%)
  3. The Miami Dolphins already had Samson Satele on the roster and subsequently traded him to Oakland to fill the void left by Grove. Satele would go on to start 42/48 games with Oakland over the next 3 seasons before becoming the Indianapolis Colts starting center for 3 seasons after that.

Eventually, Miami moved on from Grove and started Joe Berger in his place. Berger was alright for Miami, though the team let him go and Berger eventually wound up with the Minnesota Vikings where he would go on to have an adequate career as both a backup and a starter.

Miami eventually settled the position by drafting a makeshift center from Florida, Mike Pouncey, in the 1st-round of the 2011 draft. Ironically enough, Miami has still yet to solve the center position after almost a decade of allocating valuable resources towards it.

3) Dannell Ellerbe: 5-yr, $35m ($14m guaranteed)

Brought on to replace Karlos Dansby as the starting middle linebacker, Dannell Ellerbe took millions from the Dolphins and left them with the same problem they started with – a void at linebacker.

Ellerbe started 15 games for the Dolphins in 2013 and put up some gaudy numbers:  2 interceptions, 5 passes defended, 1 sack, 101 tackles, 3 tackles for a loss and 4 QB hits. Though, like Wheeler, statistics are a bit misleading.

Ellerbe was a liability in coverage and against the run. Between Wheeler and Ellerbe, it was open season for opposing offenses – with an invitation to attack the middle of the field. It didn’t matter what kind of pass rush Cameron Wake was putting up or if Randy Starks was holding the middle of the defensive line just fine, the offense was still going to be productive.

To this day the team is still searching for an adequate replacement for (future Hall of Famer) Zach Thomas.

2) Mike Wallace: 5-yr, $60m ($30m guaranteed)

When you would rather have Davone Bess and Brian Hartline receiving the ball, you know something went wrong. Originally signed to a 5-year contract to be the kind of deep threat Desean Jackson actually is for the Philadelphia Eagles and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Mike Wallace was neither motivated nor all that good.

Wallace clashed with head coaches, quit on the team years before Reshad Jones made it “a thing”, and required fellow wide receiver Brandon Gibson to talk for him at his locker  because he was too much of a diva to face the heat.

What started out as an offseason that was set to change the course of this team’s future quickly turned into another regrettable signing for the Miami Dolphins.

The Dolphins did end up with the last laugh. After signing with the Dolphins, Wallace admitted that he turned down more money with the Minnesota Vikings to head down to Miami. With the Dolphins finally fed up with the receiver, the team traded Wallace to the Vikings after the 2014 season. They didn’t receive much compensation, but Wallace was forced to play in an environment he wanted nothing to be apart of. He was released from the Vikings following the 2015 season and has since been relegated to a #2 or #3 receiver on an NFL team.

The only thing that saves Wallace’s time in Miami are the pedestrian numbers he put up. Even with erratic quarterback play from a young Ryan Tannehill, in two years, Wallace was able to haul in 140 receptions for 1792 yards and 15 TDs. Think that’s alright? What do you think of Brandon Marshall? Because at least Marshall eclipsed 1000 yards each year, he just couldn’t catch touchdowns to save his job.

Honorable Mentions

Below we have (quite) a few more players that didn’t work out, they just worked out slightly more than the others. Or, their contract just wasn’t as bad:

Nate Allen: 1-yr, $3.4m

You really can’t have a bad one year contract – especially one that costs this little. But sub-par play mixed with a season-ending injury halfway through the season leads to an unproductive signing for Miami.

He came one year after Isa Abdul-Quddus was one of the best free agency signings in Dolphins history.

Gibril Wilson: 5-yr, $27.5m ($8m guaranteed)

The only thing saving Gibril Wilson from being on the list is the guaranteed money he signed for.

Brought in to be the free safety compliment to Yeremiah Bell, Miami realized their mistake one year into the five-year contract and released Wilson during the 2010 offseason. His stat line was adequate (7 passes defended, 93 tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle for a loss and 3 QB hits), but he was susceptible to giving up the big play at the wrong time.

Don’t get me wrong, Wilson was terrible for the Dolphins, and deserves to be on this list – his contract just wasn’t quite bad enough to warrant a top-5 spot.

Mario Williams: 2-yr, $17m ($11.9m guaranteed)

After years of tormenting the Dolphins, Miami thought they won one over on their division rivals by signing Mario Williams to a 2-yr, $17m contract ($11.9m guaranteed). Williams was happy with the paycheck and played with minimal effort – making it obvious he was just trying to end his NFL career without injury.

The Dolphins couldn’t be happier to release him following the 2016 season. Williams started 15 games in 2016 and accumulated 13 tackles and 1.5 sacks during his time with Miami. Or in other words, slightly more than literally nothing.

Ernest Wilford: 4-yr, $13m ($6m guaranteed)

The failed wide receiver couldn’t make it as a tight end in Miami and was released from the team after just one season.

Ernest Wilford was active for 7 games in 2008 and accumulated 3 catches for 25 yards and 0 touchdowns. Prior to coming to Miami, Wilford averaged almost 500 receiving yards per season with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Although an injury ended his 2008 season prematurely, 25 yards from your tight end is worse than Julius Thomas and Jordan Cameron; which makes this signing much worse than either of those two.

Lawrence Timmons: 2-yr, $20m ($11m guaranteed)

Saved by insanity, the Miami Dolphins dodged a really bad contract when Lawrence Timmons abandoned the team and attempted to return home to his family. While I should be careful with the jokes (who knows if that was a result of early CTE or a side effect of drugs he might be taking), in the business world we live and operate in, the airport trip that never happened was the best thing to happen to Miami.

1) Ndamukong Suh: 6-yr, $114m ($60m guaranteed)

This is one of those outliers where the player was not only extremely successful, they were borderline dominant at the position.

So how could a player who was annually top-3 at his position be considered a terrible contract for a team?

When Mike Tannenbaum is your general manager and has that glisten in his eye when a generational player is available, that’s how.

Lets not sugarcoat or undermine Ndamukong Suh‘s career because he made out like a bandit in Miami; he is most definitely one of the best players of this generation. Even if his career is slightly stained by the “dirty” play he exhibited back with the Detroit Lions, everyone will remember the name Ndamukong Suh when you say it 10 years from now. Just say “Suh” and people will know exactly who you’re talking about.

That’s dominance.

What didn’t dominate was Miami’s rushing defense, their overall defense, or the team’s record. In Suh’s 3 seasons with Miami, the teams’ stats looked like:

  • Rushing Defense:
    • 2015: 28th (126.2 yards per game)
    • 2016: 30th (140.4)
    • 2017: 14th (110.4)
  • Overall Defense:
    • 2015: 25th (376.2 yards per game)
    • 2016: 29th (382.6)
    • 2017: 16th (335.7)
  • Dolphins’ Record:
    • 2015: 6-10
    • 2016: 10-6 (0-1 playoffs)
    • 2017: 6-10

Ndamukong Suh is on this list not only because he proved paying money to a generational talent at one of the “non-premier” positions (cornerback, quarterback, left tackle) translates into nothing for the team, but he still counts towards Miami’s cap hit in 2019!

Suh’s dead cap hits in 2018 ($9.1m) and 2019 ($13.1m) were/are more than most Dolphins will cost in 2018 and 2019.

All the tackles, sacks, highlight-reel plays and accolades can’t diminish the impact Suh’s contract had on this team. The inability to build elsewhere hamstrung the organization from retaining valuable players like Jarvis Landry or even valuable role players like Michael Thomas.

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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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Rich McQuillen

    March 11, 2019 at 1:17 pm

    ““non-premier” positions (cornerback, quarterback, left tackle) translates into nothing for the team”
    — What are you talking about? In Suh’s last season, the Dolphins defense improved from 30th to 16th. Then he was cut, and we went back to 30th. NT is the most important position on the defense. The Rams made it to the superbowl by adding him.

    This is absolutely a premier position, with great Hall Of Famers like Bruce Smith and Reggie White who could single-handedly win a game.

    • Jason Hrina

      Jason Hrina

      March 11, 2019 at 2:25 pm

      Agreed that a dominant DT/NT can change the course of a defense, but teams are able to get away with average DT play and still win. You definitely need a QB and most winning teams have at least one #1 CB. Miami’s defense was very poor in 2015 and 2016, and although it did improve in 2017, the team also returned Reshad Jones in ‘17 and saw Xavien Howard break out. It was fascinating to watch Suh play, but he didn’t transform the defense the way he was paid/expected to.

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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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