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State of the Miami Dolphins Franchise – September 1, 2019

Travis Wingfield

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A blockbuster trade, 10 newcomers, a war chest of future draft picks, the Dolphins are finally doing things differently

No one expected to be here. Not the fans. Not Laremy Tunsil. Not even the Miami Dolphins themselves thought about the possibility of trading one of its two, sure-fire blue chip players, and yet here we are.

As Albert Breer of the MMQB put it, Miami had no intentions to move Tunsil until Houston’s full court press turned into an offer Miami couldn’t refuse.

The lack on long-term job security turned Bill O’Brien into a mad scientist, operating free of any governing watch, spending all of his company’s future assets on immediate returns. A long day for the Texans saw a potential division favorite part with two first-round picks, two second-round picks, an all-pro defensive end, and a pair of mid-round picks on middling tailbacks (one of which occurred two weeks ago).

Miami cashed in. And while this might not have been Stephen Ross’ exact image of a teardown rebuild, the ultimate apple of his eye is now clearly within range (more on that QB in a moment).

When Ross stepped to the podium (or table, rather) on New Year’s Eve to announce the dismissal of Adam Gase and Mike Tannenbaum, and the coinciding promotion of Chris Grier, he vowed to do things differently.

Chasing the New England Patriots and their six Super Bowl titles, nine appearances in the big game, and 16 division titles in 18 years has long been a futile effort. Rather than chasing the dragon with pipedreams like Robert Quinn, Danny Amendola, and a host of failed bandage attempts over the last decade, Ross finally learned the definition of insanity.

And while his initial vision probably included a minimal regression to the mean, unique circumstances forced a pivot. Now, bottoming out to the fullest extent of the definition is the preferred mode of operation going forward.

That wasn’t the case just three weeks ago. Ross detailed his instructions to the coaching staff to “try to win,” a hilarious quote without context, no doubt. Ross continued by saying that if Miami winds up with, say, five wins, it’s OK because of Miami’s draft capital gives the team the flexibility to trade up to secure its franchise altering passer.

But now, with a war chest of future resources, Miami might be able to divide the 21 draft picks it has beyond its own, organic 2020 first-rounder about the rest of the roster. One of those picks will now have to replace fast-emerging Left Tackle Laremy Tunsil, widely argued as the best young player at his position in the league.

So Why Trade Tunsil?

The return, along with adhering to a philosophical principle, the Dolphins saw an opportunity to maximize an asset. While many fans were sent into a rage about losing the only quality part of the integral offensive line group, that very fact might be why Tunsil was deemed expendable.

On the fifth day of training camp this summer, Brian Flores answered a flurry of questions regarding the decision to move on from recently hired Offensive Line Coach Pat Flaherty.

One of those questions asked what exactly the Dolphins were looking for with the other four positions — four spots regarded as suspect, at best.

Flores’ message has never deviated from his original clichés. “Communication, working as one singular unit, not five individual parts, that’s what we’re trying to get out of those guys.”

Even if Tunsil is an elite pass protector, even if you can put him on an island with a two-way go against the game’s best pass rushers, what does that gain? What does it gain when Tunsil blocks out the sun against Khalil Mack, but the right guard-right tackle combination fails to pass-off a stunt, and pressure arrives in less than two seconds anyhow?

The roster needs a jolt of talent, there’s no doubt about that, but the offensive line was the primary culprit behind Miami’s projected hopelessness this season. That group, more so than the team itself, needed a ground-up rebuild.

Cashing in the offensive line’s greatest asset, for well above market value, puts the Dolphins in a more advantageous position to restock that group as a whole, and solidify a singular unit. Not to mention that Tunsil was only two years — at most — away from cashing in the largest lineman contract in the NFL.

Miami can now spend that money on multiple players — maybe even two linemen — and scoops up three premium picks (all top 60 picks) in the process.

Everything about this offseason has been about positioning the team for success in the future, even if the path to the future is rigged with treacherous booby traps and unmitigated suffering.

 

Draft Round Dolphins 2020 Picks Dolphins 2021 Picks
1st 2 2
2nd 2 2
3rd 2 1
4th 1 1
5th 1 1
6th 2 0
7th 1 1
Total Picks 11 0
Projected Top 50 Picks 3 3
Projected Top 100 Picks 6 6

*Miami previously held two 7th round picks in 2020, but the trade for Danny Isidora brings it back to one.

 

The happiest accident of the entire thing, Miami is a dreadful football team for the 2019 season; a season in which college football is set to send some premier quarterback prospects into the league.

Most notably, Tua Tagovailoa.

Stephen Ross professed his love for the Heisman Runner-Up and 2018 National Championship Game hero. Tagovailoa is widely regarded as the next great quarterback prospect, the best one since Andrew Luck in 2012.

All Luck did, for a previously 2-14 Colts team, was take a talent-barren club to the post-season three consecutive years. He led Indianapolis to three playoff victories and an appearance in the AFC Championship Game in 2014, his third year. Miami hasn’t done any of those three things since the 1990’s, for those keeping score at home.

The year prior, Miami and Indianapolis were competing for the right to Luck’s services. Miami started the campaign 0-6, but finished 6-4 and all the way out of the top five. The Colts wound up with Luck, the Dolphins with Ryan Tannehill, and I don’t need to tell you how different the last seven years would’ve been if Miami could’ve traded those two quarterbacks straight across.

Nothing changes the landscape of your franchise like a marquee quarterback. Nothing. There is no more direct route back to a Lombardi than an elite quarterback, and the opportunity to acquire one should not be taken lightly.

And if Miami hits that pick out of the park, and at the cost of just ONE draft pick, then the organization would have to royally screw up the next two offseason for Miami to stay in the shadows for long.

With 19 additional picks to aid Tua Tagovailoa (or Jordan Love), if the Dolphins bat just .400 on those picks, we’re talking about eight more contributing players to a core that already features some quality parts.

Parts like Jerome Baker, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Christian Wilkins.

Parts like Xavien Howard. Which brings us to the next question.

Why Did Miami Pay Xavien Howard, Acquire Josh Rosen?

As the offensive line was constructed around one elite player, and four players that probably wouldn’t start anywhere else, the defensive backfield is not in the same neighborhood.

Howard is one of, if not the game’s premiere cover corner. Minkah Fitzpatrick is one of the game’s best slot corners, and a versatile weapon. Miami are enamored with a pair of former Patriots corners in Eric Rowe and Jomal Wiltz. Reshad Jones is still here, though his future is in jeopardy, and Bobby McCain is a good player and one of the leaders of the team.

The Dolphins are only one or two parts away from putting a top-flight secondary on the field, the same was not true of the offensive line. Not by a long shot.

On the other side, the players that the secondary are trying to prevent from succeeding, sits the cursed 22-year-old, Josh Rosen.

Rosen’s chances of becoming the answer in Miami are slim. Regardless of how you feel about the kid’s talent, he’s in a position where far greater quarterbacks would struggle, and the success he would have to enjoy to push Miami off of next year’s QB class is simply unachievable.

Maybe that’s why Miami opted not to start the season with Rosen. With the knowledge that a high draft pick at quarterback is greater than a 90-percent proposition (a number pulled from thin air, but let’s be real, they’re drafting a QB), Rosen’s greatest value to the Dolphins might be on the trade market.

Jimmy Garappolo brought back the 43rd pick in the 2018 draft to the Patriots after 1.5 games of brilliance.

If Miami can hold off on playing Rosen until the circumstances are more favorable (perhaps the line gels a bit as the season wears on, and the schedule lightens up), then a few games of good tape could certainly attract a bidder.

And before you develop an ulcer at the thought of trading Rosen after he plays well, consider upside. Consider conviction. The same conviction the Chiefs showed in the 2017 draft when, despite harboring a good NFL quarterback in Alex Smith, Andy Reid went for broke and wound up with the league’s Most Valuable Player in Patrick Mahomes.

In essence, you could wind up with the best QB prospect since Luck (Tagovailoa) and yet another second-round pick (would be Miami’s fifth the next two year) if Rosen plays his price tag up to that level. Rosen’s contract along could make him attractive to another bidder, if Miami so chooses that a high draft pick is more valuable than a backup quarterback.

All of these players are assets with a price tag attached to their name. That’s a cruel truth in the National Football League, but that’s what happens in business.

Updated 53-Man Roster – Courtesy of Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald

New Additions:

OL Julién Davenport
OL Evan Boehm
OL Danny Isidora
DE Trent Harris
DE Avery Moss
LB Deon Lacey
LB Vince Biegel
CB Johnson Bademosi
CB Ken Webster
S Steven Parker
DT John Jenkins

Position Players
QB (2) Fitzpatrick, Rosen
RB (6) Drake, Ballage, Walton, Laird, Gaskin, Cox (FB)
WR (5) Wilson, Grant, Williams, Parker, Hurns
TE (3) Gesicki, O’Leary, Smythe
OL (9) Davenport, Deiter, Kilgore, Calhoun, Davis, Reed, Boehm, Isidora, Prince
Edge (5) C. Harris, Orchard, T. Harris, Ledbetter, Moss
iDL (3) Wilkins, Godchaux, Jenkins
LB (6) Baker, Eguavoen, McMillan, Van Ginkel, Biegel, Lacey
CB (6) Howard, Fitzpatrick, Rowe, Wiltz, Webster, Bademosi
S (5) McCain, Jones, Lammons, Parker, Aikens
Spec (2) Sanders, Haack

*Current as of 12:37 PM EST, 9/2 (Roster at 52 players, long-snapper)

 

Miami landed in the headlines with the draft capital returns, but the organization has quietly been churning over the bottom of the roster in search of developmental pieces. Isidora and Boehm were added prior to the blockbuster trade, and there might be a find in there as we detailed in the film study work-up.

Miami had spent time with Saints Linebacker Vince Biegel prior to the 2017 draft, both at the Senior Bowl and with a private workout.

Deon Lacy was a CFL signing to Miami last year, but he didn’t make Gase’s 53-man roster — he’s back.

Cutting Zach Sterup likely means that new addition Julién Davenport is the starting left tackle. He’s, shall we say, had his fair share of struggles.

Miami is rounding out it’s practice squad as well. Here’s the up-to-date 11-man developmental player for the Dolphins (currently only at 9).

Practice Squad

Position Player
1. QB Jake Ruddock
2. DE Dewayne Hendrix
3. LB Christian Sam
4. CB Nik Needham
5. DT Gerald Willis
6. TE Chris Myarick
7. LB Terrill Hanks
8. S Montre Hartage
9. OT Zach Sterup
10.
11. OL Durval Queiroz Neto (Exempt Status

 

The Forgotten Man in All of This

Miami departed with more than just Laremy Tunsil in the trade. The Dolphins Walter Payton Man of the Year Candidate, and leading receiver over the last three seasons was also sent to Houston.

Kenny Stills was a fixture on the South Florida community. Every time the Dolphins social media pages shared video, or photography of the team aiding in charity events, number 10 was always there. Every. Single. Time. The Dolphins are losing a good football player, but also one of the best men in the game.

Best of luck in Houston, Kenny.

Darkest Before the Dawn

This season is going to be challenging, there’s no way around that. Miami doesn’t have the makeup of a team that can compete with many others at this level, but there’s still a reason to watch.

Watch to see how Jerome Baker develops as the leader of the defense. Watch to see Xavien Howard continue his tear of intercepting footballs. Watch to see Minkah Fitzpatrick, Christian Wilkins, Kalen Ballage, Jakeem Grant, Preston Williams, Mike Geisicki, Charles Harris, and Davon Godchaux attempt to take the next step.

Watch the low-risk investments like Mark Walton, Eric Rowe, Devante Parker and how they progress.

Watch the five undrafted free agents on the current roster — Williams, Patrick LairdShaq Calhoun, Jonathan Ledbetter, and Chris Lammons.

It’s evaluation season, Dol-fans. And we’ve got 16 games to self-scout the incumbent talent, and 13 more weeks to watch a decorated college class of prospects, primarily on the offensive side of the ball.

The Browns did this two years ago. The team finished without a win in 2017 and landed the first pick in the draft. Enter Baker Mayfield. Now, after winning seven more games than the previous season, the Browns are loaded.

Cleveland used all the resources it gathered to pick up superstars like Myles Garrett, and O’Dell Beckham, and paired them with other names like Denzel Ward, David Njoku, Nick Chubb, Jarvis Landry, Olivier Vernon, Sheldon Richardson, and a laundry list of above average NFL starters.

If you were content with perpetually finishing right in the middle of the pack — in that range of seven to eight wins, and picking in the early teens every April — then perhaps this rebuild isn’t for you.

But this team is doing things differently now. They had to.

We’ll find out if it works in three years.

@WingfieldNFL

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10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Pat

    September 1, 2019 at 5:49 pm

    Travis,

    Terrell Hanks has been waived. We only have 6 LB’s

  2. Avatar

    Kirk Marks

    September 1, 2019 at 5:59 pm

    Travis I am all on board with this transformtion. You hit the nail on the head, the real fans will see a bright future. A season ticket holder discount would have been nice traveling from Hersey for every home game haha. Fins up

  3. Avatar

    Bill Martin

    September 1, 2019 at 6:51 pm

    I live in Toronto and I’ve just witnessed a similar dismantling of my beloved Blue Jays. They are painful to watch at times (no-hit by Verlander today), but it is exciting to watch youngsters like Guerrero Jr, Bichette, Biggio and Guierriel Jr. begin to emerge. The future looks bright for the Jays. If I see this sort of progression with the youngsters on my beloved Dolphins then I’m good with what Grier and Co. are trying to accomplish. But boy, do I feel for Rosen… another horrible, horrible OL to play behind. How is he supposed to get a fair evaluation when he’ll be running for his life most of the time.

  4. Avatar

    PapaPickett

    September 1, 2019 at 8:01 pm

    I am surprised you are defending this. There is an philosophy very foriegn to us Dolphins fans and its called overvaluing draft picks. When you hit on a pick you keep it. Thats the idea of building a team, because no matter how good you are at picking, you will miss sometimes as well. The Dolphins hit on Tunsil and traded him back in for 3 more rolls of the dice and at least one of those rolls has to be spent trying to replace Tunsil. Blow smoke anywhere you like, but keep it out of my ace. Grier just set this team back very badly and should be sued for negligence and wrecklessness when our Quarterbacks inevitably get injured.

  5. Avatar

    Tony

    September 1, 2019 at 8:49 pm

    I’m on board with the organizations current philosophy and I agree that Miami will probably draft a QB in 2020 just not the one you are talking about. For starters the notion that Tagovailoa is the best QB prospect since Luck is pure fiction. Those ratings won’t come out for another 6 months and I doubt after the combine Tua will be in that company. Couple that with the fact that
    none of the top QBs in the NFL (Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaaron Rodgers, Pat Mahomes , Ben Rothlisberger and Russell Wilson) were top 5 picks. If Rosen shows well this season I’m not sure that they take a QB with their first pick. Let some other GM who overvalues Tua such as I believe you do give Miami an RGIII type return to even further expedite the rebuild and take a QB later in round 1. Then use the added draft capital and free agency over the next 2 years to stock this roster with talent and make a run.

  6. Avatar

    Edan

    September 2, 2019 at 12:26 am

    Tua can’t play behind a bad line, that’s what happened to Luck. He retired. I totally disagree with letting go of another Richmond Webb. It will take more picks than Miami has to replace Tunsil. Not just a bad move, a terrible move. Giving Stills away another huge mistake. Houston will be really happy with both of them. 0-16 for Miami and better sign 2 Qb’s to the practice squad. They’ll be needed.

  7. Avatar

    James

    September 2, 2019 at 12:34 pm

    Another great article. Thanks for helping us all keep it in perspective.

  8. Avatar

    Damon Williams

    September 2, 2019 at 9:52 pm

    I get confused. You say that the teams fate would be different with Luck. No, Luck would have been far more injured. They built a line too late. They did what obviously Miami did with Tannehill. You cant blame him now although you can now the line that was in front of him. Until, you get protection doesnt matter who is back there. Houston certainly came to see it. Their QB couldnt even take team flights. Every QB Miami fielded in past seven years: Moore, Cutler, Tannehill were injured. You say, far greater QB would struggle behind this line, then building line first should be priority. The ball starts at the snap, oline and dline. This is were the game is won or lost imo. It’s unfair to every QB thats started for past few years. If it doesnt gel this season, the same question will be asked even with a shiny new QB.

  9. Avatar

    Jason

    September 3, 2019 at 1:15 am

    I just feel bad for Rosen, why they even traded for him is beyond me, Miami owes me money for my Rosen Jersey. Josh will be in another system for another team next year. Sorry Josh

    • Avatar

      Rockphin

      September 5, 2019 at 1:53 pm

      [email protected] Jason. You have no one to blame but yourself for purchasing a Rosen Jersey. I was going to call out Travis on his Luck / Tannehill comment but I saw Damon already did.

      I don’t think Tua will be the best of that class either.

      I disagree with Papa. I think the value of the trade far outweighed the value of Tunsil.

      Joe Thomas was the best LT in foot ball. Went to TEN straight pro-bowls. Won 44 games in 10 years.

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NFL Draft

Scouting College Football’s Top 2020 Quarterback Prospects – Week 12

Travis Wingfield

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Recapping Week 12 of the College Football Season

During the college season, here on Locked On Dolphins, we’re going to keep an eye on quarterbacks all throughout the country. Our primary focus will be on the big four, the options that Miami will likely choose from with an early pick in the 2020 draft.

Those quarterbacks are:

Tua Tagovailoa Scouting Report
Jake Fromm Scouting Report
Justin Herbert Scouting Report
Jordan Love Scouting Report

2019 Week 1 Recap
2019 Week 2 Recap
2019 Week 3 Recap
2019 Week 4 Recap
2019 Week 5 Recap
2019 Week 6 Recap
2019 Week 7 Recap
2019 Week 8 Recap
2019 Week 9 Recap
– No Week 10 Recap
2019 Week 11 Recap

*LSU’s Joe Burrow has been added to the prospect watch list.

We’ll go in chronological order from when the games were played.

Week 12 Recap

Tua Tagovailoa vs. Mississippi State, Win
Stats: 14/18 (77.8%) 256 yards (14.22 YPA) 2 TD

Today was a collective “L” for the football community. One of the best collegiate players, and widely praised good guys, Tua Tagovailoa suffered a hip injury that leaves his football future in question.

What started out as an ordinary onslaught of explosive plays — a product of perfectly placed passes — ended in potential tragedy. Reports say that Tua’s hip is both dislocated, with a fracture of the wall that retains the ball joint. This injury calls for immediate surgery and significant recovery time, if a football career is possible at all.

Tagovailoa will do everything in his power for a full recovery, and hopefully the advances in modern medicine can allow him to make a triumphant return to the gridiron.

Jordan Love at Wyoming, Win 26-21
Stats: 18/29 (62.1%) 282 yards (9.72 YPA) 2 TD, 2 INT

This game was my favorite quarterback tape to watch this season. Jordan Love exhibited the sometimes unfathomably unique arm-talent that has endeared him to scouts nationally. After two interceptions — one a bad read, another bad luck — Love showed the shortstop-like arm, supreme athleticism, and general freaky traits that have scouts drooling.

The arm-strength to squeeze the football into a tight window from 40 yards away, the rare elasticity to sling it on a line across his body while on the move, the quick release to get the ball out in the face of pressure…it looks like he’s throwing a baseball.

The added element of a designed run package and RPO game, paired with the threat of throwing the ball to any blade of grass on the field, coaches will line up to get their hands on this prospect.

Jake Fromm vs. Missouri, Win 27-0
Stats: 13/28 (46.4%) 110 yards (3.93 YPA) 3 TD

Fromm hit his best throw of the season in another big SEC road victory. Few quarterbacks have the number of scalps that Fromm keeps in his back pocket, and he displayed tremendous poise in another hostile environment.

At times, the crowd noise was deafening, yet Fromm communicated his line checks and audibles with urgency and a steady heartbeat. He made cutch, accurate throws on third down, and beat the defense with his pre-snap prowess.

Fromm has quiet feet when he gets to the top of his drop. That’s not a trait he shares with a lot of the new-age, successful quarterbacks in the NFL. Kyler Murray went first in the draft for his ability to glide weightlessly about the pocket, creating passing lanes.

While Fromm is capable of mitigating some deficiencies with his ability to get the offense into the right play, and accurate passing, he’s not going to erase free rushers with his athleticism, and he’s not going to overcome situations with a fastball throw.

Joe Burrow at Ole Miss, Win 58-37
Stats: 32/42 (76.2%) 489 yards (11.64 YPA) 5 TD, 2 INT

And in one afternoon, Joe Burrow is left with nothing to prove. The now heavy favorite to come off the board with the first pick, the second half of Miami’s season would have to take some considerable turns to get the LSU Quarterback.

Burrow remains as cool as ever in this one. He rushed his Tiger offense out to a big lead with a couple of impressive improvisational plays. The big day was saddled by the two turnovers, but Burrow ends the day as the new QB1 due to Tua’s medical situation.

Justin Herbert vs. Arizona, 10:30 ESPN
Stats: 20/28 (71.4%) 333 yards (11.89 YPA) 4 TD, 1 INT

If this was your first viewing experience of Justin Herbert, you probably came away convinced he’s a top-10 draft pick — and he will be. If you’re a regular to his tape, this game was more of the same — flashes of brilliance when the circumstances permit, but the same inconsistencies in the most important aspects of the game.

Arizona’s defense hasn’t stopped a nose bleed this year, and they sure as hell weren’t going to stop the draft’s most physically impressive specimen behind the country’s best offensive line. Herbert’s long touchdown throws displayed the hand-cannon that has scouts conjuring up the prototypical quarterback build — particularly the toss in the second half.

On the rare occasions where Arizona got heat, you saw Herbert’s lack of quick-twitch to get off the spot, without the inherent ability to keep his eyes downfield to keep the play alive. You saw Herbert make an egregious decision to throw the ball into coverage (the INT was dropped) on a first-and-goal play from the two-yard-line.

The problem with Herbert, is that this has been the story for over 30 games. He still has no signature wins or moments, and the Oregon offense is still predicated on the running and screen game.

Herbert’s best bet at the next level is a run-heavy offense that can utilize his premiere weapon — throwing on the move. Lining up in 12-personnel (2 tight ends) and allowing Herbert to get out in space to throw into layers or flood concepts on the move will be the smoothest transition for the Oregon QB to have some success.

I’m of the belief that you have to put Herbert in an absolutely ideal situation, because he’s not going to mitigate your issues offensively.

Week 12 Conclusion

Reports from the University of Alabama doctor responsible for tending to Tagovailoa say the quarterback will make a full recovery, but he is certainly in for a long rehab process. If anyone can come back from this, it’s Tagovailoa, though his draft stock will surely be impacted. If Tua enters the draft and clears all the medical hurdles, he’ll still be a first-round pick.

Miami might be fortunate if Tagovailoa is still the target. With Brian Flores willing his team to underdog victories, the chances of obtaining the first pick was becoming grim, but so too are Tua’s chances at going off the board number one.

The Dolphins will have a difficult decision to make, though an apparent contingency plan is developing behind Tua.

Jordan Love is making progress the last two weeks in his overall effectiveness, and the highlights he produced today were utterly absurd. Though he has shortcomings in his approach for the game and playing the quarterback position, his physical tools give him — far and away — the highest upside in the class.

Miami’s interesting draft season took a jump to a whole other level of intrigue with the events of Saturday.

Week 13 Schedule

Fromm vs. Texas A&M, 3:30 CBS
Burrow vs. Arkansas, 7:00 ESPN
Love vs. Boise State, 10:30 CBSSN
Herbert at Arizona State TBD

@WingfieldNFL

Additional Prospect Videos

A.J. Epenesa – Iowa Defensive End 

Bravvion Roy – Baylor Defensive Tackle

Julian Blackmon – Utah Safety (former corner, invited to Mobile for the Sr. Bowl)

Ben Bredeson – Michigan Left Guard

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Miami Dolphins

Should the Miami Dolphins be interested in signing Colin Kaepernick?

Shawn Digity

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Miami Dolphins Colin Kaepernick
Image courtesy of USA Today Sports

Miami (Locked On Dolphins) – Should the Miami Dolphins be interested in signing Colin Kaepernick?

It was only a matter of time before someone posed the question, and maybe it’s already been asked. Does Colin Kaepernick make sense for the Miami Dolphins?

I think the answer could be yes but not in a vacuum. The circumstances would have to be aligned for it to work out.

As it stands, for 2019, I don’t think Kaepernick would be viewed as a starter to fuel any tank or non-tank talk, regardless of how good he looks in the jerry-built workout on Saturday.

Any potential for signing Kaepernick would come with a big asterisk. I think it would have more to do with the some of the draft-eligible quarterbacks that could be a Dolphin next year and the traits and abilities they possess than it does with Kaepernick and what he could do directly for the franchise.

It boils down to who the Miami Dolphins have on their quarterback short list in the 2020 Draft. A lot of this franchise’s future boils down to the quarterback. But I’ll save that lecture for another time.

I’m not sure who will be the quarterbacks on the roster next year. Josh Rosen is likely out, and I’m not sure about Ryan Fitzpatrick. Maybe he stays, maybe he goes.

Regardless, there will be a rookie quarterback on the team, maybe even two if the Dolphins double-dip like the Redskins did in 2012 with Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins. I’ll save that theory for another time, too.

But once the Dolphins have taken their guy next spring, I think they’ll look for an experienced veteran to fill in for a pedagogical role in the QB room.

One of them could still be Ryan Fitzpatrick, but it could be someone else, like Cam Newton…or Colin Kaepernick, but I’ll get to that in a second.

Newton would be a better fit for that role compared to Fitzpatrick, and he offers the ability to kill two birds with one stone. He can win games and bring up the rookie as he goes.

Travis Wingfield tossed around the idea of trading for Cam Newton on Tuesday’s LOD podcast. I liked the idea. Trade for Newton and draft someone like Jordan Love or Jalen Hurts, who are both much rawer than their Joe Burrow or Tua Tagovailoa counterparts.

Of course, that’s Plan B. If Tagovailoa is still within reach, then draft him. If Burrow’s there, take him. If either of those two situations plays out, then all of the contingency plans go out the window.

But getting either Tagovailoa or Burrow is not a guarantee. So, having a scope on the other potential first-rounders is essential. I still like Jordan Love and his traits, but I also like Jalen Hurts, and I’m coming around on Justin Herbert. All three would benefit from redshirt seasons when entering the NFL.

And having the appropriate veteran guidance will be a huge blessing for the rookie’s development.

While I hope Plan A still comes to fruition, I also like the first backup plan. Here’s a caveat to Plan B, though. Trading for Newton is also not a guarantee.

There are several factors out of the Dolphins control, and that’s assuming that they are, in fact, interested in trading for Newton. If they are interested, then it becomes paramount that they can trade for him. At least they have their 2020 war chest of draft picks.

Now, back to my Kaepernick spiel. If Newton becomes a distant memory and Plan B crumbles, then Kaepernick jumps into the picture.

Kaepernick offers flexibility if the Dolphins do want Newton but can’t land him or if they’re going to save their picks outright.

If Newton is Plan B, then I’m viewing the signing of Kaepernick as a next-best Plan C. Newton and Kaepernick could both fit into the mold of teacher, but both also offer more upside than Ryan Fitzpatrick when it comes to winning games. It’s a way of having your cake and eating it too.

You wouldn’t have to trade for Kaepernick, and I doubt you’d have to fend off many other teams to sign him, either.

Allow an incubation period for the rookie quarterback while Newton or Kaepernick takes the reins for a season or two. Similar to how Patrick Mahomes held clipboards for most of his rookie season, grooming a rookie quarterback under the wings of a veteran could provide more sustainable growth for the rookie.

It’ll set up the rook to eventually blossom in a few years instead of being thrown to the wolves and also allow the Dolphins to find relevancy in short-term eras from one of the two mentioned veterans (Newton and Kaepernick).

So, would signing Kaepernick make sense? Yes, but only under certain conditions. I could see it become more likely that Kaepernick never joins the team, but there are scenarios, albeit limited ones, that could see him in orange and aqua.

But he could become a leader for the team and a teacher for the next-gen quarterback waiting in the wings.

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Miami Dolphins

Brian Flores – The Solution to Miami’s Two-Decade-Long Problem

Travis Wingfield

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The talent has been here all along, but the coaching hasn’t been, until now

Hot, muggy August mornings signal the best time of year for football fans in South Florida. As the Dolphins head to camp, the start of a new season looms on the horizon. This past August — Brian Flores’ first with the Dolphins — we saw a training camp in Davie unlike any before.

Individual drills, focusing on fundamentals and the core basics of the sport (blocking, defeating blocks, tackling, and drilling mental toughness and a mistake-free mindset), the practices featured very few team portions.

Boring as all get out for the fans in attendance, sure, but those foundational bricks have already laid the groundwork for the least-penalized team in the NFL. In the midst of a challenging season, those repetitive, grueling days have resulted in a team that ranks in the top 10 in tackling (9th-fewest missed tackles).

The 2019 Miami Dolphins training camp period was the most important month of Flores’ tenure as the man-in-charge, and it’s already paying massive dividends. The top-of-the-league rankings in the minute, yet crucial details of the game are tremendous, and even more valuable when considering the gems Miami discovered along the way.

Those gems aren’t exclusive to undrafted free agents and reclamation projects. The Dolphins are getting career years out of former top 50 picks in Devante Parker, Mike Gesicki and Raekwon McMillan.

Good coaching with premium talent is the best way to curate household names across the league, but a team without depth is a team that can’t succeed in this league. Uncovering both bonafide starters, and rotational parts from that scrap heap is the most encouraging aspect of Brian Flores’ first year in Miami.

Vince Biegel’s pass rush productivity marks are top 10 at his position from an efficiency standpoint.

Nik Needham was an undrafted free agent who’s gone from Conference USA to holding his own against NFL receivers. Needham’s coming off a two-game stretch where he made 14 tackles, and his first career sack and interception.

Jomal Wiltz was on the Patriots practice squad last season, and now he’s a valuable, versatile part of the defensive backfield. Ryan Lewis, Ken Crawley, Ken Webster have all contributed as in-season defensive back free agent signings as well.

Sep 15, 2019; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) is sacked by Miami Dolphins linebacker Vince Biegel (47) during the second half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

John Jenkins was a cut-down day acquisition, and all he’s done is led Miami in overall Pro Football Focus grade.

Eric Rowe was signed for close to nothing — a one-year, $3.5 million deal back in March. He struggled at cornerback early on, but since moving to a strong safety role — where he covers tight ends and plays a lot in the box — he’s playing some of the best ball of his career.

That list is impressive in its own right, and certainly inspires confidence in the Dolphins ability to succeed in this rebuild going forward. Even for the fan apprehensive to trust Chris Grier and company, it’s impossible to deny the widespread individual growth.

That’s where this next list comes into play. The Dolphins have had talent, and that’s evident by the players that have departed South Florida, and gone onto successful careers elsewhere.

For the sake of continuity and time elapsed relevance, we’ll go as far back as the beginning of the Joe Philbin era. Grier has been in Miami since 2007, but his role in each individual acquisition is impossible to gage. And that remains true even today as Miami — and all NFL teams — act as a gigantic collaboration.

With more than 30 scouts, college and professional personnel directors, a General Manager, Assistant General Manager, and nearly 20 coaches all serving underneath Owner Stephen Ross, nobody outside the walls in Miami knows who is responsible for which move.

To borrow the famed Bill Parcells mantra, the front office buys the groceries. From there, it’s up to the coaching staff to best prepare those ingredients and cook up a winning recipe. From Joe Philbin to Adam Gase, Miami have done very little to take on talent and produce an even better product on the other side.

We start in 2012 with the decision to trade the biggest name receiver this franchise has employed since Chris Chambers left at the 2007 trade deadline.

2012

Brandon Marshall – Marshall was an pro-bowl-level player at every stop except for Miami. His career fizzled towards retirement at the end, and he had a decent stretch in the 2011 season, but his two years in Miami produced the two worst statistical seasons out of the prime of his career. Marshall’s first year with the Bears resulted in a first-team All-Pro selection, a product of 1,508-yard season with 11 touchdowns — topping the two-year total (nine TD) with Miami.

Vontae Davis – The infamous grandma phone call request will never be forgotten, but Vontae got the last laugh on Miami. After three promising seasons with the Phins, Davis’ next four in Indianapolis produced two pro-bowls and 12 interceptions.

2013

Karlos Dansby – This move was a double whammy, as it was made to create space for all-time free agent bust in Dannell Ellerbe. Dansby didn’t make any pro-bowls after leaving Miami, but his first season in the dessert was a smashing success. He picked off four passes (two for touchdowns), broke up 19 passes, made 12 TFLs and registered his second-highest sack total of his career with 6.5.

Sean Smith – Smith infamously made a public comment during the Seahawks rise to prominence in 2012 about Richard Sherman and the freedom of Seattle’s cornerbacks within that scheme. Smith was promptly allowed to depart via free agency, but didn’t break the bank with the Kansas City Chiefs. Fresh off his new three-year, $18 million deal, Smith’s first year in KC resulted in an 84.7 passer rating against. Then, in 2014, Smith was PFF’s 6th-highest graded corner (Davis was 2nd.)

Tony McDaniel – Arriving via a conditional pick in 2009, McDaniel earned his way from the bottom of the depth chart into a rotational role. Then, in 2013, he left for Seattle and his career took off. His Pro Football Reference Approximate Value metric was never higher than 3 with Miami. His first two years in Seattle, McDaniel had an AV of 9 and 7. He made 94 tackles those two years, 12 more than his four-year total with the Dolphins.

2014

Nolan Carroll – A fifth-round pick in 2010, Carroll took some time to develop his game. Just as he did, the Dolphins allowed the Maryland product to walk in free agency. Carroll never became a lockdown cornerback, but he was a key role player for three years with the Eagles, starting 27 games his final two years there. His contract with Philadelphia paid him $5 million over two years — plenty affordable for cornerback depth.

2015

No notable losses. Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, Charles Clay and Randy Starks never had jumps in production in their post-Miami careers.

2016

Olivier Vernon – Vernon received a monster contract from the Giants, but an extension could’ve reduced Miami’s cost on the hometown product. Drafted out of The U, Vernon’s breakout season happened in his contract year, and pushed Miami out of the market to bring him back entirely. Vernon’s highest AV mark in Miami was 8; his first season with the Giants nearly doubled that with an eye-popping 15 approximate value figure.

Lamar Miller – Another Miami native, Miller never took the league by storm the way some assumed he would, but he signed a cheap deal to move to Houston after the 2015 season. This is more of a nod to the Dolphins scouting staff to find a good player in the fourth round.

Rishard Matthews – Miami used a first-round pick on Devante Parker the year before, but that premium pick could’ve been used elsewhere if Miami were capable of self-scouting their own receiver corps. Matthews first season in Tennessee was the best of his career. His 945 yards and nine touchdowns were both career highs.

Billy Turner – A left tackle at North Dakota State, Turner was shuffled about the offensive line before flaming out in embarrassing fashion through a difficult 1-4 start to the 2016 season. Turner went on to start for the Broncos, where he impressed the Packers to the tune of a four-year, $28 million deal this past offseason.

2017

No notable departures

2018

Ndamukong Suh – The original signing was probably never a good idea, but Suh was an integral part of the Rams run to the Super Bowl last season. Again, this piece is to prove that Miami has done plenty to acquire talent over the years.

Mike Pouncey – Pouncey was a shell of his former self at this stage. Injuries were always the primary issue with Pouncey, but he was a first-round pick in 2011 that played in four pro bowls. There isn’t a football fan on earth that wouldn’t sign up for that return on the 15th pick in the draft.

2019

We can’t write the final story on Laremy Tunsil or Minkah Fitzpatrick yet, but those two, along with Kenyan Drake, provide Grier with quite the endorsement of the 2016 NFL Draft. Fitzpatrick wasn’t a part of that class, but Xavien Howard was, and he remains in Miami.

We might look back on these trades of Tunsil and Fitzpatrick as catastrophic failures, but both will always hold superiority to Miami’s decision to part with so many of the names we just mentioned. The Dolphins received premium compensation for both players, including quarterback prices for Tunsil.

The Skinny

Now, with almost no considerable resources on his roster, Brian Flores is getting similar production from his stripped-down squad than what Adam Gase got the last two years. And Gase did it with far more money and accolades scattered throughout the locker room.

These types of blunders stretch all the way back to Rob Ninkovich, and Evan Mathis before him. The hope, with Brian Flores and his unique ability to develop players acquired off the scrap heap, is that those days are gone.

If they are, with all the premium resources Chris Grier, Marvin Allen, Reggie McKenzie and the entire front office has to work with, the Dolphins can quickly become a team to be reckoned with for years to come.

@WingfieldNFL

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