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Why Ryan Tannehill Will Be Miami’s Starting Quarterback in 2019

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Buckle up, Dolphins fans. There is no TL;DR version of this. If you want to be invested in who the starting quarterback should be for the Miami Dolphins next season, take into account every bit of information that goes along with it. And I’m telling you upfront, there’s a lot.

This piece is not for someone who is sensitive or emotionally-charged about their 5-5 football team. Suspend your current desire to blow up the organization and start from scratch, and take a look at what questions and evidence lie before you.

Miami has been at a crossroads since it fired the greatest head coach and quarterback in the history of the NFL; almost as if it’s payment for irrationally and emotionally moving on from our franchise’s all-time greats. And, going into 2019, the Dolphins remain at the same crossroads they were at 20 years ago.

How exactly do they alleviate themselves from mediocrity?

The calls for a new head coach are slowly rumbling, but they aren’t as loud as the outcries for a new quarterback. While the team has been teased with Matt Moore, Jay Cutler and now Brock Osweiler (all previously starting quarterbacks for their former teams), it has never been able to dismantle Ryan Tannehill from the starting spot. Even David Garrard couldn’t stay healthy enough in his own backyard to unseat a rookie quarterback on the gridiron fresh off the 8th-overall selection in the 2012 NFL draft.

So while (futile) attempts have been made, the team has never successfully replaced the embattled quarterback. Which has led to such a porous cry for change, and for Miami to do “whatever it takes” to land their next beacon of hope.

Careful, Dolphins fans, as the last time the team did whatever it took, they signed Mike Wallace and Ndamukong Suh. And to an extent, Ryan Tannehill was a forced selection by Stephen Ross; a billion-dollar business man who understands that quarterbacks = cash for his entertainment business.

But let’s be rational, not emotional.

Yes, there is no doubt this team needs to guide itself off its current course and towards a new horizon. It has been:

  • 45 years without a championship
  • 34 years without a Super Bowl appearance
  • 17 (most likely 18) years without a playoff victory
  • 10 years since their last division title

This team has produced 2 Hall of Fame players over the past 3 decades. To say that this team has been irrelevant is somewhat of an understatement. It’s evident something needs to change.

This article isn’t to convince you that Ryan Tannehill is the answer. In fact, if you’ve come to the conclusion that Tannehill definitively isn’t the solution and the team needs someone new, I won’t blame you one bit. You’re not wrong. Like Bleacher Report said, after seven seasons, we really have no idea what we have in Tannehill. But this article will prepare you for the nightmare that lies ahead; the reality we face as we try to become a franchise we can be proud of once again.

Below are some things I’d like you to consider when taking into account Miami’s 2019 starting quarterback:

“Poor” Quarterback Class

According to every “expert’s” opinion, this is going to be a weak draft class. I’m sure come February we’re going to hype ourselves into believing that four quarterbacks should go in the first round, but remember back to this time when the aura around the quarterback draft class was disappointing.

The top two quarterbacks (Justin Herbert of Oregon and Dwayne Haskins of Ohio State) might not even declare for the draft, leaving NFL teams reaching desperately past a person’s true draft value to select one of the other “top” quarterbacks coming out.

With Miami likely scheduled to select somewhere in the late teens, they will either have to settle for giving up a treasure trove of draft picks to move up, or remain steady and select a quarterback that drops to them.

Teams have wised up since the mid-2000s, and a quarterback of Aaron Rodgers‘ caliber isn’t falling to Miami again. So instead, Miami has to give up extra lottery tickets and cheap roster spots in exchange for a prayer that your less-than-desired quarterback class strikes lightning in a bottle.

Are you fine passing on patching the defensive line, the linebacking unit, a second cornerback opposite Xavien Howard, or a wide receiver to compliment Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson, all for the chance of selecting what’s more likely to be the next Tim Tebow or Branden Weeden?

Although we have hindsight on our side, let’s take a look at the previous 10 draft classes and see how the quarterback selections panned out:

Click here for a larger image

Over the course of a decade, there are 10 quarterbacks that we would easily take over Ryan Tannehill, 8 who are on par with Tannehill (Deshaun Watson is the only one of that bunch that you can argue is definitively better, though I’m hesitant to say that right now with his limited sample size and annual injuries), and 57 that are clearly below him.

Out of all of those quarterbacks taken, how many teams traded up in the 1st-round (or into the 1st-round) to get their QB? 19

How many of those QBs would we take over Tannehill? Not counting the uncertainty of the 2018 draft class, 4.

Most of the trades that worked out ended up being quarterbacks taken within the first 5 picks of the draft. And even then, Mark Sanchez and Robert Griffin III were busts, so moving into the top-5 still isn’t a guarantee.

Miami is going to have to (over) commit to a quarterback that is genuinely one of the top-3 best prospects coming out of college, but they shouldn’t press to make someone a top-3 talent. And while there are still quarterbacks worthy of being selected outside of the top-5 (Patrick Mahomes at 10, Watson at 12, Joe Flacco at 18), the truth is, you need to identify a legitimate, elite talent at quarterback in order to convince yourself that it’s worth giving up extra assets to obtain them.

Over the past decade, there are only two quarterbacks selected outside of the top-5 that are definitively better than Tannehill: Russell Wilson (75th overall) and Patrick Mahomes (10th).

Though it’s not a given, if we were to make the assumption that this quarterback class is equivalent to one of the “weak” quarterback classes mentioned above (2008-2011, 2013-2015), Miami’s best option would be Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford or Cam Newton, who would all be desired, yet two went #1 overall and the other was the 3rd-overall pick (that should have also been #1 overall). Are you convinced Justin Herbert or Dwayne Haskins are any of these quarterbacks? Are they worth the cost of a franchise quarterback?

Seeing how 2019 isn’t the year to invest in a rookie quarterback, Miami might be interested in taking a chance on a potential free agent.

Expensive Agents

Are you willing to provide a riskier quarterback you know absolutely nothing about with a larger contract than what you’re giving Ryan Tannehill?

That’s the first compromise you have to pass if you’re going to go after a free agent quarterback.

With Kirk Cousins possibly setting a new precedence for quarterbacks after obtaining $84m fully guaranteed from the Minnesota Vikings, quarterback contracts are only going to get more expensive as each season passes.

Desperate teams take desperate chances, and teams are willing to pay less-than-stellar quarterbacks (with the most minute bit of potential) for the hope that they can bring their team out of the abyss of irrelevance.

  • Brock Osweiler: $72m, $37m guaranteed with the Houston Texans
  • Sam Bradford: $78m, $50m guaranteed with the St. Louis Rams after being drafted; $36m, $22m guaranteed with the Philadelphia Eagles; $20m, $15m guaranteed with the Arizona Cardinals
  • Matt Flynn: $20.5m, $9m guaranteed by the Seattle Seahawks

Are recent examples of quarterbacks that received a bunch of money due to the desperation of the teams signing them.

I’m not saying spending on a free agent quarterback is the wrong route to go; if you’ve identified an upgrade, you try and obtain it. But how many successful quarterbacks have hit free agency since 2010? Take a look at the quarterbacks who recently signed free agent contracts and look what they earned:

Click here for a larger image

I was going to abstain from color-coding this chart, as it was just going to be a sea of red, but figured I’d leave it in for visual effect.

Now, to be fair, most of these quarterbacks were signed with the intent to be a backup, and nothing more. And that’s fine, but Miami isn’t looking for a backup quarterback right now, they’re looking for an answer, and this chart lets you know just how many answers are out there on an annual basis.

Other than two Hall of Fame quarterbacks not moving anywhere (Peyton Manning in 2011 and Drew Brees in 2018) and then Manning’s unique case in 2012, there are only two quarterbacks whose signings worked out for the team: Alex Smith in 2012 and Kirk Cousins in 2016. You can argue Joe Flacco in 2013, but that contract was horrendous and he is not all that good to begin with.

Jimmy Garoppolo and Cousins’ recent contracts remain to be seen and are temporarily filled in yellow; though I have a feeling those have a better chance of being shaded red than they do green when we reflect back on this a few years from now.

Even now, I’m not all too convinced that Kirk Cousins is anything special. Cousins is a career 31-33-2 quarterback with a 116/60 TD/INT ratio. He took over for a team that Case Keenum led to a 13-3 record and the NFC Championship game, and he is currently 5-3-1. He might be the most successful quarterback on this list not named Manning or Brees, but it’s mostly by default. For comparisons sake, Tannehill is a career 40-42 quarterback with a 114/71 TD/INT ratio…or about the same as the quarterback currently making $28m annually.

Unless it’s a rare case like Drew Brees or Peyton Manning, when their previous team had a top-5 first-round pick waiting in the wings, teams don’t get rid of good quarterbacks.

So let’s take a look at our available options this year (including quarterbacks that are speculated to be released by their current teams):

I could list the Sam Bradford‘s, the Matt Barkley‘s and the Nathan Peterman‘s of the NFL, but we’re not dipping down that low. Plus, give me Nick Mullen (not really).

Above are your most realistic possibilities. How many of those quarterbacks would you confidently select to a larger contract than Ryan Tannehill’s AND confidently expect better results?

The only quarterback on that list that has a ceiling is Teddy Bridgewater, one of the most unknown commodities in this game right now. His hype will elevate him to a rich contract, similar to what hope accomplished for Sam Bradford throughout his career.

It’s quite possible Bridgewater is completely durable and there is zero injury risk, while Tannehill, once an iron-man is this sport, is deemed injury-prone. But Bridgewater’s first two seasons, the only seasons we really know, are on par (or worse) than Tannehill’s first two seasons. Is this similar to when a musician or athlete dies at a young age and we never witness their decline, forever immortalizing them as “stars” in our minds? We never got to see Bridgewater develop, so there’s hope that he can regain his franchise form. This is the biggest risk the Dolphins front office has to ask themselves, is Bridgewater the bridge to the future? The traits we wish Tannehill possessed are easily identified in Bridgewater. He has “it”. But outside of the 2018 preseason, where he looked good, what are we really investing $25m-per-season in?

Are you taking a flier on Eli Manning, an aging quarterback who has crumbled to a 5-19 record over the past two seasons while having better offensive weapons than the Dolphins?

Are we bringing in Jameis Winston‘s character flaws or Blake Bortles‘ inconsistency? Look at how badly he’s holding down a Super Bowl caliber defense in Jacksonville.

Convinced Tyrod Taylor deserves a shot after falling out of favor with his past two teams?

If your answer is Derek Carr, then I wonder why you would want to bring in a more expensive quarterback who has under-performed with a team that features better skill position players than the Dolphins as well as one of the best offensive lines in the NFL.

You also have to consider how long you’re signing this quarterback for. Is this a long-term solution that you’re investing close to $100m in? Or is this a temporary solution until you find your next quarterback in the draft?

Chances are, you’re looking for a quick fix while impatiently waiting for the 2020 draft class to hit. In that case, how many quarterbacks are taking one-year deals and how many of them will accept that contract for anything significantly less than Tannehill’s $26.6m next season?

The quarterbacks that are taking prove-it contracts are going to be in the most precarious of situations and will essentially select anything. Which means say hello to Trevor Siemian.

No one is saying Tannehill’s $26.6m cap hit is ideal, but when compared to the other options out there, it doesn’t seem as daunting.

Contracts Guaranteed To Make You Cringe

This is where Miami bites itself in the ass.

Ryan Tannehill will cost $13.4m against the cap if he’s cut (along with $5.5m in 2020), while costing $26.6m if he’s on the roster.

Taking into account the $18m increase in Tannehill’s cap hit from 2018 to 2019 ($8.6m vs $26.6m), it’s not like their cap space will be too dire. Below is a quick summary of the players likely to be released (and what it’ll cost the team) as well as the likely pay raises coming up.

Yes, the players you release will need to be replaced, but losing Andre Branch, Robert Quinn and Danny Amendola isn’t too much of a downgrade. And while Kiko Alonso has had himself a “good” year, he is also a liability and can be replaced at a much cheaper rate.

One of the most intriguing questions going into 2019 will be the status of Kenny Stills. He is set to earn $9.75m if he’s on the roster, but only $3.5m in dead cap space if he’s released. Stills is a wonderful leader and has a tremendous work ethic, but I wonder if Miami approaches him with the possibility of a contract extension in mind. Lower the rate for the next two seasons while giving him more guaranteed money. It’s also possible Miami does this with some of their other players, giving them more space to play around with in free agency.

Miami’s recent draft history gives me confidence that they can find at least 2-3 impact players on rookie deals.

It’s also not too far fetched to assume the Dolphins are capable of cutting Tannehill’s contract loose and eating the money – given what they did to Ndamukong Suh this past offseason.

Suh and Tannehill are different people and different players who are impacting different positions.

We saw how miserable the Dolphins run game was with Suh in the middle of the defensive line. It was better than what it is currently (so is everyone else), so Suh has that going for him, but he wasn’t enough to elevate this team to the next level.

Whether you think Tannehill is a Super Bowl-caliber quarterback or not is one thing, but the production Tannehill provides is abundantly better than a quarterback making less than $20m a season. We can throw $10m at Jay Cutler, but that was obviously a waste, and would have made more sense for Miami to go with a 720k Brock Osweiler than a slightly better option at $10m.

How far do you want to downgrade for being cheap?

For a team that likely won’t (realistically) address the quarterback position until 2020, retaining Ryan Tannehill gives you a winning combination with Adam Gase for 2019, and allows you to retain your assets for 2020 – should a rookie quarterback not be immediately available this offseason.

Or, if you’re convinced, bundle your assets and select a quarterback this year in the draft while retaining Tannehill for one more season. Allow your rookie to learn and grow while also developing a potentially hot trade chip to help recover some of those lost assets.

Ryan Tannehill is essentially on a one-year contract (at $26.6m) for 2019, with a $5.5m dead cap hit in 2020 (if released). Rather than continue to pay players that aren’t on your team, retain the contract you unwisely extended during the 2018 offseason and finish out the Ryan Tannehill era with a concrete answer.

Next year is Ryan Tannehill’s “prove it” year. Miami isn’t going to extend him any further (unless he chooses an extremely reduced rate with the intent of obtaining more guaranteed money. Think 2-years, $40m), and are poised to pounce on the 2020 draft class.

How Much Fun is Ross Really Having With His Marionettes?

With every situation comes a caveat, and that caveat rests in the ambitious and perplexic mind of the team’s owner, Stephen Ross.

At this point, Ryan Tannehill’s status is entirely cemented to Adam Gase’s tenure. If Stephen Ross decides to make a move for one of the Harbaugh brothers, or another splash hire he identifies somewhere else, then you can bet the new regime will look to utilize all of the draft picks and cash they have to build their own brand.

We still have another 6 weeks to go, and if the team flutters miserably, it’s quite possible Ross removes Gase, Mike Tannenbaum and Chris Grier in a complete upheaval. Though if the team stays competitive and ends up with at least 7 wins, it’s likely Gase stays, which means it’s likely Tannehill stays.

Find someone who defends you the way Adam Gase defends Ryan Tannehill.

Fast-forward to the 6:23 mark when Gase is asked about Tannehill as the future quarterback of the team. Look at his body language the moment the reporter begins to ask the question. Listen to the tone of his voice as he’s giving his answer. That’s a passionate response. That’s a head coach who has conviction in who his starting quarterback should be. Adam Gase remaining as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins is a separate topic for another time, but as long as he is the head coach in 2019, Ryan Tannehill will be his starting quarterback.

I believe that Adam Gase needs to focus more on being a head coach and less of an offensive coordinator, but there’s no doubt that Gase believes he has one of the better quarterbacks in the league already on his roster. No one can argue that Tannehill has all of the intangibles (arm strength, accuracy, speed/agility), but everyone is aware that he doesn’t have the “killer instincts” that are expected to come at the position.

I will also buy the notion that you might be skeptical of Tannehill’s shoulder. While I do not believe this will affect him in 2019, if there is any chance he can miss time leading into August, the injury is not worth the hassle and this all is voided.

But, if he is declared healthy, I will discard the narrative that Tannehill is injury-prone. Unless we consider the large gash of an offensive line he’s had to play with throughout his entire entire career as an injury, I’m not sold. Prevent defensive linemen from collapsing on his knee at full force or tugging his arm backwards as he’s trying to fire a 60mph football over 40 yards (one week after another 275lbs+ defensive lineman drove him to the ground and landed full force on the same shoulder) and you’ll see a perfectly healthy quarterback.

Dolphins fan, Rick Morgan, has collected the jersey of every starting quarterback for the Miami Dolphins since Dan Marino.

Don’t let this fool you, I’m all for finding a new quarterback. I would love nothing more than to set this franchise on the right path to success rather than muddling in mediocrity. Miami has missed on its fair share of opportunities and it has haunted this franchise for years. I don’t need to tell you about Drew Brees x2 or Aaron Rodgers or even the pain of watching Alex Smith go to the Washington Redskins this past offseason for a 3rd-round pick (though who’s to say Kansas City would have traded him in-conference).

You don’t need to be reminded about A.J. Feeley or Joey Harrington, who are substantially better than John Beck, Cleo Lemon and Pat White. I mean, when Gus Frerotte rounds out your top-three quarterbacks this century (and Jay Cutler is #4), it’s kind of easy to be numb to it all.

There is a lot of pain and frustration pent up inside every Dolphins fan. It has been 45 years since the Dolphins were Super Bowl champions, and yet, we’re not even talking about how frustrated we are that this team hasn’t won the big game…we just want to win a playoff game first.

This franchise needs a new course. Whether that’s a new coach, new general manager, new quarterback or new owner, it needs a change. It’s evident that the fanbase has become disgustingly tired of mediocrity, and wants the team to lead us down a path that’s more promising than the uncertainty another year of Ryan Tannehill brings.

There’s an entire generation of Dolphins fans that hasn’t witnessed success. Two decades worth of NFL seasons, and, frankly, your life, wasted on watching an average product. It’s time to take that next step. Just be bold…not stupid.

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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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. marchcool

    November 19, 2018 at 11:41 am

    Ross should fire himself.
    He’s the genesis of this mediocre franchise. His pathetic front office is just the mirror of himself. Bad decision after bad decision. Tannehill is a hardworker QB, it is not his fault having a terrible OL during most of his tenure and terrible and pusilanimous coaches around him.

  2. Eric Redding

    November 19, 2018 at 1:16 pm

    Tannehill has accuracy and is not injury prone? Lmaooo Otherwise, nice work. We will suck again next year.

  3. Bill Hilt

    January 15, 2019 at 3:35 am

    Dwayne Haskins has more QB chops right now than a truckload of Tannehills. QBs are born, not made. Tannehill was not born to be a QB.Uts as simple as that.Fins have been waiting for him to develop while on Saturdays, college QBs who will never play in the NFL show more QB chops than Tannehill will ever have the capacity to have. I said it his first year, and it has been proven ever since.He cannot throw deep, he makes O lines look far worse than they are because his mind moves at college D-III speeds, and he will always finds a way to shrink/wilt at the worst time possible.
    HOWEVER_
    Dwayne Haskins is a future HOF QB. To anyone reading this, you heard it here first. Dolphins should make a deal with the Giants to get their pick, and send Tannehill off to North Korea to overthrow Kim Yung Um.

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Scouting Reports

State of the AFC East

Oliver Candido

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With the aging empire of the New England Patriots hopefully coming to an end in the coming years the arms race and power struggle will enter overdrive. The Patriots have run this division for over a decade but all things must come to an end, with Tom Brady nearing his goal of playing till 45 and Bill Belichick turning 66 there is blood in the water, and the rest of the East will look to grab the crown and run with it.

Dec 23, 2018; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) and head coach Bill Belichick head out onto the field to shake hands with the Buffalo Bills after their 24-12 win at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

New England Patriots

Roster:

Tom Brady’s play has declined but that hasn’t stopped New England from being a powerhouse, the offensive line will welcome Isiah Wynn back the former 1st rounder, he tore his Achilles in camp 2018. The skill positions are mixed, Sony Michelle provided a solid rookie campaign but there are holes in the wide receiver and tight end positions. Rob Gronkowski is pondering retirement meanwhile Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, and Cordarrelle Patterson are all set to hit Free Agency. Defensively New England has excelled on maximizing talent with what they have but with that being said they have some notable players departing such as Trey Flowers, Malcom Brown, and possibly the McCourty twins.

Free Agent Acquisition:

Markus Golden (EDGE)

Pick 32, 1st round:

Kelvin Harmon (WR)

 

New York Jets

Roster:

The New York Jets are not a star-studded team and will be ongoing a scheme change led by Coach Adam Gase. Offensively it would be easier to name what they do have then to name what they don’t, Sam Darnold is the only true “bright” spot on the offensive side of the ball. Multiple reports state that Isiah Crowell will be released in the coming month so half back will need to be addressed, in addition to wide receiver, tight end, and offensive line. On the opposite side of the ball things seem to be a bit more promising with Leonard Williams, Jamal Adams, Marcus Maye. New York will need to add a true pass rusher along with some other linebackers and defensive backs as well.

Free Agent Acquisition:

Le’Veon Bell (HB)

Pick 3, 1st round:

Josh Allen (EDGE)

 

Buffalo Bills

Roster:

Buffalo has a good defense that is paired with the 31st ranked offense, they are in need of talent to surround Josh Allen with. Josh Allen needs an entire cast around him, most importantly an offensive line who can buy him some time, but it doesn’t stop there. After releasing former fullback wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin and Charles Clay the only player who can truly garner some targets is aging halfback Lesean McCoy. Although the defense has played well they are also in need of some attention, with Kyle Williams retiring they will need another defensive tackle in addition to a true edge rusher. This roster is still being rebuilt and could use talent on almost every level offensively but they need to give injury prone Josh Allen some decent offensive line play.

Free Agent Acquisition:

Trenton Brown (OT)

Pick 9, 1st round:

Jawaan Taylor (OT)

 

Miami Dolphins

Roster:

Our beloved Miami Dolphins will be going through many changes and a complete rebuild directed by Chris Grier and Brian Flores. Miami has talent at the skill positions with young and inexpensive talent at halfback, tight end, and wide receiver. With the upcoming release/trade of Ryan Tannehill the biggest need will be finding his replacement via free agency or draft. Resources will have to be allocated to the trenches as Miami lacks talent on the interior offensive line and on the edge defensively. Miami’s defense is looking to be a multiple look defense in order to achieve this they will have to add versatility on every level off the defense and add depth to the secondary. This regime will be taking the long painful road of a true rebuild as Miami has been mediocre for far too long.

Free Agent Acquisition:

Mitch Morse (OL)

Pick 13, 1st round:

Rashan Gary (EDGE)

 

Madden 19 Giveaway:

I am giving away Madden 19 on Xbox One for free, all you have to do is find my favorite player. I will add a clue to every article until someone answers correctly. Tweet the answer to me and DM me on twitter @BrazilCandido and don’t forget to give the @LockedOnDolphins and it’s writers some love as well!

HERE IS THE HINT:

My favorite player once caught 29 passes in a season while 11 of them went for TDs! That means over a 3rd of his receptions were Touchdowns!

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Miami Dolphins

State of the Roster – Cornerbacks

Travis Wingfield

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Prelude

The 2019 off-season schedule had an unusual beginning for the Miami Dolphins. Not that the once proud, winningest organization in the NFL is suddenly new to coaching turnover (quite the opposite, rather). It’s the timing of the hire that provides the distinction from Stephen Ross’ three other head coaching appointments.

Typically, when the incumbent or new staff is in-place by Early-January, the roster dominoes begin to take shape. Waiting for Brian Flores to win his fifth Lombardi Trophy delayed that process by a month.

Now, with the majority of Coach Flores’ staff settling into their new offices, we can begin to speculate and forecast what will transpire over the next three months.

It’s not hyperbole to say that these next three months are the most important of Chris Grier’s professional career. Miami’s new General Manager is charged with resurrecting a franchise that, in the last 15 years, has fallen from the peak of the winning percentage mountain top, all the way down to fifth place on that obscure, yet illustrious list.

In this series we are going to explore the current assets on the roster and what their futures hold. Plus, we’ll explore the free-agency market and point out scheme fit pieces the Dolphins might seek to add in April’s draft.

Cornerbacks 

Current Cash Owed: ~ $9.3 Million
NFL Average: ~ $16 Million

Players Under Contract – 2019 Cash Owed:

Xavien Howard – $1.3 M

Tying for the league lead in interceptions (7), Howard continued his breakthrough performance that began late in 2017. Among the game’s top corners, Howard excels in man coverage, offers an impressive physical style of press play, and tracks the ball exceptionally well.

The Dolphins will likely look to extend Howard in the near future, despite rumors of his presence on the trade block. Stephone Gilmore’s lockdown Super Bowl performance afforded the Pats defense ultimate creativity – something Brian Flores will want to retain in Miami.

Howard’s Projected 2019 Action: #1 Corner

Bobby McCain – $5.6 M

Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

In his first season with a new payday, McCain struggled. Kicking outside on the perimeter was a challenge that exposed his lack of long-speed. Still a jitterbug inside, McCain offers a knack for the nuance of the position in both man and zone.

Injuries mounted on McCain as he tried to fight through a number of issues all season. He’s a team leader and a top-shelf slot corner – that much will be evident when he’s back in his regular role in 2019.

McCain’s Projected 2019 Action: Slot Corner

Cordrea Tankersley – $673 K

It’s difficult to imagine a worse sophomore season for Tankersley. Benched, ran-ragged, and ultimately a torn ACL, it was a steep decline from an impressive rookie campaign. The mental aspect of the game proved to be a challenge for Tankersley and, to be fair, he wasn’t alone in that portion of Matt Burke’s awful scheme.

Likely starting the year on the physically unable to perform list, Tankersley will get a fresh start in a scheme that accentuates his strengths – playing man coverage.

Tankersley’s Projected 2019 Action: Depth (Begins the season on PUP)

Jalen Davis – $570 K

My pick for biggest sleeper on the roster in 2019, Davis flashed big-time potential in his limited work late in the season. In the Jacksonville game Davis forced a fumble and broke up a third down pass in the end zone. He’s fiery, aggressive, and Miami’s best option behind McCain in the slot.

Davis’ Projected 2019 Action: Backup Slot

Cornell Armstrong – $570 K

Thrust into action late last season, 2018 was a learning experience for Miami’s sixth-round rookie. Armstrong fits the prototype for length and style, but he was worked over in the New England game by Julian Edelman (hardly a bad look).

Armstrong will compete for time on the perimeter this year and continue to serve as a core special teamer.

Armstrong’s Projected 2019 Action: Depth

Torry McTyer – $645 K

McTyer’s numbers look worse than his actual performance. He was whipped consistently, starting with the beat down in Foxboro, but his good coverage was beat by better throws in the Chicago game.

There’s upside with McTyer, but he needs to show it in 2019 if he wants to have a future as a starter in Miami.

McTyer’s Projected 2019 Action: Depth

Jomal Wiltz – Not yet announced (Camp Minimum)

Wiltz was drafted by the Eagles in 2017 and later migrated to the New England practice squad in 2018. Playing under current Dolphins Cornerbacks Coach Josh Boyer, Wiltz has a head start on the new defensive scheme and techniques.

The most interesting aspect of Wiltz’s acquisition, he’s just 5’10’’ 180 pounds – an outlier for Miami’s prototype at the position.

Wiltz’s Projected 2019 Action: Cut/Practice Squad

Pending Free Agents – 

None

2019 Cornerback Free Agent Market:

Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

With McCain locked up and Howard due next, Miami may have to eschew buying its number-two corner. The need is glaring, but the market is lacking. Morris Claiborne, Pierre Desir, and Bradley Roby are the bells of the ball and will be out of Miami’s price range should they hit the market.

There have been two free agent themes presented in this series: 1.) Filling the Foxboro-to-Miami pipeline and, 2.) Reclamation projects.

Jason Verrett qualifies for the second bullet-point – he’s a hell of a player but his medical history is alarming. Eric Rowe is a free agent and falls into both categories. He spent three years with the Patriots but only played in 21 games during that stretch.

Rowe is 6’1’’ with the 205-pound frame to match. Verrett is just 5’10’’ and 188 pounds, but he’s an elite play maker (when healthy).

Miami has been linked to Ronald Darby in recent years. He shakes free from Philadelphia and a poor medical history could significantly reduce his cost.

2019 Cornerback Draft Class:

Cornerback is in play for the 13th pick. DeAndre Baker (Georgia), Byron Murphy (Washington), and Greedy Williams (LSU) head the class at the position.

Baker is feisty and superb in man coverage though he does lack long-speed. Murphy is rail-thin (175 pounds) and his lack of interest in run support will turn the Miami staff off. Williams’ effort has been called into question by some. If that’s true, he will be off Miami’s board altogether as they preach the love of the game.

Penn State’s Amani Oruwariye is an option in the second-round. He first the prototype, he’s ultra-competitive and excels in both press and zone.

Temple’s Rock Ya-Sin plays with the temperament of an alpha dog. His match-ups with Deebo Samuel at the Senior Bowl were the must-see events of the week.

The local product, Michael Jackson from the U, excels in man coverage – he’s a fit.

2019 Cornerback Prediction:

It’s pretty apparent from the free agent and draft classes where the more attractive options lie for the ‘Phins to address this need. Signing a bargain player to compete, and drafting a rookie relatively high should bolster this position into a strength in 2019.

Minkah Fitzpatrick’s official capacity will be as a safety, but he’s going to match-up where the staff sees fit. He’s the best option to cover a detached tight end and he’s probably the best slot cover guy Miami has. We’ll cover him on tomorrow’s podcast and column.

CB #1 – Xavien Howard
CB #2 – Rookie (Baker, Ya-Sin, Jackson)
Slot – Bobby McCain
Slot Backup – Jalen Davis
Depth – Cornell Armstrong
Depth – Torry McTyer / FA (Eric Rowe)
Depth – Cordrea Tankersley (beginning on PUP)

Tomorrow: Safeties

@WingfieldNFL

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NFL Draft

Fits and Starts of the 2019 NFL Draft–Jarrett Stidham

Shawn Digity

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USA Today
A shot of Jarrett Stidham during the Senior Bowl in January. Image courtesy of USA Today

Which 2019 NFL Draft quarterbacks fit for the Miami Dolphins, which ones could start, and which ones aren’t on the table?

Let’s dive into the first installment of Fits and Starts with Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham.

2019 NFL Draft quarterbacks and Fits and Starts intro

I hope you’re enjoying all the Kyler Murray talk; it’s not going anywhere for the next two months. So, with all the hype surrounding the Heisman winner and his decision to play in the NFL over the MLB, it makes sense that Murray shot up the draft boards in rapid fashion.

Murray has been connected with the Miami Dolphins, and it makes sense. The Dolphins need a quarterback to lead the franchise into the future, especially with the start of the Brian Flores era.

But what happens if the Dolphins can’t get Kyler Murrayin the 2019 Draft? Let’s take that a step further. What if the Dolphins don’t get any of the QBs that are pegged to go in the first round? Dwayne HaskinsDrew LockDaniel Jones, along with Murray, are all in the conversation to go off the board in the first round.

The 2019 QB class hasn’t exactly been lauded for its talent, but that doesn’t mean its totally devoid of untapped potential on Days 2 and 3. There are some diamonds in the rough and some could be on the Dolphins’ radar come April. The Fits and Starts mini-series will be focusing on these overshadowed mid-round prospects and who could fit into a role with the Miami Dolphins.

Let’s get into the first name on the list: Jarrett Stidham.

Jarrett Stidham and his NFL Future

The first quarterback on the docket is Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham. He’s an enigmatic player. He was in the conversation last draft season (before he returned to Auburn) to go in the second round. He was also talked about as a dark-horse Heisman candidate before the college season started.

His junior season didn’t go exactly as scripted, though. Jarrett Stidham had an up-and-down season, and his draft stock has been all over the place, consequently. He’s polarizing in the Twitter Draft realm with many draftniks either loving or hating him. I predict that he’ll go in the third round, but I could see the need for the position pushing him into the second round.

In a lot of ways, I would compare Jarrett Stidham to Ryan Tannehill. With that being said, he’s a poor man’s Tannehill. He’s not as athletic and I wouldn’t put his arm strength or accuracy on the same level, but there are comparisons that can be drawn.

Jarrett Stidham Mini-Report

He has some starter qualities, and he’s very raw in that regard. He also did not get a lot of help from his receivers during the 2018 season. I saw a lot of dropped passes that should’ve been “gimmes”. Jarrett Stidham has a moderately high ceiling, I would say. He’s extremely rough around the edges, but I can see him becoming successful in the NFL; it’ll come with many growing pains, albeit.

He also has some accuracy issues from a lot of the film I’ve watched of him. He’ll make some unbelievable down-the-field bombs, but also make some passes that are too high, too inside or too outside. Many passes were underthrown and I saw plays where WRs had to turn and play some defense. The accuracy is a roller coaster, and that’s something that is hard to improve at the next level; accuracy is more a God-given ability than it is a teachable skill.

Something else that I wasn’t wild about was how Stidham reacted to chaos and pressure. When the line collapsed, I saw some ugly escapes. Those ugly escapes will be ugly sacks in the NFL. I saw flashes of decent pocket presence, but like many of Stidham’s qualities, they were inconsistent.

That’s one of the best words I would use to describe Jarrett Stidham: inconsistent. Sometimes he’s good, sometimes he’s bad. Sometimes he’ll thread the needle for a 40-yard touchdown, sometimes he’ll undercut a route. But if the inconsistency is his biggest issue, which I believe it is, then I’m intrigued by his prospects at the next level with some next-level coaching.

At the End of the Day

So, if the Dolphins drafted Jarrett Stidham, it’d likely be on Day 2 and in the second round with the 48th pick. While the Dolphins are rebuilding, I could see them using a popular draft philosophy of taking a quarterback every year until one hits. If that’s the case, then Stidham could very well be a target if the Dolphins decide to address a bigger need or BPA with the 13th pick.

This could be a way for the Dolphins to hedge their bets while keeping an eye on the 2020 quarterbacks. Akin to the Redskins taking both RGIII and Kirk Cousins in the same draft in 2012, the Dolphins could take a flier on a mid-round quarterback and see what he could do in some games under the guidance of a veteran.

While I wouldn’t be upset by the pick, the Miami Dolphins would be wise to stay away from Jarrett Stidham, bottom line. I say that not because of Stidham’s shortcomings or upside but because of where the Miami Dolphins franchise finds itself.

If Jarrett Stidham goes out and has a decent showing in some live action during his rookie season, then that could affect the draft strategy regarding the 2020 class of quarterbacks.

I don’t want the Dolphins to keep waiting and waiting for someone to slowly develop as they did with Ryan Tannehill. Stidham is in a similar mold, looking at his tools and raw potential. I’m not sure how long it would take for Stidham develop, but I could see it turning into a situation where he takes a few steps forward every season.

Jarrett Stidham could be a quarterback that Chris Grier likes, but I would have a hard time believing that he’s a prospect that he would love–and that’s not what the Miami Dolphins need to right the ship.

 

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