Decoding the Dolphins mixed signals leading up to the 2019 season
A lot has changed for the Miami Dolphins since their last game of the 2018 season. They have a new coach, new coaching staff, new quarterbacks, and a slew of other new faces. Most importantly, the Dolphins have embraced a new philosophy for building a winning NFL team. Are they tanking? Are they rebuilding? Are they trying to win games? From the outside, you’ll drive yourself crazy trying to keep up with the Dolphins roster movements and trying to decipher what philosophy they’re adhering to.
Take the QB position as an example. They signed Ryan Fitzpatrick as their presumed starter, paying him a backup’s salary. Then, a few months later they trade a 2nd and 5th round pick for Josh Rosen. While all of this was going on, reports and rumors persisted that the Dolphins were tanking and had their eyes set on the 2020 draft class to find their QB of the future. Seriously, just looking at the QB position and trying to figure out what they’re doing will give you a migraine.
What really happened is that the Dolphins needed a starting QB, but didn’t want to pay him much. They flirted with the Teddy Bridgewater’s of the world, but ultimately fell back to Fitzpatrick. Then Rosen became available via trade and the Dolphins saw a low-risk, high-reward opportunity. They pounced. While all this is going on, they’re looking at the 2020 draft for a future QB. After watching the offseason and preseason unfold, there is no reason for the Dolphins to start Fitzpatrick. Let Rosen play (albeit behind a horrid offensive line) and see what he has over the course of 16 games. Then you can make an informed decision on whether or not you need a QB in the 2020 draft.
The Dolphins are rebuilding, they are not tanking (despite what some beat reporters will tell you). They’re finally building a team the right way, not looking to put band-aids on problems in one offseason. They’re taking the long-term approach, looking ahead to future drafts, future free agents, etc.
It’s no secret that if the Dolphins want a top QB in next year’s draft, they’ll need to have a high draft pick (or the ammo to trade up for one). Fortunately, the 2020 QB draft class is loaded with great prospects. I believe it will be similar to the Eli Manning, Big Ben, Phillip Rivers draft. There is that kind of talent. The point is, the Dolphins are doing a lot of things in 2019 to set them up for success in the future.
Consider the fact that they ate salary cap space to make trades and acquire draft picks (Robert Quinn, Ryan Tannehill, etc.). They cut TJ McDonald and took a dead money cap hit in 2019 vs. 2020. They’re finally biting the bullet and ridding themselves of bad contracts for mediocre players. Additionally, they’re taking flyers on players that are young and could blossom into very good football players (Nkemdiche, Rosen, Rowe, etc.). Because of this roster formation, they might struggle in 2019, which they are okay with. But if they hit on a few of these players, making reasonable salaries, they’ll be set up for success in 2020 and beyond.
So why are the Dolphins interested in Jadeveon Clowney? They’re interested because he’s the perfect scheme fit for the Dolphins new defense. He’s young and a Pro Bowl caliber player. Yes, he’ll have to get paid in 2 years with a new contract. BUT, by that time, the Dolphins should be ready to compete AND whether it’s Rosen or a 2020 rookie QB, they’ll have very little invested in the QB position from a salary standpoint….so they’ll have money to spend.
The Dolphins have elite building blocks with Tunsil (LT) and Howard (CB). They need to find an elite pass rusher and elite QB. If they can cross one of those needs of the list for say, a late 2nd or 3rd round pick + a player, they’ll do it. They also have some very promising young players (Baker, Minkah, Grant, etc.) who can turn into Pro Bowlers.
A Clowney addition would also show that the Dolphins are investing heavily in their defense. Add that to the fact that they plan on being a power running team (heck, they drafted a fullback!) and you have the formula for success that I’ve been asking for. A top-5 defense and a power rushing attack in the heat of South Florida for 8 games will wear teams out. Those 2 things also travel well into wintry conditions (see: Buffalo and New England).
So if you really look at it, the Dolphins mixed-signals aren’t all that mysterious. They’re just different from what we’ve been accustomed to!
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