MIAMI — The Miami Dolphins ended months of rampant quarterback speculation with two blockbuster draft-pick trades Friday. Dolphins general manager Chris Grier has revealed his cards, and they show Tua Tagovailoa is going to be the 2021 starter.
The realization shouldn’t come as a surprise. ESPN has reported on-the-record commitments from Grier and coach Brian Flores, and behind-the-scenes conversations with others around the team. But until it was made official in some form, there was always going to be daily conversation about Miami moving in a variety of QB directions outside of Tagovailoa.
Armed with the No. 3 pick in a quarterback-heavy draft, the Dolphins decided not to use it to draft another quarterback nor trade the valuable pick to the Houston Texans or the Seattle Seahawks in much-speculated deals for Deshaun Watson or Russell Wilson. Instead, the Dolphins traded down with the San Francisco 49ers, then back up with the Philadelphia Eagles, adding more draft value and flexibility for future years while setting themselves up to take an offensive playmaker at No. 6 overall in the 2021 NFL draft.
• Barnwell (E+): Aftermath of big trades
• Grades (E+): How did each team do?
• Wagoner: Niners boldly move up for QB
• McManus: Eagles have more options
• Wolfe: Dolphins go all-in on Tagovailoa
• NFL draft order: Updating the full list
The Dolphins are all-in on Tagovailoa for this season, and he should have more offensive weapons around him in Year 2. That’s a great sign for those who are betting on him developing into the special quarterback he was at Alabama. It should be a great boost to Tagovailoa’s confidence too.
Maybe the speculation of the Dolphins angling for another quarterback stops. Maybe it doesn’t. But the Dolphins’ plans for 2021 have come into focus.
By essentially swapping their 2022 first-round pick with the 49ers, the Dolphins are betting on themselves to have a strong 2021 season — certainly better than San Francisco. They are betting on Tagovailoa. They believe he can be the quarterback they thought he was when they selected him No. 5 overall in the 2020 draft. Now he has a full offseason in good health, more comfort with his team and the lessons learned from an up-and-down rookie season.
On the other end of this transaction is that if Tagovailoa doesn’t show improvement in Year 2, the Dolphins have flexibility and protection by getting the 49ers’ 2023 first-round pick. The Dolphins will have two first-round picks in 2023, making it the ideal offseason to pivot away from Tagovailoa if it’s clear he’s not the answer.
All eyes are the No. 6 pick, a draft position in which Miami should have its choice among at least three of five top-end prospects whom it was likely considering at No. 3, including Alabama’s DeVonta Smith, LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase, Florida’s Kyle Pitts, Alabama’s Jaylen Waddle and Oregon’s Penei Sewell. The top three picks are now expected to be quarterbacks, and Atlanta at No. 4 is a contender to take a signal-caller as well.
ESPN draft analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Matt Miller agree the Dolphins should use their top pick to draft one of the elite pass-catchers. Kiper gives the slight edge in preference to Smith, with Chase as a close second option. Miller advocates for Chase as the Dolphins’ No. 1 option and Pitts second. My thoughts are the Dolphins should prioritize Smith, go next with Chase and then Pitts.
As long as Miami ends up with one of those three playmakers — and with the No. 6 pick, they are in great position to do so — then they come out of these draft-pick trades as a big winner.
Friday was about the Dolphins and Tagovailoa, who were the two biggest winners of the day.