After a season that saw the Miami Dolphins finish with their best record since 2016, there are plenty of questions surrounding the team’s future – and if that future includes the man expected just one year ago to be the next great quarterback in franchise history.
On the surface, it would have seemed that Tua Tagovailoa would be that person after last year’s No. 5 overall pick finished with just over 1,800 yards passing and 11 touchdowns in his nine starts - six of those starts ending in wins for Miami.
Still, a disappointing blowout loss in the regular season finale not only kept the Dolphins out of the postseason, but also led to some doubts if Tua was ready to take over the team.
Questions about Tagovailoa’s future in Miami were amplified with news in recent weeks that Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, arguably one of the best signal callers in the NFL, has demanded a trade - and with Miami full of draft picks, the Fins have room to potentially make a move.
With free agency starting in just over a week, the question is being asked before players can start signing new deals on March 17th: should Miami trade Tua and several of those picks for Watson and the chance at a deep playoff run in 2021?
Pro: Why Watson Makes Miami an Instant Super Bowl Contender
If the Dolphins want a return to the era when Hall of Fame QB Dan Marino was leading the offense, Watson may be the closest thing getting them to that point. In his fourth NFL season in 2020, the former Clemson star threw for over 4,800 yards and 33 touchdowns for a team that had little else on offense and won just four games.
Watson has started all but one game the last three seasons (all of which ended with him being named to the Pro Bowl) while throwing for just under a combined 13,000 yards and 85 touchdowns. If the Dolphins are able to keep together parts from last season’s 10-6 team, it’s scary what Watson would do to that offense.
Houston is a team looking to rebuild, so they would be more than willing to have a young quarterback in Tagovailoa while not paying much of the $111 million guaranteed to Watson when he signed his contract extension before the 2020 season - an extension Miami may have to eat much of while getting rid of a player who in his first season looked more like Tim Tebow than Marino.
The Dolphins could sweeten the pot with several of the five picks they have over the first three rounds in April’s NFL Draft - including the third overall pick that once belonged to the Texans. If you put two or three of those picks with Tua, it might be too much for the Texans to say ‘no’ to.
Con: Why the Long Term of Tua is Better Than the Short Term of Watson
South Florida was beyond ecstatic when the Dolphins took Tagovailoa in the first round of last April’s draft and seem to forget that he was the first starter for Miami to lead an above .500 Fins in the final game of the regular season since…Matt Moore in 2016.
To cut Tua out of the equation seems to make no sense to do since he was considered the answer less than one calendar year ago. Tagovailoa, with the help of backup and longtime journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick, were responsible for a five-win increase over the previous season while Watson was the man under center for a six-win DECREASE in Houston last season.
Maybe even more valuable for the Dolphins currently are those five picks in the first three rounds of April’s draft. With the third overall pick, Miami can draft a franchise wide receiver, like LSU standout Ja’Marr Chase or even Alabama’s DeVonta Smith - who shined during his Heisman Trophy winning season in 2020 that ended with a national title won inside Hard Rock Stadium.
Later picks can be used on offensive line help or even a running back like Alabama’s Najee Harris.
Watson also is nearly three years older than Tagovailoa - and with both playing in a NFL that some say stands for “Not For Long”, every day counts at this rate. That and turning off some free agents from Miami over not showing commitment to players right before free agency starts may be enough to keep this trade from taking place.
- March 17th – League year and free agency begins at 4 PM
- April 19th – Start of offseason workouts for Dolphins
- April 23rd – Last day of restricted free agency signing period
- April 29th to May 1st – NFL Draft in Las Vegas