April 22, 2024

The best decision the Miami Dolphins can make right now is not to offer Tua Tagovailoa one of those mega-contracts that franchise quarterbacks receive until he is a franchise quarterback.

They may offer him half of the current $50 million rate, which would also benefit the team’s salary cap in the short run. Maybe they’ll be coaxed into spending $28 million to be polite. Even said, the deal structure must include a speedy escape ramp if, in two or three years, this is all he can do to enhance his game.

Aside from adding some grit to this offense, deciding what to do with Tagovailoa is the primary priority this offseason because so many other financial decisions must be addressed. He is guaranteed $23.2 million next season after the organization picked up his fifth-year option last winter. The question now is whether they will let the contract run out or extend it.

In recent years, Tagovailoa’s general manager, Chris Grier, and coach, Mike McDaniel, have been overly optimistic about the team. That served a purpose when he got beaten up for the first two seasons. However, they must protect the franchise by not putting Tagovailoa’s future at risk after four years of uncertainty.

Grier stated Monday that the goal is to “have him long term playing at a high level,” but that any contract negotiations would be kept secret. He should personally tell Tagovailoa that he needs to take another significant stride forward before signing a huge contract. He should quietly tell the quarterback that he needs to improve against superior opponents. He should privately suggest, “Don’t be surprised if we take a quarterback with the first pick if the opportunity is there.” Yes, this is how you safeguard a franchise.

The Dolphins have given Tagovailoa the keys to the kingdom for the past two years and have nothing to show for it except some impressive statistics and entertaining moments versus bad opponents. Tagovailoa has had little success against good teams. When the season was on the line, he did not help to rescue it.

If you were looking for a franchise quarterback in the last three Dolphins games, he was on the opposite side. Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson, Buffalo’s Josh Allen, and Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes demonstrated what that type of player looks like.

Did Tagovailoa resemble any of the players? That’s not to say he can’t. This does not imply that the team should be done with him. It suggests there are some concerns about his ceiling following the way his fourth season unfolded.

That means the Dolphins cannot offer him a contract that will bind him to them for the next many years. Are the Dolphins going to sign Ryan Tannehill for a sixth and seventh year because he performs well?

The Dolphins went 10-1 versus teams with losing records, with Tagovailoa throwing 22 touchdowns and eight interceptions for a 110.7 quarterback rating.

They went 1-6 versus teams with winning records, with Tagovailoa throwing eight touchdowns and seven interceptions for an 80.8 rating.

That quick-throw approach also concealed Tagovailoa’s major flaws: a lack of size, arm power, mobility, and the ability to make a play out of chaos when the intended play fails. Good defenses detected those issues. They eliminated horizontal throws such as receiver screens, quick strikes over the middle, and outside runs, which are essential to make the Dolphins offense resemble a track team.

Defenses, like Kansas City, frequently used two safeties deep against the Dolphins, which irritated receiver Tyreek Hill. The Dolphins did not have a strong running game to take advantage of it. Tagovailoa was supposed to beat it, but he couldn’t against teams in the final run. The harsh weather in Kansas City did not help. However, the Dolphins compete in a division populated with cold-weather teams.


Miami Dolphins can't give Tua Tagovailoa big contract | Hyde


Consider this: if Tagovailoa entered the free agent market right now, would another team pay him $50 million per year?

There’s no chance.

Be as savvy as a smart franchise. The Baltimore Ravens did not pay Jackson at first. They weren’t pleased with the price and wanted to see more from him. Perhaps it cost them when the contract was drafted, but look at who they spent it on: A two-time NFL Most Valuable Player who guided the No. 1 seed this season.

With the season on the line, you can see young quarterbacks become more defined. Houston’s C.J. Stroud and Green Bay’s Jordan Love both had franchise quarterback plays in their debut seasons. Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott did not in his seventh season.

Tagovailoa did not play during the season’s crucial stretch, as the Dolphins fell to Baltimore, Buffalo, and Kansas City in the playoffs. That doesn’t mean he can’t win the games. It does not mean you have given up on him.

It implies the Dolphins can’t treat him like a franchise quarterback unless he proves he is one.

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