Davy, Fla. — Tua Tagovailoa should be considered the favorite to become the Miami Dolphins’ starting quarterback for the upcoming season. The Dolphins are serious about their first-round pick for 2020, but there is one player who might be on the list: Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Watson, 25, is the story of an unfortunate but high-profile NFL quarterback who asked for a trade. Texas general manager Nick Caserio tells teams they are not interested in trading quarterbacks.
According to some sources, Miami is Watson’s favorite destination, thanks in part to Brian Flores, the team’s culture coach, the Dolphins and the fact that Florida has no state income tax. Miami also has top-notch assets, including picks 3 and 18 from the 2021 NFL Draft, to seal the deal.
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Whether Tagovailoa fans like it or not, the discussions about Watson’s trade aren’t going away anytime soon. There’s no guarantee Miami will pick Watson even if he’s available, but it would be naive to think the Dolphins won’t consider him; the first five QBs are rarely available.
Asked about Watson’s rumors, Tagovailoa responded on ESPN’s Get Up! show. I can only control what I can control. I’m quarterback for the Miami Dolphins.
For Dolphins fans, there’s a dividing line here: Some are asking Miami to embrace Tagovailoa no matter what, and others are urging them to go after Watson.
Let’s dive in: Will Watson have an impact on the Dolphins’ plan to build around Tagovailoa?
Contingent charges and schedule
A trade involving a player like Watson is almost unknown, but perhaps the best example is that of the Dallas Cowboys who traded Herschel Walker to the Minnesota Vikings in 1989, a deal that included three first-rounders, three second-rounders and three second-rounders. During the Senior Bowl, a source in the league told ESPN that he would eat his hat if Caserio traded with Watson because the QB is both talented and familiar with the GM’s determination.
If the Texans let themselves go and make Watson available, expect the cost to be historic. Three first-round picks and a young rookie would be a reasonable opening bid, but don’t be surprised if the final price is four first-round picks.
A hypothetical suggestion for Watson might be Choice no. 3, Choice no. 18, Choice No. 2022 in the first round, Choice No. 2023 in the second round, and Choice No. Tagovailoa. The Texans could also demand that Houston-born cornerback Xavien Howard, who is third on the NFL Defensive Player of the Year list and wants his contract changed, be added to the Dolphins’ list. If Howard had still been around, Miami might have picked #35 instead of #18.
Despite Watson’s non-exchange clause, the Texans do not have to trade him, giving the team a leverage to delay the sponsor’s offer.
But timing is critical when Miami intervenes. The 17th. March is the first deadline to keep an eye on if teams want to improve their QB situation by entering free agency in 2021, but most of the Dolphins’ assets are in the 2021 draft, while other likely contenders like the New York Jets will have two picks in the first round in 2022. The 29th. April could be the last day Miami remains on Watson’s list of possible destinations.
Tua Tagovailoa says he is focused on improving and is not letting rumours of a swap with Deshaun Watson get the better of him.
Houses for construction around Tagovailoa
This tendency to make final judgments about quarterbacks after one season – or, in Tagovailoa’s case, after nine starts – is frustrating at best and pointless at worst. As veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick told ESPN last week, the Dolphins drafted Tagovailoa in the top five last season because of his rare skills and Miami’s belief that he would be the QB to lead them to the championship.
Important offseason decisions have already been made behind the scenes with Tagovailoa in mind, several people from the Dolphins organization told ESPN. We know Charlie Frye has been hired as the Dolphins’ quarterfinal coach, with George Godsey and Eric Studsville as co-offensive coordinators.
The Dolphins are committed to the long-term development of Tagovailoa. The Miami team believes many of Tagovailoa’s rookie problems can be solved with a full off-season of reps, and the Dolphins want to build explosive playmakers around him and rely on good chemistry with Godsey and Studsville.
It’s also interesting to imagine the Dolphins building around Tagovailoa, shutting down Alabama receiver DeVonte Smith and running back Najee Harris, using the free agent to complete the offense, contracting players like Green Bay Packers All-Pro Corey Linsley and Indianapolis Colts receiver T.J. Hilton and continuing their strong defensive success under Howard.
With Watson’s entrance, time would run out in the Dolphins’ championship showcase, but there would be holes in the roster, coupled with a lack of call-up capital from the elite to address them. Watson had a similar plan on his debut in Houston when he reached the divisional playoffs. And the decision to add Watson would represent a major change from the Dolphins recovery plan, which has been largely successful.
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Watson, if acquired, would instantly become the Dolphins’ best quarterback since Dan Marino. ESPN NFL selected 128 key players from 32 teams last summer. Watson finished fourth behind Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City), Russell Wilson (Seattle) and Lamar Jackson (Baltimore). That would make Watson the fourth most valuable player in the NFL, and you could also argue for a higher level.
Watson, drafted 12th overall by Houston in 2017, is a three-time professional bowler who ranks in the top four all-time in percentage of completions (67.8 percent, first), passing yards (104.5, second) and yards per attempt (8.3, fourth). In 2020, Watson led the NFL in passing (4,823 yards) and finishing (12.6).
Yes, there is every reason to believe Tagovailoa is on his way to becoming an elite QB. But this is a quarterback league, and Watson has already established himself as a top 5 player at QB. Betting on a safe option is more convenient than betting on a possible option.
If the Dolphins (10-6) keep their top-five defense from the 2020 season and add Watson, they will likely find themselves at the top of the AFC. Miami would still be behind Kansas City and maybe Buffalo, but with Watson they would have a better chance of toppling those two cities. If that’s the case, on paper Miami would fit right in with Baltimore, Tennessee, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and Cleveland.
And Watson’s landing in Miami would prevent a Jets rival from having him, paving the way for the AFC East crown.
When a team calculates the QB position at the same time as the growing list, the cost of obtaining it is rarely perceived as too high.
Steve Young and Booger McFarland point to the number of quarterbacks on the verge of winning the league.
The Texans and Watsons are in a stalemate that could last for months, while the Dolphins are currently preparing to bypass Tagovailoa. These are two facts we know.
Flirting with Watson would have more to do with the rarity of the situation than Tagovailoa’s charges.
Nine years after a serious hip injury, it’s too soon for Tagovailoa to give up. Even though Watson is a joker and should be upgraded immediately, Miami doesn’t need him as badly as other hungry QB teams.
If the Dolphins believe Tagovailoa can lead them to a more developed and better endowed championship – and there’s every reason to believe they will – they need to maintain their draft advantage and stay the course.
Miami is in a win-win situation regardless of what happens next.