The Miami Dolphins are not in a good place. Projected to be among the AFC’s contenders in 2021, the club instead sits at the bottom of its division with a 1-5 record. Rumors about a potential Deshaun Watson acquisition or head coach Brian Flores being on the hot seat all point to one thing — Dolphins owner Stephen Ross might be fed up. At age 81, Ross wants to win immediately and likely isn’t afraid to sacrifice draft capital to bring success to Miami Gardens.
Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross in ‘win-now’ mode?
According to PFN Insider Tony Pauline, both Flores and general manager Chris Grier are on the hot seat and could be in danger of losing their jobs. Flores was once viewed as one of the NFL’s premier young coaches. He seemingly had the Dolphins in place to succeed for the long haul.
But now, he’s seen by some in the NFL as “another example of ripe fruit from the Bill Belichick tree quickly going rotten,” per Pauline. These sources point to other former New England assistants, such as Eric Mangini, Bill O’Brien, and to a lesser extent, Joe Judge — coaches who have shown promise before fizzling out.
Meanwhile, sources tell Pauline that there are people inside the Miami organization who feel Tua Tagovailoa is not the answer at quarterback. To rub salt into the wound, Pauline is told that some members of the franchise have already given up on the second-year quarterback, and the situation gets worse each week when they see the results of Justin Herbert.
Tua, who recently returned from a rib injury, has played well in spurts. But through 12 starts, he’s largely been disappointing. The Dolphins, of course, drafted Tua one pick before the eventual 2021 Offensive Rookie of the Year in Herbert.
Ross “needs and wants” to win immediately, according to those who Pauline spoke with. Sources tell Pauline that the Dolphins’ owner is willing to trade draft capital in order to buoy his club’s roster. Those inside the league say that given his age, Ross may not care about sacrificing draft selections from three or four years out — he wants instant success and is willing to pay for it.
The concept of a Deshaun Watson acquisition looms
Earlier today (October 20), John McClain of the Houston Chronicle reported the Dolphins and Texans were getting closer on a trade involving Watson. Miami has long been rumored as a potential destination for Watson, although the 22 sexual assault lawsuits pending against him certainly complicates matters. Watson has a full no-trade clause, but he would reportedly sign off on being shipped to the Dolphins.
Pauline notes that those he talked to wonder out loud if Miami would attempt to put conditions on any draft picks it traded to Houston in exchange for Watson. While conditional picks are common in the NFL, they’re typically tied to playing time or statistical categories. It’s unclear if the league office would allow Miami to link draft pick conditions to the results of a pending legal situation.
Unsurprisingly, sources tell Pauline that Texans general manager Nick Caserio wants no conditions placed on the potential draft picks for Watson. Some reports have indicated that Houston is seeking a massive package in exchange for its three-time Pro Bowl QB. The asking price may be as high as three first-round picks (and maybe more).
Dolphins draft capital limited in coming years
The Dolphins were once flush with draft picks — acquiring extra draft capital was part of Grier’s rebuilding plan. While they still have ample picks, Miami’s reserve of future selections isn’t as robust as it once was. Prior to the 2021 NFL Draft, the Dolphins traded one of their extra first-round picks to move up to No. 6 overall, where they eventually landed Alabama WR Jaylen Waddle. They also sent a 2022 third-round pick to the Giants to move up the board for Notre Dame OT Liam Eichenberg.
In 2022, Miami has additional selections in both the fourth and fifth rounds. However, picks in the middle rounds are unlikely to be attractive as anything but fillers in a potential Watson trade offer. But in 2023, the Dolphins have an extra first-round pick courtesy of the 49ers. Miami acquired that selection when San Francisco moved up for QB Trey Lance in the 2021 NFL Draft.
If Houston’s ask is indeed three first-round picks, the Dolphins have the assets over the next two drafts to meet the price. However, such a move would leave Miami barren in the first round for the next several years.