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Dolphins trades create insurance if Tua Tagovailoa doesn’t progress in 2021

Following the Dolphins trades on Friday, are they now in a position to trade for Russell Wilson if Tua Tagovailoa struggles in 2021?

The Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers completed a blockbuster trade on Friday, March 26. With the Dolphins moving out of a spot to take a quarterback in the 2021 NFL Draft, does this now secure the future of Tua Tagovailoa in Miami? Pro Football Network’s Chief Draft Analyst Tony Pauline made a guest appearance on the March 26 episode of Breaking Down the Board to explain what this trade may mean for the Dolphins’ future at the quarterback position.

Be sure to join PFN Chief NFL Analyst Trey Wingo and Chief Draft Analyst Tony Pauline every week on Draft Insiders as they break down all you need to know heading into the 2021 NFL Draft. Subscribe to our YouTube channel and hit the notifications icon so you can tune in live every Wednesday at 9 PM ET. 

The Miami Dolphins’ trades gives them options for the future with Tua Tagovailoa

The Miami Dolphins were involved in two trades on Friday. Between the two deals, the Dolphins traded the No. 3 overall selection, their fourth-round selection in 2021, and their first-round selection in 2022, for the 2021 No. 6 overall pick, the Eagles 2021 fifth-rounder, the 49ers first and third-round picks in 2022, and the 49ers first-round selection in 2023.

However, while this somewhat seems to secure Tua’s future for 2021, what does it mean long-term? Pauline discussed this on the show on Friday:

“The fact is this, the Dolphins made a terrific move. Could be DeVonta Smith. I’m trying to get my thumb on the pulse and see how much they like Jaylen Waddle. You guys mentioned Kyle Pitts. Plus they have another year to examine Tua and see if he is their quarterback of the future. And if he is not, you know what, they still have a bunch of draft capital that they could use moving forward, to trade for a veteran quarterback.”

Who could be the Dolphins’ trade target when it comes to a veteran quarterback?

The 2021 NFL offseason has seen much speculation regarding the Dolphins making a trade for Deshaun Watson. However, on Breaking Down the Board, Pauline suggested a different option could be on the table for the Dolphins next offseason.

“People talked about Deshaun Watson this year, that might be out the door. But you know what, we reported here that this could be the final year for Russell Wilson in Seattle. And Seattle and Russell Wilson may part ways after the season. Miami’s sitting there with all that draft capital. If they don’t believe that Tua is going to take them to the level you want to, you’ve got all that capital, maybe move it for a veteran like Russell Wilson if he is on the market after the 2021 season.”

The trades on Friday put the Dolphins in an intriguing position. They now have the 2021 season to evaluate where they sit in terms of challenging for the AFC. With two first-round selections in 2021, they can load talent around their young quarterback. If he demonstrates an upward trajectory, the draft capital can be used to round out the rest of the roster.

On the other hand, if they determine that Tua is holding them back, they still have the capital to adjust accordingly.

The Dolphins now need to evaluate Tua Tagovailoa in 2021 thoroughly

The 2020 NFL season was a difficult one for the Dolphins to evaluate Tua Tagovailoa. After starting 3-3, the Dolphins decided to start Tua to begin his evaluation. Miami won five of their next six games to put themselves in playoff contention at 8-4.

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However, the Dolphins continued to mix and match between developing Tua and using Ryan Fitzpatrick to win games. The Dolphins need to ascertain whether Tua can win those games this season or whether they need to trade for someone who can next offseason.

How did Tua perform in 2021?

It would have been harsh for the Dolphins to give up on Tua after one season. While his 3.8 percent touchdown rate ranked 23rd among qualified QBs, he did rank in the top 10 in interception rate.

The Dolphins ran a somewhat conservative passing offense last season. In fact, both Fitzpatrick and Tua ranked outside of the top 20 in terms of intended air yards per pass attempt. Significantly, we have seen the Dolphins move on from their offensive coordinator in 2021, Chan Gailey, this offseason. That could mean a change in thinking is taking place.

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The Dolphins’ issue was that not only were they not asking the QB to push the ball down the field, but they also were not getting much in terms of yards after the catch either. Fitzpatrick and Tua ranked 27th and 31st, respectively, in yards after the catch per completion.

Therefore, the Dolphins need to give themselves a chance to evaluate Tua properly before they decide on a trade. They no longer have the gunslinger backup in Fitzpatrick. Jacoby Brissett tends to be a more conservative QB, meaning the temptation to swap out Tua for Brissett should be reduced. With this in mind, the 2021 NFL season gives the Dolphins a perfect opportunity to fully evaluate Tua Tagovailoa.

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