The Miami Dolphins are not expected to pursue Tom Brady in free agency — according to an ESPN report since confirmed by Pro Football Network — but instead, mean what they said the day after their season ended:
Tua Tagovailoa is their guy in 2023.
Our take? It’s the right decision, and probably not even a particularly tough one.
Miami Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa, not Tom Brady
Put simply, Tagovailoa — even with the concussion concerns — gives the Dolphins a better chance to win in 2023.
How can we say that? Because Tagovailoa was the better player in 2022, and he’s ascending.
Brady, particularly late in the season, looked washed. And at age 46 in what would be his 24th season, there’s little reason to believe he will suddenly revert back to form from three years ago.
Tagovailoa in 2022 led Brady in passer rating (105.5 to 90.7), yards per pass (8.9 to 6.4), QBR (68.8 to 52.5), EPA per play (.242 to .082), and CPOE (1.4 to .7).
Brady, for large stretches of the season, just seemed — off.
His intended air-yards average was just 6.7 — nearly a full yard less than at any point since 2018 (which is as far back as Pro Football Reference provides that statistic).
And he looked absolutely cooked in what could be the last game of his long, incredible career.
In Tampa Bay’s 31-14 Wild Card round loss to the Dallas Cowboys, Brady threw 31 incompletions and averaged just 5.3 yards per attempt in a terrible Buccaneers offensive outing.
MORE: The Miami Dolphins’ Big Gamble With Tua Tagovailoa
Unfortunately, we can’t compare Brady’s playoff performance to Tua’s. Tagovailoa couldn’t play in the Dolphins’ 34-31 loss to the Bills. He was in the protocol after suffering his second (at least) concussion of the season.
ESPN first reported this week that Tagovailoa — more than a month after suffering the latest head injury — remained in the protocol and would not attend the Pro Bowl.
That, of course, is a concerning development.
But all sides are smart to err on the side of caution. The NFL regular season doesn’t begin for more than seven months. Tagovailoa is expected back on the field long before then.
And while there is research that suggests that the risk of a future concussion in football is higher for those who have had a previous concussion, the Dolphins insist Tua is no more prone to suffering them than any of his peers.
Dolphins Wise To Avoid More Brady Drama
Another reason Tagovailoa — assuming he’s healthy and available in 2023 — is the right pick?
His contract. Tagovailoa will earn just $4.7 million in cash and cost just $9.6 million against the cap in 2022.
And while Brady could conceivably take a deep discount if he’s motivated to play in Miami to be close to his children, whatever he would sign for would be multiple times larger than what Tua is owed.
For the cap-strapped Dolphins, that’s a luxury they cannot afford — in part because of their past entanglement with Brady.
They don’t have their first-round pick in 2023. The NFL took it from them as punishment for their illicit pursuit of Brady.
The NFL’s six-month investigation into allegations of league-rule violations made by ex-coach Brian Flores found that the Dolphins engaged in “tampering violations of unprecedented scope and severity.”
Miami broke NFL rules by having impermissible recruiting communication with Brady on multiple occasions between 2019 through 2022 — all while Brady was under contract with another team.
The irony after all of those failed pursuits? Now that the Dolphins are free to sign Brady, they no longer want him.