Tuesday was Operation: Support Tua in Miami Dolphins HQ. From the simultaneous leaks to beat reporters knocking down Pro Football Talk’s report that owner Stephen Ross was pushing for his team to acquire Deshaun Watson, to ESPN’s peculiar account of Brian Flores’ message to his team reinforcing that Tua Tagovailoa is Miami’s quarterback, there was a lot going on. (The account was peculiar because what Flores says behind closed doors almost always remains behind closed doors.)
“Tua is our quarterback,” Flores reiterated Wednesday. “… I don’t know how much clearer I can be.”
Tua Tagovailoa is Miami’s QB heading into 2021
The Dolphins should be applauded for having their QB1’s back in the wake of several national and local reports (including ours) that have revealed the team’s constant level of interest in the Houston Texans‘ embattled quarterback.
But if you’re hoping the Dolphins have now suddenly given up on any hope of eventually trading for Watson now that the cut-down deadline has passed, here’s some bad news:
The Dolphins’ pursuit of Watson was never about the 2021 season. Tua was going to be a member of the Dolphins’ roster with or without Watson. The second-year QB almost certainly would have been their starter in either case.
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Can the Miami Dolphins get Deshaun Watson at a value price?
That’s because we hear the Dolphins have long viewed Watson as an asset they could acquire at a value price — and potentially sit on — while Watson’s legal issues run their course.
It’s hard to envision the Dolphins, or any team, playing Watson until criminal charges are ruled out. That’s why the Texans’ reported asking price — three firsts and two seconds, according to Yahoo! — is viewed as a joke around the league.
And it’s why the Dolphins privately believe that Houston will eventually fold. As such, Miami will be able to land Watson at a far lower price.
The 2021 trade deadline could seal Watson’s fate in Houston
Cut-down day was always an artificial deadline set by people who don’t understand what’s really going on. The first true test of the Texans’ resolve will be the trade deadline — 4 PM on November 2.
Because once that passes, NFL rules prohibit Watson from being officially traded for another four months. That would put the Texans on the hook for his full 2021 salary ($10.5 million).
That delay would also expose the Texans to the risk that they will get nothing at all in return for Watson — if he’s eventually charged with a crime. Watson has been accused in lawsuits by nearly two-dozen women of sexual misconduct, and 10 of them have filed criminal complaints.
That’s why the Dolphins, among other teams, believe he could be had for far less. The Las Vegas Raiders are also among the teams that could jump back into the conversation if Houston relents on its asking price.
What would the Dolphins do with Watson and Tua on the roster?
How might the Dolphins utilize Watson this year, if they are able to get him? No way to know for sure, but history could be a guide.
Twelve years ago, the Philadelphia Eagles faced a similarly complex situation with Michael Vick.
Vick had been out of football — and in prison — for two years after a conviction on conspiracy and running a dogfighting operation.
He was a pariah. But he was also an incredibly talented football player. The Eagles brought Vick in on a low-risk deal in 2009 and as the no-doubt backup to Donovan McNabb. Vick was a spot player that first year, but proved he still had the goods physically.
That, along with fading public outrage, allowed the Eagles to trade McNabb the following year and turn the team over to Vick — who was incredible in his second football act, winning the comeback player of the year award in 2010.
Vick did that at age 30. Watson will be just 26 when the 2022 season begins. And he’s not nearly as reliant on his legs as Vick was, meaning Watson’s career could extend for at least another decade.
There are key differences, of course. Vick had paid his debt to society and served his banishment from football. The worst might still be to come for Watson and any team that acquires him.
That’s the downside of a trade, regardless of the compensation.
The upside? If Watson eventually is cleared and Tagovailoa balls out, the Dolphins would have two quarterbacks that much of the league covets.
Their biggest worry in that ideal scenario will be which one to keep and which one to trade.