The Dolphins and Texans are in agreement on a trade that will send inside linebacker Benardrick McKinney to Miami in exchange for outside linebacker Shaq Lawson, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com was first to report (via Twitter). Cameron Wolfe of ESPN.com reports that the Dolphins will send their 2021 sixth-round pick to Houston and will get the Texans’ 2021 seventh-rounder in return (Twitter link).
Lawson is the second player from Miami’s 2020 front-seven spending spree to be jettisoned over the last few days. After the ‘Fins failed to find a trade partner for Kyle Van Noy, they cut him loose after just one season in South Beach. Now, Lawson will try to build on a solid, if unspectacular, 2020 season with his third pro team.
The Texans, who parted ways with franchise icon J.J. Watt this offseason, were in desperate need of pass rush help, and Lawson graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 28th-best edge defender out of 109 qualified players (incidentally, new teammate Whitney Mercilus was at the very bottom of that list). Lawson’s four sacks and 25 QB pressures won’t make headlines, but he will be a welcome addition to the club’s pass rushing corps just the same. He will likely shift back to defensive end in new DC Lovie Smith‘s scheme.
Miami, meanwhile, adds a starting-caliber ILB to line up next to Jerome Baker. McKinney played in just four games in 2020 due to a shoulder injury, but he had been pretty durable up to that point. A full-time starter since he entered the league as a second-round pick in 2015, the Mississippi State product averaged 107.5 tackles per season from 2016-2019 and earned a Pro Bowl nod in 2018. But the Texans recently brought in Christian Kirksey on a one-year pact, and they had given McKinney permission to seek a trade, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter).
Per Wolfe, the Dolphins have been eyeing McKinney for awhile, and he gives them a worthy replacement for Van Noy. The team is now expected to pursue pass rush help in free agency to complement Emmanuel Ogbah and Andrew Van Ginkel (Twitter link via Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com).
From a salary cap standpoint, the trade is mostly a wash for both clubs. Lawson is due an $8.4MM salary in 2021 and $8.9MM in 2022, while McKinney is under club control through 2023 with salaries of $7MM, $8.75MM, and $9.5MM coming his way over the next three seasons. The Dolphins will have to absorb $2.7MM in dead money as a result of the deal, but all of McKinney’s guarantees have been paid out, so it will be easy for Miami to move on from him prior to the expiration of his current contract if he underperforms.
Now that these two teams have one notable trade in the books, one wonders if another deal involving a quarterback or two could be in the offing.