Minkah Fitzpatrick

AFC East Notes: Dolphins, Newton, Bills

With the Dolphins for just 18 games, Minkah Fitzpatrick elaborated on the difference of opinion he had with his second NFL head coach. Brian Flores, per Fitzpatrick, preferred he play a hybrid strong safety/linebacker role and only tried him as a deep safety in one practice last summer. This only came after Fitzpatrick asked Flores to see more time in coverage, Tyler Dunne of Bleacher Report notes. After the Dolphins’ Week 1 blowout loss to the Ravens, in which Fitzpatrick was used more in coverage — albeit after limited practice time as a deep safety in Flores’ scheme — the 2018 first-round pick asked for a trade. Flores, Dunne adds, attempted to convince Fitzpatrick he was a key part of Miami’s future. That did not end up working. The Dolphins traded Fitzpatrick to the Steelers, with whom he became an All-Pro, for a first-round pick that turned into tackle Austin Jackson.

We had a difference of opinion in my skill set and what he thought I could do and what I thought I could do,” Fitzpatrick said, via Dunne. “It was going to get tough for me to show something to somebody they were choosing not to see. They didn’t give me the opportunity to show it, even though I had film that showed it. The losing and all that stuff? If I was put in the right position and we’re losing — because of decisions people made upstairs — it is what it is. I can only control how I play. That didn’t affect me at all. It was just a fact that I was being used the wrong way.”

Here is the latest from the AFC East:

  • Shoulder and foot injuries helped lead Cam Newton out of Charlotte after nine seasons. But the former MVP quarterback said he is “full go” as he begins practices with the Patriots, Phil Perry of NBC Sports Boston notes. Newton, 31, sounded more cautiously optimistic about staying fully healthy, Perry writes, after being injured for much of the past three seasons. But going into the padded portion of New England’s training camp, Tom Brady‘s likely successor said he feels “amazing.”
  • Since Dolphins players reported to camp, Xavien Howard has landed on both the active/PUP list and the reserve/COVID-19 list. Howard underwent knee surgery in December. While Howard was running at the team’s facility this summer, per ESPN.com’s Cameron Wolfe, he does not figure to see much practice time before Week 1. This makes the standout corner’s availability for the Dolphins’ opener against the Patriots uncertain.
  • Another Dolphin uncertain for Week 1: Preston Williams. The Dolphins are easing their UDFA success story back into action after his ACL tear, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald notes, adding that Williams’ Week 1 status is in doubt. Williams went down in Week 8 last season, ending a strong start to his career. He caught 32 passes for 428 yards. With Albert Wilson and Allen Hurns opting out, Williams will be critical to Miami’s passing attack.
  • Formerly a key Bills wide receiver, Robert Foster now appears on the verge of being cut or traded. The third-year Bills wideout will need a strong camp to make the team, Joe Buscaglia of The Athletic writes (subscription required). Buffalo drafted Gabriel Davis in Round 4, and the rookie will join the recently re-signed Isaiah McKenzie as a backup to the team’s Stefon DiggsJohn BrownCole Beasley starter trio. After Foster averaged 20 yards per catch as a rookie — in a 27-reception, 541-yard, three-TD season — he caught just three passes in 13 games last season.

Dolphins Offered Reshad Jones To Steelers Before Minkah Fitzpatrick Trade

The Dolphins were shopping veteran safety Reshad Jones this summer, and the Steelers, who had made it clear to rival teams that they were in the market for secondary help, were an obvious match. As Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes, Miami did indeed attempt to deal Jones to Pittsburgh at the start of the season.

However, the Steelers said they preferred Minkah Fitzpatrick, though the Dolphins initially suggested Fitzpatrick was not going to be moved. Of course, Miami quickly changed its stance in that regard and said it would deal Fitzpatrick if a first-rounder was included in the trade.

La Canfora says several teams were willing to meet the Dolphins’ asking price, but Miami chose Pittsburgh’s offer because it believed the Steelers’ 2020 first-rounder would be higher than those of the other suitors. Of course, that may not turn out to be the case, as Fitzpatrick has provided a jolt to the Steelers’ defense and has helped Pittsburgh (4-4) climb back into the AFC playoff picture.

Fitzpatrick was publicly unhappy with the way he was being deployed in Miami, but he and Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin established from the beginning that the Alabama product would be used in a centerfielder role that would highlight his playmaking abilities. And Fitzpatrick has certainly made plays, recording four interceptions in his six games in the Steel City, including a critical pick-six in Pittsburgh’s win over the Colts last week.

Jones, meanwhile, is under contract with the Dolphins through 2022, and while he indicated he is open to staying with Miami through its rebuild, the Fins may choose to cut bait this offseason to save about $5.5MM against the cap, even though they would incur a big dead money charge by doing so.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Dolphins’ Trades, Strategy

In addition to moving on from numerous veterans this offseason, the Dolphins have now traded two players who were seemingly building blocks in Laremy Tunsil and Minkah Fitzpatrick. These moves appear to have tripped the NFL’s alarm.

The Tunsil trade involved numerous Texans offers, with Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reporting the steps the AFC teams took to finalizing the trade that sent the left tackle to Houston. The Texans’ offers went from Jadeveon Clowney-for-Tunsil, straight up, to Clowney and a first-rounder for Tunsil to first- and second-rounders for Tunsil. The Dolphins managed to drive the price to two first-rounders and a second-round selection and requested tackle Julie’n Davenport in return, Salguero notes.

Upon seeing the Texans’ deal-closing offer on a board in Chris Grier‘s office, Tunsil told the Dolphins GM, “I would trade me for that too,” Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald adds (via Twitter).

In reshuffling their power structure after last season, the Dolphins were not planning to jettison Tunsil, Fitzpatrick, Kiko Alonso or T.J. McDonald. (The Dolphins dealt Alonso to the Saints and released McDonald.) Brian Flores‘ coaching staff clashed with Alonso, Salguero adds, and asked him to play multiple roles — including edge defender. The Dolphins demoted the highly paid linebacker before trading him.

Fitzpatrick is a Steeler, being dealt after a trade request. The second-year defensive back was not on board with the versatile role the Dolphins asked him to play, and Salguero adds the team never found a sufficient comfort level that would allow Fitzpatrick to settle in at one spot. Both Grier and owner Stephen Ross attempted to help Fitzpatrick and Miami’s coaching staff find common ground.

Myself, Brian, and Steve (Ross) — we had multiple conversations with him, saying we wanted him here and viewed him as a core piece and wanted him here,” Grier said. “The kid just felt it was time for him to move, and we told him what the value was. We told teams we had multiple offers, and we felt that the Pittsburgh one was the one best for the organization.”

Fitzpatrick’s rookie deal was worth $16.447MM over four years. Similar to the deal in which the Dolphins acquired Josh Rosen, the Steelers are only on the hook for Fitzpatrick’s base salaries. Pittsburgh has the 2018 No. 11 overall pick under contract through 2021 for $5.48MM, Field Yates of ESPN.com notes (on Twitter).
The Dolphins now hold three 2020 first-round picks. A building suspicion in NFL circles centers on the prospect this Dolphins rebuild may be a stealth effort for Trevor Lawrence in 2021, per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. But Salguero adds one of Miami’s three 2020 first-rounders will be used to draft a quarterback — regardless of how Rosen performs in what now may be an extended audition. The Cardinals in 2018-19 and Baltimore Colts in 1982-83 were the most recent franchises to draft first-round passers in consecutive years, so as of now it looks like this oft-labeled tanking strategy is built around Justin Herbert or Tua Tagovailoa (should he enter the 2020 draft).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Dolphins Trade CB Minkah Fitzpatrick To Steelers

The Minkah Fitzpatrick saga has come to an end. ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweets that the Dolphins have traded the cornerback to the Steelers. Miami will receive a 2020 first-rounder in return. ESPN’s Cameron Wolfe adds (via Twitter) that the teams will also be swapping late-round picks.

Here’s the full breakdown of the trade: The Dolphins will receive a 2020 first-round pick, a 2020 fifth-round pick, and a 2021 sixth-round pick. The Steelers, meanwhile, get Fitzpatrick, a 2020 fourth-round choice, and a 2021 sixth-round selection.

We learned yesterday that league-wide interest in the 2018 first-rounder was “real and serious,” with roughly 20 teams reaching out to Miami. Earlier tonight, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported (via Twitter) that a trade was imminent, and he listed the Steelers (along with the Redskins, Cowboys, Chiefs, Eagles, and Seahawks) as potential suitors. While the Dolphins weren’t necessarily shopping the cornerback, they were receptive to offers and asking for a first-rounder “and something else.”

Fitzpatrick is an undeniably gifted defensive back who has been less than thrilled with the multiple roles he has been asked to fill in Miami’s defense to date. His ability to play as both a slot corner and a roaming safety made him a desirable asset. Through two games this season, the 22-year-old has compiled 12 tackles and one forced fumble.

The Dolphins offseason (and preseason, and regular season…) teardown is essentially complete. As ESPN’s Field Yates tweets, Miami has three first-rounders (their own, Steelers, Texans) and two second-rounders (their own, Saints) in the 2020 draft, and they also have the Texans 2021 first- and second-round picks (as well as their own).

While yesterday’s report indicated that a Fitzpatrick trade would ultimately represent the end of the team’s teardown and draft-pick accumulation, it sounds like the Dolphins aren’t necessarily eyeing a return to relevance in 2020. Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com wrote earlier today that there’s “growing suspicion” that the Dolphins may be eyeing a two-year rebuild. The team may even pass on a quarterback during the 2020 draft with the hope that they’ll for Clemson signal-caller Trevor Lawrence in 2021.

While the Steelers were in the market for a cornerback, the trade is a considerable risk for a team that just lost Ben Roethlisberger for an entire season. Considering the draft capital they gave up to acquire Fitzpatrick, Pittsburgh’s front office has made it clear that they’re not giving up on the 2019 campaign. On the flip side, since the front-office is apparently high on the former 11th-overall pick, giving up a potential top-1o selection may still be a net positive, regardless of the Steelers’ 2019 record.

Minkah Fitzpatrick Getting Serious Trade Interest

Earlier this week, the Dolphins gave second-year DB Minkah Fitzpatrick permission to seek a trade, and Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports says that roughly 20 teams have reached out to Miami brass and/or Fitzpatrick’s agent, Joel Segal, to inquire. Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network (video link) confirms that league-wide interest in the 2018 first-rounder is “real and serious,” and both reporters hear that a deal could be completed prior to Week 3.

Adam Schefter of ESPN.com writes that the Dolphins are said to be seeking a first-round pick “and something else” in return for Fitzpatrick, and given the number of inquiries they’re getting, that may not be as high of an ask as was originally thought. Miami is still not actively shopping the Alabama product, but the Fins seem to be doing just fine in getting potential suitors to come to them. However, Schefter’s sources suggest that Miami will have to lower its asking price to consummate a trade.

Fitzpatrick is an undeniably gifted defensive back who has been less than thrilled with the multiple roles he has been asked to fill in Miami’s defense to date, though his versatility is one of his best assets. Other than the Cowboys, it’s unclear what teams have talked to the Dolphins about a trade, but presumably teams with needs at safety and cornerback have made inquiries.

If the Dolphins do trade Fitzpatrick, La Canfora says it would represent the end of the team’s teardown and draft-pick accumulation. Miami would be armed with even more draft capital to start its rebuild, though after trading Laremy Tunsil and (perhaps) Fitzpatrick, the Dolphins will need to use some of that capital to reload at LT and in the defensive backfield.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC East Notes: AB, Fitzpatrick, Siemian

It sounds like Antonio Brown will indeed be playing for the Patriots tomorrow. Michael Giardi of the NFL Network tweets that the star wide receiver is making the trip to Miami.

Michael Lombardi of The Athletic adds (via Twitter) that the organization doesn’t “bring players as a guest,” an indication that Brown will be active. Meanwhile, Jeff Howe of the Athletic notes (on Twitter) that AB had a “strong” first week of practice with the team, and it’d be surprising if he didn’t suit up for tomorrow’s contest against the Dolphins.

Considering AB’s lack of practice time and the fallout from his civil lawsuit, there were question marks if the receiver would actually take the field. Now, it sounds like he’ll be joining a talented receiver corps that already includes Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, and Phillip Dorsett.

Here are some more notes from around the AFC East:

  • Following the rape and sexual assault allegations, helmet manufacturer Xenith announced that they’ve ended their relationship with Brown. “We look forward to seeing the Xenith Shadow worn by football athletes at all levels of play this fall,” the brand said (via ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Twitter). Following Brown’s public feud with the NFL over his use of an ineligible helmet, it was notable when the receiver landed on an alternative option. Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com writes that it’s uncertain whether Xenith ended the relationship due to the allegations or Brown’s decision to use a different helmet.
  • Following the trade request from Dolphins cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick, Phil Perry of NBC Sports Boston writes that the Patriots should go after the former first-rounder. Perry notes that Fitzpatrick offers many of the skills that the Patriots seek from defensive backs, and he points to recent trades with the Jets and Bills as reasons why New England wouldn’t be afraid of trading within the division.
  • Speaking of trade requests, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald tweets that the Dolphins are aware of “another specific veteran player’s unhappiness and his preference to go elsewhere.” However, that veteran player has been “disinclined to discuss this publicly.” Head coach Brian Flores said he wasn’t aware of any trade requests besides Fitzpatrick’s.
  • With Trevor Siemian thrust into the Jets‘ starting quarterback role, ESPN’s Dan Graziano tweets an interesting detail on the veteran’s contract. If Siemian plays at least 50-percent of the Jets’ offensive snaps in a win, he’ll earn more than $31K. However, if he plays more than 50-percent of the snaps and the Jets lose, he doesn’t receive the incentive bonus.

Cowboys Interested In Minkah Fitzpatrick?

The Cowboys may be exploring high-profile defensive back additions again. With the Dolphins giving Minkah Fitzpatrick permission to seek a trade, the Cowboys have engaged in discussions, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald notes.

Other suitors loom, with Salguero adding the Dolphins have talked to “several” teams. But the Cowboys are the first to be connected to the second-year defensive back. Stephen Jones confirmed during a 105.3 The Fan interview the Cowboys have engaged in talks with the Dolphins in the past 24 hours but declined to specify the nature of those discussions, per The Athletic’s Jon Machota (on Twitter). Throwing a bit of cold water on the prospect of Fitzpatrick in Dallas, David Moore of the Dallas Morning News notes (via Twitter) the Cowboys have merely kicked the tires here.

After being connected to Earl Thomas for most of 2018, the Cowboys offered a second-round pick. That did not satisfy the Seahawks, and the sides moved on. Dallas retained its starting combination of Xavier Woods and Jeff Heath for this season. The Dolphins are said to want a first-round pick for Fitzpatrick, the 2018 No. 11 overall selection.

It’s also unclear at what position the Cowboys or another team would prefer Fitzpatrick play. The Alabama product has played both cornerback and safety, with the Dolphins also having him work in the slot and at linebacker this season. The endless roving has frustrated Fitzpatrick, who represents one of the Dolphins’ few remaining assets that would fetch a high price in a trade. Miami has already unloaded Laremy Tunsil, Kenny Stills, Robert Quinn and Ryan Tannehill in 2019 deals. GMs have been contacting Chris Grier about Dolphin assets since the Tunsil trade.

Fitzpatrick could be under a new team’s control through the 2022 season. A fifth-year option decision will not be due until May 2021. None of his base salaries exceed $2.5MM on his rookie deal.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Dolphins Give Minkah Fitzpatrick Permission To Seek Trade

Minkah Fitzpatrick has received permission from the Dolphins to seek a trade, multiple sources tell Chris Mortensen of ESPN.com.

Fitzpatrick, who projected to be a cornerback/safety coming into the league, is unhappy with how the organization making him play multiple positions on defense. During training camp, Fitzpatrick’s mother tweeted that he was being used incorrectly and Fitzpatrick confirmed that he agreed with her assessment.

“She feels very strongly. She’s not wrong,” Fitzpatrick said. “Coach has asked me to do something right now. I got to do what they ask me to do. If we have to have some discussions in the future, we’ll have those discussions.

“I’m not 215 pounds, 220 pounds. So playing in the box isn’t best suited for me, but that’s what Coach is asking me to do.”

The Dolphins are not actively shopping Fitzpatrick, according to Mortensen. If a deal gets done, it’ll be on Fitzpatrick’s camp to find a suitor. Fitzpatrick’s agent, Joel Segal, has been in contact with several teams and Miami’s asking price appears to be high, as it involves a first-round pick.

Mortensen spoke with a personnel man from a rival team who said it would be surprising if the Dolphins netted a first-rounder for Fitzpatrick. The source was high on Fitzpatrick’s skills, though the pessimism had to do with the 22-year-old’s projected position. He told Mortensen that Fitzpatrick was an “ideal slot corner who can cover, blitz off the edge, [is] intelligent, a good tackler and a good special-teams player.” Another rival GM told Mortensen that Miami is being unrealistic about what their players will get in trades after coming away with two first-rounders in the Laremy Tunsil deal.

The former No. 11 overall pick is expected to play against the Patriots this week.

AFC East Notes: Bills, Gronkowski, Dolphins

It looks like Bills tight end Tyler Kroft isn’t going to be ready for the start of the regular season. Buffalo signed Kroft to a three-year, $18.75MM deal back in March, and he was supposed to be their starter. He then broke his foot during OTAs, and the initial timelines had him coming back sometime right around the start of the regular season. He apparently isn’t too close to returning, as he hasn’t done any on-field work yet, according to Joe Buscaglia of The Athletic (Twitter link). Buscaglia adds that it’s “looking more and more likely” that Kroft opens the year on the PUP list.

If he does start the season on PUP, Kroft will have to miss at least Buffalo’s first six games. That’s not welcome news for the Bills, as they don’t have a ton of experience at the position. Kroft showed some potential during his four years with the Bengals, but an injury to the same foot limited him to just five games last season. In 2017, he had 42 catches for 404 yards and seven touchdowns. Kroft’s injury may end up opening up opportunities for rookie Dawson Knox, who the Bills drafted in the third round back in April. Buffalo also has veteran Lee Smith on the roster, although he’s always been a blocker and has barely ever contributed as a receiver.

Here’s more from the AFC East:

  • Speaking of Bills rookies, running back Devin Singletary seems to be developing nicely. After a visit to Bills camp and speaking with members of the organization, Albert Breer of SI.com writes that Singletary has “picked up enough to be a three-down back right away” (Twitter link). The Bills drafted Singletary, a Florida Atlantic product, 74th overall. The only thing standing in his way now is that the Bills have a crowded backfield, with Frank Gore, LeSean McCoy, and T.J. Yeldon also in tow. To that end, Breer writes that he expects Buffalo “to get trade calls” on their running backs. Over his last two seasons at FAU, Singletary rushed for 3,266 yards and a whopping 54 touchdowns.
  • There’s nothing former Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski can do to convince people he’s really retired. As Ben Volin of the Boston Globe writes about his retirement, “few people are taking it seriously.” Volin has a new piece where a handful of former players and coaches all offer their view that Gronk might not really be done after all. The legendary tight end has insisted he’s enjoying his time away from the game, but Volin writes that “few people believe that Gronk won’t at least strongly consider coming out of retirement this fall.” It’s hard to speculate one way or the other, but he still is only 30. It’s impossible to predict, but it certainly wouldn’t be shocking if he comes back for one more ride.
  • When the Dolphins drafted Minkah Fitzpatrick 11th overall last year, they knew he wasn’t going to have one set position. He’s been moved around a good amount, and Fitzpatrick might be a little frustrated with how the new coaching staff has been using him. Fitzpatrick’s mom recently took to Twitter to respond to a beat writer’s tweet that he was playing poorly, arguing the coaches shouldn’t be playing him at strong safety, according to Adam H. Beasley of the Miami Herald. Asked about it after practice, Fitzpatrick said “she’s being honest and saying how she feels. There’s nothing wrong with it. I wish she would have addressed me first and talked to me first before it happens, but it is what it is. She feels very strongly.” He then also indicated he more or less agrees with her assessment, saying “she’s not wrong.” Per Beasley, the Dolphins plan to use Fitzpatrick “all over the field” in 2019.

Extra Points: Vikings, Dolphins, Bills, Jags

The Vikings have added former NFL kicker Nate Kaeding as a kicking consultant, according to Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune (Twitter link). The hire is expected to be formally announced in the near future. Earlier this offseason, Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer spoke about adding another special teams coach to his staff, and Kaeding has been working with Minnesota’s kickers a few times per week. Now 37 years old, Kaeding was a third-round draft choice of the Chargers in 2004, and went on to spend nine years with the club. Kaeding, who also spent late-career time with the Dolphins and Buccaneers, posted a career field goal conversion rate of 86.2%.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • Bobby McCain has played cornerback in each of his four seasons with the Dolphins, but Miami’s new staff has him working at free safety, per Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald. Nominally, the Dolphins already have two starting safeties in Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald, but Jones hasn’t been participating in organized team activities. Reports have varied as to whether Jones is on the trade/cut block, but if McCain is on the field as a safety, there wouldn’t seem to be room for Jones. 2018 first-round pick Minkah Fitzpatrick can also play safety in addition to nickel corner, and he’s also being worked in as a linebacker, per Salguero.
  • New Bills guard Quinton Spain recently underwent surgery on his thumb, as Joe Buscaglia of WKBW writes. It doesn’t sound like the issue is all too serious, so Spain should be back to practice in short order. Before his injury, Spain was working as Buffalo’s starting right guard. The Bills made offensive line improvement a point of emphasis this offseason by signing Spain, Ty Nsekhe, Mitch Morse, Spencer Long, LaAdrian Waddle and Jon Feliciano before adding Oklahoma’s Cody Ford in the second round of the draft. Spain, Long, Feliciano, Ford, and Wyatt Teller are all competing for time at guard.
  • Former Jaguars linebacker Blair Brown was arrested this week on charges of domestic battery, reports Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com. Brown was a fifth-round pick in 2016, and made 28 appearances for Jacksonville over the past two seasons. The Ohio product was cut earlier this month, and his arrest could potentially end his NFL career.