Tua Tagovailoa

Dolphins Notes: Running Backs, Offensive Line, Tagovailoa

The Dolphins were busy reworking their running backs depth chart during the offseason. After signing the likes of Chase Edmonds, Sony Michel, and Raheem Mostert, the team didn’t have much room for another veteran. Speaking to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, running back Duke Johnson said Miami never offered him a contract in free agency.

The veteran had a productive five-game stint with the Dolphins in 2021. After making a name for himself in the passing game, Johnson averaged 66 rushing yards per game…a leap from his 23.6-yard career mark. The 28-year-old RB ultimately finished the campaign with 371 yards from scrimmage and three scores on 75 touches. The organization initially expressed interest in re-signing Johnson following the season, but Mike McDaniel’s hiring ultimately changed the team’s plans.

“They just wanted to go in a different direction,” Johnson said. “I figured McDaniel wanted his guys; Raheem Mostert is one of his guys. I know the nature of the business. No hard feelings.”

Johnson ended up landing a one-year deal with the Bills in March.

More notes out of Miami…

  • When the Dolphins signed Connor Williams this offseason, it was expected that the lineman would slide in at left guard. However, ESPN’s Marcel Louis-Jacques writes that Williams is now the front runner to start at center. The 25-year-old trained at the position throughout the offseason to help improve his versatility, and it seems like it worked. Incumbent starter Michael Deiter is still in the picture, but Louis-Jacques opines that the starting center gig is Williams’ to lose.
  • ESPN’s Todd McShay recently opined that 2022 is a prove-it year for Tua Tagovailoa, and if the QB fails, the Dolphins are in a good position to pursue one of next year’s top QB prospects. Jackson quickly dismisses that notion, however. In the hypothetical where Tagovailoa does fail and the Dolphins decide to pivot next offseason, their various assets may not be enough to pull off a trade. While the Dolphins have an extra first-round pick thanks to a trade with San Francisco, Jackson writes that few teams would be interested in bailing on a franchise quarterback for a platter of middling firsts…especially when the majority of the teams that could be in contention for a top pick would all have their own QB issues.
  • When asked which AFC team had the best offseason, PFR readers ranked the Dolphins third. Besides their blockbuster acquisition of wideout Tyreek Hill, the Dolphins also brought in offensive tackle Terron Armstead, extended cornerback Xavien Howard, and re-signed defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah. The Broncos finished first in the poll, with the Raiders finishing second.

Dolphins GM Talks Watson, Payton/Brady Rumors, Howard

THURSDAY: Set to pursue a media gig, Payton indicated to veteran NFL reporter Jason Cole (via Twitter) he would “probably not” have been interested in this Dolphins setup had he been given the chance to speak with the team. Once Payton lands with a network, the subject of his next coaching stop figures to come up fairly frequently.

WEDNESDAY: It’s already been a busy offseason for the Dolphins. The team hired a new head coach in Mike McDaniel, dealt with the fallout of former HC Brian Flores‘ lawsuit, and brushed off continued rumors regarding their quarterback position.

While speaking with reporters today, Dolphins general manager Chris Grier addressed many of the major story lines surrounding the organization. Most notably, the GM acknowledged that “the door is shut” on acquiring Deshaun Watson from the Texans. The organization has been continually connected to Watson over the past year, but the team’s decision makers seem focused on moving forward with Tua Tagovailoa.

Grier also addressed a recent report that indicated the organization pursued Sean Payton as their head coach and Tom Brady as their starting quarterback. While the GM discussed the team’s brief pursuit of the coach (which we detail below), he said the Dolphins “never had a conversation” with the future Hall of Fame quarterback.

The Dolphins general manager provided a handful of additional thoughts on the state of the Dolphins, which we’ve compiled below (h/t to Cameron Wolfe of NFL.com):

More on the Dolphins’ commitment to Tagovailoa as their starting quarterback:

“Mike and the staff have come in to do a lot of work, studied a lot of Tua and they feel good about his developmental upside, what he can be and then the fit in the offense. I think we’re good with Tua.”

On the Dolphins pursuit of Payton:

“[We called the Saints] to see if he is done with football or does he want to coach. … They told us no, they weren’t going to grant permission. So that was it.

“We stopped to see if he would have interest at all. So, I don’t even know if he would have interest.”

On cornerback Xavien Howard, who is seeking a new contract following back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons:

“My anticipation is that Xavien will be here next year. We made the promise to him — after the season, we’ll make the adjustment … just to be truthful with him and do it, that’s the right thing to do.”

On impending free agents Mike Gesicki and Emmanuel Ogbah:

“Mike knows how I feel about him. I drafted him and have had separate conversations with Mike. We’ve had limited talks with his agents.”

“As it got to the end of the season with free agency, both of those guys get to this point, they want to be able to see what their options are. They both told us they want to be back in Miami. They both love it here, they want to be back. We’ll see what happens.”

On Flores’ class-action lawsuit against the NFL and three teams (including the Dolphins):

“(At) some point when it’s done [i can discuss], maybe in the future, but I can’t comment on this right now.

Dolphins GM: Door Shut On Deshaun Watson

The runaway leaders in last year’s Deshaun Watson sweepstakes, the Dolphins have officially bowed out. GM Chris Grier confirmed Wednesday the “door is shut” on a trade for the Texans’ star quarterback, NFL.com’s Cameron Wolfe tweets.

Grier endorsed Tua Tagovailoa‘s progress ahead of his third season, following new HC Mike McDaniel in that regard. With the Dolphins being the only team for which Watson waived his no-trade clause, this opens up the playing field. Watson, of course, remains embroiled in the off-field scandals that have thrown his career off course. The timetable for resolutions in Watson’s civil and criminal cases remains murky, with a lengthy NFL suspension perhaps looming.

Buzz about the Dolphins acquiring Watson amid his off-field trouble intensified ahead of the 2021 trade deadline, when they were the only team left standing. Watson did not waive his no-trade clause for the Eagles or Panthers at that point. Stephen Ross was believed to have pushed Grier and Co. for weeks to finalize a Watson deal, but the Dolphins wanted conditions attached to the draft picks exchanged in the swap. No deal came to pass, and it has now been more than a year since Watson’s trade request surfaced.

Watson was reported to be interested in the Buccaneers and Vikings as destinations, and the Panthers — who showed considerable interest before the accusations of sexual misconduct and sexual assault emerged — still loom for the ex-Clemson superstar.

The Dolphins targeted Tagovailoa for over a year and were in position to land him due to the hip injury sustained late in the southpaw’s Alabama career. Of course, the Dolphins tried to pivot to Joe Burrow, offering the Bengals three first-rounders to move up in 2020, but were rebuffed. This QB pursuit has emerged in Flores’ lawsuit, which accused Ross of offering six-figure payments for 2019 losses.

The team will aim to move past these major headlines and build around Tagovailoa, who has struggled with injuries and inconsistency as a pro. The Dolphins, however, saw receiver unavailability and a bottom-tier offensive line hinder Tua’s development last season. The Watson pursuit almost certainly affected the passer as well. It seems the Dolphins will try to give their starter a legitimate chance to succeed next season.

Dolphins Expected To Stick With QB Tua Tagovailoa

While rumors will always persist, it sounds like the Dolphins are going to stick with their current QB. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Tua Tagovailoa is expected to be the Dolphins starting quarterback for the 2022 season.

[RELATED: Dolphins GM Chris Grier On Deshaun Watson, Tua Tagovailoa]

According to the writer, the organization has “significant” belief in the former fifth-overall pick. The front office will no longer pursue a top-end QB, which would seemingly take them out of the running for Texans QB Deshaun Watson, who the organization has been connected to for the better part of a year. While the team’s new head coach is expected to “evaluate every facet of the football team, including the QB,” the hope is that the new HC will continue to help with Tagovailoa’s development (vs. pushing for a replacement).

Rapoport adds the caveat that the plan is “barring some sort of unforeseen occurrence,” like a “high-profile QB demanding a trade to the Dolphins.” This is an interesting distinction; the franchise won’t pursue a top QB unless that top QB explicitly says he wants to play in Miami. This could indicate that the report is merely posturing by the Dolphins front office.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter provides a bit more context (on Twitter), noting that the firing of Brian Flores was what ultimately “diminished” the Dolphins’ chances of acquiring Watson. According to Schefter, Flores was one of Watson’s main proponents, while owner Stephen Ross was on Team Tua. However, Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com pushes back at this notion, tweeting that he’s heard that Ross was “obsessed” with acquiring the Texans QB.

Tagovailoa dealt with injuries once again in 2021, but he still managed to start 12 of his 13 games. The Dolphins went 7-5 in those 12 starts, and the 23-year-old finished the season having completed 67.8 percent of his passes for 2,653 yards, 16 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions.

Waddle Sets Rookie Receptions Record

The 18-game NFL regular season sees another record fall. In the Dolphins’ first drive of today’s game against the Patriots, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa found his favorite target, receiver Jaylen Waddle, three times, pushing Waddle’s rookie-season total receptions to 102 and cementing that Waddle would end the day with an NFL record.

Waddle finished the game with 5 catches for only 27 yards, but those first three catches resulted in Waddle passing Anquan Boldin for most receptions in a single season for a rookie in NFL history. Boldin’s record of 101 receptions has stood since 2003. Waddle came into the game with 99 catches, so his 5 today make the new mark to beat 104.

Like most records this season, this will have a bit of an asterisk on it, since the record was reached in an 18-week season, as opposed to a 17-week season. While Waddle did technically catch more balls in the same amount of games as Boldin, Waddle did have the benefit of a week of rest outside the traditional bye week when he missed their Week 15 game against the Jets on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

Waddle was joined today by T.J. Watt who tied Michael Strahan’s record for most sacks in a single season with 22.5. While Watt also had the luxury of being able to miss a game and still play the same amount of games that Strahan did back in 2001, Watt actually accomplished his total while only appearing in 15 games this year. This is sure to be a continuing trend in the coming years as players are given an additional opportunity to pad their stats.

Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa Won’t Start Tonight

Tua Tagovailoa will likely miss his second-straight game. NFL Network’s Cameron Wolfe reports (via Twitter) that backup Jacoby Brissett will be starting for the Dolphins when they take on the Ravens tonight.

Tagovailoa has been dealing with a small fracture in the middle finger of his throwing hand that forced him to miss last Sunday’s game against the Texans. Per Wolfe (on Twitter), the quarterback is still dealing with a grip issue and corresponding discomfort. Fortunately, it sounds like the QB is getting better, and the team is hopeful he’ll play next weekend against the Jets. Just like last week, Tagovailoa will still be active for tonight’s game. If Brissett is forced to exit the game, Tagovailoa will be forced into the lineup, injury and all.

The Alabama product has posted a disappointing 86.7 quarterback rating in his 15 professional games, and his persistent injury problems are preventing him from generating any positive momentum. Before the finger ailment, he previously missed three full games this year (and most of a fourth) due to a rib injury. In the five games he’s started, Tagovailoa has completed 65.6 percent of his passes for 1,040 yards, seven touchdowns, and five interceptions. He’s added another 62 yards and two scores on 15 touches.

Brissett has already started four of his seven games this season. The veteran has completed 64.4 percent of his passes for 1,127 yards, five touchdowns, and four interceptions. Per Wolfe, Brissett got the majority of the starting reps at practice this week, and the team was preparing for tonight’s contest as if the 28-year-old would get the start.

Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa Dealing With Broken Finger

Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa is dealing with a small fracture in the middle finger of his throwing hand, and he will not start Miami’s game against the Texans today (Twitter link via Adam Schefter of ESPN.com). Jacoby Brissett will get the nod in Tagovailoa’s place.

Schefter adds in a separate tweet that the injury is not expected to keep Tagovailoa on the sidelines for very long, but because the Dolphins have a quick turnaround with a Thursday night game against the Ravens four days from now, he could end up missing two contests. Of course, he has already missed three full games this year (and most of a fourth) due to a rib injury sustained in Miami’s Week 2 loss to the Bills.

Per Cameron Wolfe of ESPN.com, Tagovailoa did throw in practice this week, but he had swelling and discomfort in his finger that was still giving him trouble in pregame warmups today (Twitter link). The southpaw passer will dress for the Houston game and is technically active, but that is because the Dolphins have only him and Brissett on the active roster (Twitter link via Field Yates of ESPN.com). The Eagles claimed former third-stringer Reid Sinnett off waivers at the end of October, and the ‘Fins did not promote practice squad QB Jake Dolegala.

This is yet another setback in Tagovailoa’s young career. The Alabama product has posted a disappointing 86.7 quarterback rating in his 15 professional games, and his persistent injury problems are preventing him from generating any positive momentum. Factors outside of his control — like the success of Chargers QB Justin Herbert, who was selected one pick after Tagovailoa in the 2020 draft, and the constant Deshaun Watson trade rumors — have underscored that general lack of success.

Head coach Brian Flores has publicly endorsed Tagovailoa on several occasions this year, and though the 1-7 Dolphins have taken a major step backward this year after a promising 2020 campaign, a strong second half of the season from their second-year signal-caller would brighten their 2022 outlook. Now, the chances of that happening seem even slimmer.

Dolphins GM Chris Grier On Deshaun Watson, Tua Tagovailoa

The Dolphins didn’t trade for Deshaun Watson, but they still made plenty of waves in the week leading up to the deadline. By all accounts, owner Stephen Ross was eager to bring the embattled Texans quarterback to Miami, but only if certain “contingencies” were met. In short, the Dolphins were only willing to trade for Watson if his legal troubles were put behind him.

Meanwhile, GM Chris Grier was left to field questions about Watson, the future of young signal caller Tua Tagovailoa, and what it all means for the Dolphins going forward. Here’s a look at some of the highlights, via Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald:

On the Dolphins’ level of interest in Watson:

“My job as general manager is to investigate every avenue on players that may or may not be available. I don’t think it’s any different from any player on the roster. We’ve done that from Day 1. That’s how every team operates. In terms of what discussions were had and what people asked for…We decided not to make a deal.”

On whether a deal was close:

“You go through these processes and talk through these things and we go forward with the team we have. We never got to a point of where anything would be realistic as far as happening.”

On Tagovailoa’s status moving forward:

“If there is a player considered one of the top players in the NFL, you have to look at it and try to go for it. It has nothing to do with not believing in Tua. We’re very happy with Tua.”

On the potential of renewing talks in the offseason: 

“You get through the season and you keep evaluating the entire roster. Once the offseason comes, we’ll make decisions.”

Dolphins GM On Deshaun Watson Talks

After months of speculation, the Dolphins did not complete a trade for Deshaun Watson before the deadline. Multiple reports suggested that the two sides were closing in on a deal last week, but Miami GM Chris Grier tells a different story. 

[RELATED: Dolphins Back Out Of Watson Talks]

We were doing background work and investigating everything,” Grier said (Twitter link via David Furones of the Miami Herald). “Just because we do that, doesn’t mean we’re going to do a deal.”

The Dolphins ultimately backed out due to concerns over Watson’s ongoing legal situation. Owner Stephen Ross wanted to bring Watson to South Beach, but only if his 20+ suits were settled. With that in mind, one reporter asked Grier if the Dolphins were involved in trying to get Watson’s accusers to sign non-disclosure agreements.

I think any suggestion that this organization would be dealing behind the scenes and trying to influence decisions is absolutely ridiculous and categorically false,” Grier said. “So to say that we would be involved in that is just flat wrong. And it pisses me off, I’m sorry.”

Grier also added that the Dolphins’ interest in Watson is not a reflection on their current quarterback. He says the team still believes in Tua Tagovailoa, though that won’t do much to curb speculation in the spring.

At last check, the Texans were seeking three first-round picks and and two second-round picks for the embattled quarterback. That asking price could come down after the season if Watson’s off-the-field matters are settled.

Dolphins HC: Tua Tagovailoa To Remain Starter

Barring injury, head coach Brian Flores says that Tua Tagovailoa will remain the team’s starting quarterback (Twitter link via Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald). However, Flores also declined to come out and say that the Dolphins will not be trading for Texans QB Deshaun Watson.

[RELATED: Texans, Dolphins Agree On Deshaun Watson Compensation?]

Things seem to be heating up between the Dolphins and Texans, with the two sides reportedly agreeing on the trade essentials. Watson has also told the Texans that he would approve a trade to the Dolphins. Flores has shied away from Watson talk in the past, but owner Stephen Ross seems ready to overrule any objectors. Flores is also on the hot seat, so his pro-Tua position doesn’t necessarily mean much.

I don’t not feel wanted,” said Tagovailoa this week when asked about the constant speculation (via ESPN.com). “I really don’t think about it. The only time I’m really hearing about it, like I’ve said before, is if [the communications staff] is kind of telling me what’s going on within the rumors or if my agent calls me. That’s really when I hear it. Other than that, I don’t really hear it.”

We should be hearing plenty about Tagovailoa, Watson, and all the moving parts between now and Tuesday’s deadline. If both QBs remain in place come Wednesday, Tagovailoa can expect the chatter to resume in the offseason.