Tua Tagovailoa

2024 NFL Fifth-Year Option Tracker

NFL teams have until May 2 to officially pick up fifth-year options on 2020 first-rounders who are entering the final year of their rookie deals. The 2020 CBA revamped the option structure and made them fully guaranteed, rather than guaranteed for injury only. Meanwhile, fifth-year option salaries are now determined by a blend of the player’s position, initial draft placement and performance- and usage-based benchmarks:

  • Two-time Pro Bowlers (excluding alternate Pro Bowlers) will earn the same as their position’s franchise tag.
  • One-time Pro Bowlers will earn the equivalent of the transition tag.
  • Players who achieve any of the following will get the average of the third-20th highest salaries at their position:
    • At least a 75% snap rate in two of their first three seasons
    • A 75% snap average across all three seasons
    • At least 50% in each of first three seasons
  • Players who do not hit any of those benchmarks will receive the average of the third-25th top salaries at their position.

With the deadline looming, we’ll use the space below to track all the option decisions from around the league:

  1. QB Joe Burrow, Bengals ($29.5MM): Exercised
  2. DE Chase Young, Commanders ($17.45MM): Declined
  3. CB Jeff Okudah, Falcons* ($11.51MM): N/A
  4. T Andrew Thomas, Giants ($14.18MM): Exercised
  5. QB Tua Tagovailoa, Dolphins ($23.2MM): Exercised
  6. QB Justin Herbert, Chargers ($29.5MM): Exercised
  7. DT Derrick Brown, Panthers ($11.67MM): Exercised 
  8. LB Isaiah Simmons, Cardinals ($12.72MM): Declined
  9. CB C.J. Henderson, Jaguars** ($11.51MM): Declined
  10. T Jedrick Wills, Browns ($14.18MM): Exercised
  11. T Mekhi Becton, Jets ($12.57MM): Declined
  12. WR Henry Ruggs, Raiders: N/A
  13. T Tristan Wirfs, Buccaneers ($18.24MM): Exercised
  14. DT Javon Kinlaw, 49ers ($10.46MM): Declined
  15. WR Jerry Jeudy, Broncos ($14.12MM): Exercised
  16. CB AJ Terrell, Falcons ($12.34MM): Exercised
  17. WR CeeDee Lamb, Cowboys ($17.99MM): Exercised
  18. OL Austin Jackson, Dolphins ($14.18MM): Declined
  19. CB Damon Arnette, Raiders: N/A
  20. DE K’Lavon Chaisson, Jaguars ($12.14MM): Declined
  21. WR Jalen Reagor, Vikings*** ($12.99MM): To decline
  22. WR Justin Jefferson, Vikings ($19.74MM): Exercised
  23. LB Kenneth Murray, Chargers ($11.73MM): Declined
  24. G Cesar Ruiz, Saints ($14.18MM): Declined
  25. WR Brandon Aiyuk, 49ers ($14.12MM): Exercised
  26. QB Jordan Love, Packers ($20.27MM): Extended through 2024
  27. LB Jordyn Brooks, Seahawks ($12.72MM): Declined
  28. LB Patrick Queen, Ravens ($12.72MM): Declined
  29. T Isaiah Wilson, Titans: N/A
  30. CB Noah Igbinoghene, Dolphins ($11.51MM): Declined
  31. CB Jeff Gladney, Vikings: N/A
  32. RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Chiefs ($5.46MM): To decline

* = Lions traded Okudah on April 11, 2023
** = Jaguars traded Henderson on Sept. 27, 2021
*** = Eagles traded Reagor on August 31, 2022

Tua Tagovailoa Considered Retirement After Concussions

In a recent press conference, Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa gave a candid response to a question asking whether or not he had considered “walking away” after a 2022 season in which he suffered multiple concussions.

“Yeah, I think I considered it, you know, for a time,” Tagovailoa said in reply. “Having sat down with my family, having sat down with my wife and having those kinds of conversations — but really, it would be hard for me to walk away from this game with how old I am, with my son. I always dreamed of playing as long as I could to where my son knew exactly what he was watching his dad do. It’s my health, it’s my body, and I feel like this is what’s best for me and my family. I mean, I love the game of football. If I didn’t, I would’ve quit a long time ago.”

Tagovailoa suffered three concussions during the 2022 season, resulting in him missing five games, including Miami’s first playoff game since 2016. This marked the third consecutive season to start his career where he hasn’t been able to play every game because of injury. He dealt with a jammed thumb and fractured ribs in his first two seasons. The concussions this year were the first he’d had diagnosed since college, but the sheer frequency of the injury this year caused him to deliberate.

The 25-year-old had undergone several medical evaluations since his most recent concussion and had decided that he couldn’t overlook what the medical information told him. Luckily, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, the doctors gave Tagovailoa good news, stating that “no medical evidence proves” that concussions are more likely eight to twelve months after suffering concussions (no matter how many).

So, Tagovailoa will return for his fourth year in the NFL, and should, at the very least, be back for a fifth, after the Dolphins picked up his fifth-year option. In 2023, he will look to build off of last year, easily his most productive season. Miami retained most of the running backs room, and even though Tagovailoa lost tight end Mike Gesicki to New England in free agency, the young passer will have Chosen Anderson and Braxton Berrios as additional weapons in 2023.

Tagovailoa is expected to return and, according to medical opinion, should not be any more likely to suffer head injuries due to his history with concussions. He’s even practiced how best to fall in order to avoid such injuries.

Dolphins To Pick Up Tua Tagovailoa’s Fifth-Year Option

Fifth-year option decisions are not due for nearly two months, but the Dolphins are making it clear to Tua Tagovailoa he remains their centerpiece player.

The team has informed Tagovailoa his fifth-year option will be picked up, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com reports (on Twitter). This will lock in the southpaw passer to $23.2MM in 2024. The 2020 CBA changed the fifth-year option to being guaranteed for injury only to fully guaranteeing players’ salaries.

At the Combine, the Dolphins were not as definitive about Tagovailoa’s future. Mike McDaniel did not guarantee the team would exercise the option, but several days later, the team is moving ahead with a nice show of confidence in its starter. This comes after Tagovailoa displayed considerable improvement but did so in a season that will be better remembered for his concussion issues. Those aside, Dolphins decision-makers have said they want Tagovailoa to be their starter for a long time.

Additional uncertainty emerged when reports began to surface indicating the Dolphins were surveying the QB market and considering outside options. This early option declaration could well be an effort by the franchise to show some faith. Following the Ravens’ decision to use the non-exclusive franchise tag on Lamar Jackson, it was reported the Dolphins are not expected to pursue the star talent. McDaniel remains behind Tagovailoa, with ESPN.com’s Jeff Darlington noting the second-year HC “fully believes Tua is the perfect fit for his system.”

This will be the first of three QB fifth-year options to be picked up before May, with the Bengals and Chargers certainly set to exercise the add-ons for Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert. It will be interesting to see how the Packers proceed with Jordan Love, who has ridden the bench for three seasons ahead of his option date. With Love looking likelier by the day to be Green Bay’s starter in 2023, he will have a decent chance of seeing that option exercised despite having been a career-long backup.

The Dolphins chose Tua one spot ahead of Herbert in 2020. While that decision has benefited the Chargers, Tagovailoa’s strides in 2022 narrowed the perception gap between these two AFC passers. After two unremarkable seasons, Tagovailoa took steps forward in McDaniel’s system. His unavailability aside, the Alabama alum finished the year third in QBR — behind only Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen — and ended his third season with 25 touchdown passes despite finishing only 12 games.

Miami’s season can be divided into two relatively separate sections: with and without Tua. The Dolphins went 8-4 in the games Tagovailoa finished. They were 1-5 in the other contests. Teddy Bridgewater‘s issues staying healthy also hurt Miami’s cause, leading to Skylar Thompson making unexpected starts — including in the team’s playoff game in Buffalo — but the Dolphins’ offense suffered immensely without its starting QB on the field. Tagovailoa has been cleared from concussion protocol, though his suffering at least two concussions — in addition to a controversial Week 3 sequence in which he showed concussion-like symptoms, leading to an overhaul to the NFL’s protocol — clouds his future. Nevertheless, the Dolphins are still betting on their former top-five investment.

After making an infamous run at Tom Brady last year and pursuing Deshaun Watson in 2021, the Dolphins will attempt to have a stable quarterback offseason. Jackson being a South Florida native would have made such a pursuit interesting, but teams have made early efforts to avoid doling out the fully guaranteed contract the former MVP seeks.

Dolphins Undecided On Tua Tagovailoa’s Fifth-Year Option

After making a number of sizeable moves last offseason, the Dolphins are unlikely to be active with respect to outside additions in 2023. The team does face a crucial internal decision with respect to quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, however, and nothing has been committed to at this point.

As a first-round pick in 2020, Miami must decide on picking up Tagovailoa’s fifth-year option this year. The deadline for doing so is May 1, but the team may wait until very near that point to to pick up or decline it. When speaking about the subject publicly, head coach Mike McDaniel indicated that the Dolphins would be well-served to consider every option, though he did add that “both parties want him to play at a high level for a very long time for the Miami Dolphins” (Twitter link via NFL Network’s Cameron Wolfe).

Picking up Tagovailoa’s option would carry a cost of $23.17MM for the 2024 campaign. That figure would represent a bargain for starting-caliber QB play, especially considering the step forward the 25-year-old took under McDaniel this past season. Tagovailoa set career-highs across several categories in 2022, and led the league in passer rating and yards per attempt. Keeping him in place for at least the next two years would seem like a simple decision based on his production alone.

The Dolphins must keep in mind, of course, Tagovailoa’s injury history, something which complicates the situation. The Alabama product suffered at least two (potentially three) concussions in the 2022 season, which kept him sidelined for team’s postseason push and wild-card round loss to the Bills. He had a lengthy stay in the league’s concussion protocol after the Dolphins had been eliminated, something which has left some to seriously doubt his long-term playing future. Tagovailoa has since publicly praised the team’s decision to force him to sit out as a precaution, and is planning on taking new steps to better protect himself in the future.

Given his availability concerns, Miami would be wise to at least explore possible alternatives, and Josina Anderson of CBS Sports reports that the team is doing just that (video link). One of several options being weighed, she states, includes “potentially moving in a different direction” than Tagovailoa, something which would mark a highly underwhelming development given the recent draft capital invested in him.

Miami added veteran Teddy Bridgewater as a backup last offseason, but he dealt with multiple injuries of his own over the course of the year. Seventh-round rookie Skylar Thompson was called into action for two regular season games and the postseason contest, but a long-term starting option would need to be found in the absence of Tagovailoa next season. The Dolphins’ 2023 draft capital – hindered by last year’s tampering scandal – would not be sufficient to land one the class’ top passers as a developmental QB, which could point to Tagovailoa’s option being the safest option in the near-term to build off of 2022’s success.

Tua Tagovailoa Addresses Concussion Recovery, Offseason Plans

Tua Tagovailoa took a dramatic step forward in 2022 in terms of performance, but his season will be best remembered for the multiple concussions he suffered. The last one cost him the final two games of the regular season, as well as the Dolphins’ wild card loss.

The 24-year-old quarterback recently spoke about his path to recovery following the concussion he suffered on Christmas Day, which represented at least the second (if not third) which he dealt with this season. He didn’t clear the league’s protocol until last week, inviting questions about his and the team’s handling of the repeated head trauma.

While in conversation with Mackenzie Salmon of USA Today, Tagovailoa said, “for concussion protocol, I think the team did me the biggest service throughout that. They never allowed me to go through protocol normally until the season was done. So that’s why it might have seemed like it took forever, but they were just protecting me from myself. And me and my family are very thankful to the Dolphins” (video link).

The fact that Miami kept the former No. 5 overall pick from navigating the standard return procedure until after their season was over is striking. The Dolphins’ handling of Tagovailoa earlier in the year led to an NFLPA investigation and the implementation of new concussion protocols midway through the year. It comes as no surprise that an abundance of caution was used this winter, even with that approach leaving Miami without their top signal-caller in the postseason.

The Alabama product is taking steps this offseason aimed at preventing a repeat of his 2022 injury woes. One of them will involve taking up judo, as detailed by Yahoo! Sports’ Jason Owens. Tagovailoa said the martial art will help “figure out understanding my body and how to fall,” something which could in turn prevent harder head contact after hits compared to this past season.

If successful, Tagovailoa could set himself up for a repeat of this year’s success (when healthy). Now eligible for an extension, the former Heisman finalist recently changed agents with the team’s fifth-year option decision due to be made soon. How much faith the Dolphins place in him from a financial and roster standpoint – in terms of acquiring a high-end backup QB as insurance – will be an interesting storyline as the offseason unfolds.

AFC East Notes: Becton, Jets, Tua, Bills

The 2023 fifth-year option numbers dropped this week, and a near-$6MM gap exists between the first and fourth tiers of offensive line option numbers. That is unlikely to matter regarding the Jets‘ plans with Mekhi Becton. There is “virtually no chance” the Jets pick up Becton’s 2024 option, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com notes. Tier 4 in the 2023 option structure checks in at $12.57MM for offensive linemen, but with that number being fully guaranteed, the Jets were not exactly expected to consider it for Becton given his past two seasons.

With 2023 almost definitely set to be a contract year for the once-entrenched Jets tackle, Cimini adds Becton changed representation. He signed with the New York-based Sportstars agency. Becton, who had been represented by Klutch Sports, returning to form would represent quite the contract-year success story. He has played in one game since his rookie season ended. An avulsion fracture of the right kneecap felled Becton in 2022; a dislocated kneecap and MCL damage sidelined Becton for 16 games in 2021. The Louisville product showed considerable promise as a rookie, and he will attempt to revive his career in 2023. Becton is expected to be ready for OTAs in April.

The talented blocker’s weight has been a recurring issue during his Jets career. It plagued him during each of his first three years; most recently, the Jets were concerned with Becton’s weight during minicamp last year. Weighing 363 pounds at the 2020 Combine, Becton has weighed as much as 400 during his Jets tenure. After Becton said recently he had lost “a lot” of weight, Cimini confirms he is down to around 370 and plans to lose more this offseason.

An opportunity could await Becton, with George Fant five weeks from free agency and Duane Brown going into an age-38 season. But the Jets cannot count on the 2020 first-rounder at this point. Here is the latest from the AFC East:

  • Elijah Moore returned to the Jets after a brief hiatus and trade request. Some among the Jets believed Zach Wilson‘s struggles contributed to Moore’s departure request, Cimini adds, with Mike LaFleur‘s play-calling contributing as well. Moore and LaFleur engaged in a heated argument in October, and teams called the Jets on the second-year receiver. But Gang Green brought the second-round pick back into the fold. Moore’s production declined from his rookie year, dropping from 48.9 yards per game to 27.9 per contest. The Jets have made no secret of their pursuit of a quarterback upgrade this offseason.
  • LaFleur and assistant GM Rex Hogan pushed hardest for Wilson in 2021, per Cimini, who offers that some in the organization viewed the BYU arm as a developmental prospect unworthy of the No. 2 overall pick. Both Wilson and Trey Lance leapfrogged Justin Fields that offseason; each’s career is at a crossroads entering 2023. Wilson is not a lock to return to the Jets, though team brass has consistently stumped for the struggling passer. The Jets and LaFleur parted ways last month; he is now the Rams’ OC.
  • Tua Tagovailoa‘s fifth-year option would cost the Dolphins $23.17MM. That number is down more than $6MM from what Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert‘s 2024 options will cost, but the Dolphins have not indicated they are certain to pick it up. As Tagovailoa prepares for his fourth season, he has joined Becton in changing agents. Tua signed with Ryan Williams and Austin Lyman of Athletes First, Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal writes. Tagovailoa recently cleared concussion protocol and showed remarkable improvement in 2022, but the former No. 5 overall pick will have health- and performance-related questions to answer in 2023.
  • The conditional pick the Bills sent the Colts for Nyheim Hines at the deadline will be a fifth-round choice, Sal Capaccio of WGR 550 tweets. Thanks to the Cody Ford trade, the Bills held two fifth-round picks prior to the Hines deal. It will be the Bills’ own fifth-rounder that will go to the Colts.

Tua Tagovailoa Clears Concussion Protocol

Tua Tagovailoa will soon begin to transition into normal offseason activity. While the Dolphins will undoubtedly proceed cautiously with their quarterback moving forward, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com notes (via Twitter) Tagovailoa cleared concussion protocol Wednesday.

Several days ago, Tagovailoa had still yet to clear the protocol — and was thus ruled out for the Pro Bowl Games — despite having suffered his most recent concussion on Christmas Day. Since that injury, Rapoport notes Tua has met with several doctors. The Dolphins remain confident their starter will be 100% for the 2023 season.

The 2022 season both included a breakthrough year for the third-year Dolphins QB and some troubling signs about his NFL career. Tagovailoa finished the season third in QBR and threw 25 touchdown passes despite only finishing 12 games. The absences overshadowed the Alabama product’s success, considering Tagovailoa’s injuries both caused him to miss the Dolphins’ playoff game and the NFL to overhaul its concussion protocol.

Tagovailoa, 24, either suffered two or three concussions this season. The uncertainty on the number stems from a Week 3 game against the Bills, when Tagovailoa briefly left the game after showing signs of a head injury. He was cleared to return, and while Tua finished the game — one that ended up becoming rather critical in the AFC’s grand scheme, considering the Bills’ loss led to them falling a half-game short of the AFC’s No. 1 seed — the process that led to his quick return prompted an NFLPA review and enhancements to the league’s concussion protocol.

The Dolphins lost their starter again four days later, after a scary hit led to Tagovailoa being stretchered off the field in Cincinnati, and played without him in the season’s final three games following his Christmas Day injury — one not discovered until the next day. The Dolphins went just 1-5 in games Tua did not finish. Then again, Teddy Bridgewater battled multiple injuries as well and was largely unavailable for the team this season as well. Bridgewater is set for free agency in March; Tagovailoa’s rookie deal has at least one season remaining.

Dolphins GM Chris Grier did not rule out an extension this offseason, and a January report affirmed Tagovailoa as the team’s 2023 starter. The Dolphins must decide on Tagovailoa’s fifth-year option by May. It would certainly make sense for the Dolphins to wait on a deal, given the inconsistency Tagovailoa has shown in three seasons. But he took major strides this year. The injuries sustained along the way, however, did affect the talented passer’s outlook.

QB Rumors: Packers, Carr, Burrow, Colts

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is expected to play in 2023, per ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler (video link). Fowler cites the ~$60MM balloon payment that Rodgers is due between March and the start of the 2023 regular season as a motivating factor for the four-time MVP, and assuming he does want to suit up, Green Bay will have to decide if it wants him back or wants to seek a trade.

The club’s top power brokers, GM Brian Gutekunst and HC Matt LaFleur, have publicly indicated they want Rodgers back in Wisconsin, which could — in Fowler’s estimation — force Jordan Love to request a trade. The 2020 first-rounder believes he is ready to become a QB1, and as he is entering the final year of his rookie deal, now would be a good time for him to get that chance.

Here are more QB rumors from around the league:

  • In the same piece linked above, Fowler says that the Derek Carr sweepstakes will start to heat up as we get closer to the Super Bowl. Carr, whose contract with the Raiders includes a no-trade clause, is beginning to do his homework on possible landing spots, and Fowler hears (unsurprisingly) that the Jets, Saints, and Commanders are expected to have interest. Several clubs have already reached out to Las Vegas to lay the groundwork for trade talks.
  • Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow will be eligible for an extension when Cincinnati’s season comes to an end, and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports that the club wants to get a new deal done this offseason. A Burrow extension will be hugely expensive, and owner Mike Brown and Burrow himself acknowledged the challenges that such a deal creates for roster construction (via Ben Baby of ESPN.com). Of course, the Bengals will have to operate within the same salary cap confines as every other team in the league, but as Rapoport observes, the small-market franchise does have more cash on hand these days thanks in large part to the success that the team has enjoyed with Burrow under center.
  • In a comprehensive piece that is well-worth a read for Colts fans, a piece that details owner Jim Irsay‘s increasingly impulsive decision-making and the ensuing fallout, Zak Keefer of The Athletic (subscription required) says that Irsay wanted to draft and develop a rookie QB in the 2021 draft. However, then-head coach Frank Reich convinced Irsay that he could resuscitate Carson Wentz‘s career. When that experiment went awry, Irsay began to lose faith in Reich, who apologized to his boss for his misstep. The team again opted for an established passer last offseason when it engineered the Matt Ryan trade, and in light of that failure, Adam Jahns of The Athletic (subscription required) believes Indianapolis is finally going to eschew the veteran QB route. The Colts, armed with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2023 draft, are in prime position to select a top collegiate signal-caller and could trade up to land the player of their choice.
  • Dolphins GM Chris Grier recently confirmed reports that Tua Tagovailoa will be the team’s starting quarterback in 2023, as Daniel Oyefusi of the Miami Herald writes. Grier says the medical professionals he has consulted have told him that the concussions Tagovailoa suffered this season will not make him more prone to concussions going forward. He also said “everything’s on the table for us” when asked if the team would exercise Tagovailoa’s fifth-year option for 2024 and/or engage in extension talks.
  • The Jets may keep 2021 first-rounder Zach Wilson on the roster in 2023, but the team is widely expected to pursue a veteran like Carr or Rodgers to upgrade the quarterback position. Apparently, that will be a welcome development for some of Wilson’s teammates and coaches, who “rejoiced” when Wilson was benched in favor of Mike White in November and who were disappointed when Wilson was reinserted into the lineup following White’s rib injuries (via Zack Rosenblatt of The Athletic (subscription required)). Regardless of whether Wilson’s apologies to his teammates in the wake of his failure to accept much blame for his poor performance in New York’s Week 11 loss to the Patriots helped him regain the respect of the locker room, the consensus seems to be that he is not the passer who will guide the Jets back to the playoffs.

Tua Tagovailoa Expected To Remain Dolphins’ QB1 In 2023

Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is expected to remain with Miami in 2023 and operate as the team’s starting quarterback, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com.

In many ways, Schefter’s report should not come as a surprise. In his third professional season, Tagovailoa’s overall stats were tremendous, as he threw for 25 TDs against just eight interceptions and led the NFL in several key categories, including quarterback rating (105.5), TD% (6.3%), and yards per attempt (8.9). He clearly made great strides under rookie head coach Mike McDaniel, and for much of the year, it appeared as if his future in South Beach was no longer in doubt.

Unfortunately, Tagovailoa’s season was also marked by serious concussion issues. The Alabama product displayed concussion-like symptoms in Week 3 against the Bills, and while he returned to action shortly after that sequence, an NFLPA investigation into the Dolphins’ handling of the situation led to an overhaul of the NFL’s concussion protocol. Tagovailoa entered the protocol four days later, after being stretchered off the field in Cincinnati, and he was placed in the revised protocol a day after sustaining an unspotted concussion against Green Bay on Christmas Day. He has missed four full games this season, and the head injuries — to say nothing of the time he missed due to other maladies over the 2020-21 campaigns — have obviously created cause for concern.

Plus, after posting an 8-1 record in the first nine games he played this season, Tagovailoa lost his last four and put up QB ratings of 80.8 or lower in three of those contests. So while there will be fewer questions about this long-term viability as a franchise passer than there were at this time last year, the team still has plenty to consider.

As he has now accrued three years of service time, Tagovailoa will be extension-eligible this offseason. It is unclear whether the Dolphins will engage in contract discussions with the southpaw’s camp, or if they will exercise his fifth-year option for 2024. The deadline to pick up that option is May 3, and it would lock in a fully-guaranteed 2024 salary of roughly $22.5MM. Obviously, much could depend on whether Miami elects to renew its pursuit of Tom Brady in the coming months.

If seventh-round rookie Skylar Thompson should somehow pilot the ‘Fins to a victory in today’s wildcard contest against the Bills — veteran Teddy Bridgewater, who is dealing with a dislocated finger, will serve as Thompson’s backup — Tagovailoa could have a chance to play in the divisional round, per Schefter. The ESPN scribe adds that medical professionals are confident Tagovailoa will be able to resume his playing career in spite of the concussions.

Tua Tagovailoa To Miss Wild-Card Game

JANUARY 13: McDaniel confirmed it will again be Thompson at the controls. The seventh-round pick will make his third start of the season. Tagovailoa remains in concussion protocol, with McDaniel indicating (via NFL.com’s Cameron Wolfe, on Twitter) he has not advanced to the on-field activity stage of the protocol. The Dolphins have not ruled out Bridgewater as a backup option for Sunday’s Bills matchup.

JANUARY 11: The Dolphins will not have their starting quarterback in their wild-card matchup with the Bills, Mike McDaniel said Wednesday. Tua Tagovailoa has not been cleared for football activities yet.

This obviously represents a tough blow for the AFC’s No. 7 seed, but it was viewed as an uphill battle for Tagovailoa — who has suffered two confirmed concussions this season — to be cleared for Miami’s first-round game. Tua has not suffered any setbacks, per McDaniel, who said (via the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson) “compounding variables” are in play here. This likely refers to the third-year QB’s prior injuries this season. This will be the third straight game in which the Dolphins will not have their starter available, and it will be Tagovailoa’s fifth absence this season.

As of Wednesday, the Dolphins are preparing to give third-stringer Skylar Thompson another start. But McDaniel said (via Jackson, on Twitter) Teddy Bridgewater is working toward a return. A seventh-round rookie, Thompson has struggled — as could be expected — when called upon this season. Bridgewater, who suffered a dislocated pinkie in Week 17, has not finished either of the two games he started during his first Dolphins slate. It is unlikely Bridgewater will be able to practice much this week, McDaniel said.

The Dolphins qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2016. That team’s ensuing playoff game — a loss to the Steelers — involved a backup quarterback (Matt Moore). This will bring some familiar territory for Miami, which has not won a playoff game since the 2000 season. McDaniel’s Wednesday announcement, however, likely will allow Tua extensive time to recover before his fourth NFL campaign. His third presented his highest heights as a pro but also brought concerning injury developments.

Restoring some confidence after two uneven years to start his career, Tagovailoa finished the regular season third in QBR and led the Dolphins to eight of their nine wins. He also fared well in the Dolphins’ narrow loss to the Bills in Buffalo. But head injuries interrupted the Alabama product, who had aimed to return in time for a wild-card outing.

Tagovailoa displayed concussion-like symptoms in Week 3 against the Bills, and while the young southpaw returned to action shortly after that sequence, an NFLPA investigation into the Dolphins’ handling of that situation led to an overhaul of the NFL’s concussion protocol. Tagovailoa entered the protocol four days later, after being stretchered off the field in Cincinnati, and was again placed in the revised protocol a day after sustaining an unspotted concussion against Green Bay on Christmas Day.

Bridgewater, 30, would be the Dolphins’ best bet against the heavily favored Bills, but the veteran almost certainly will not be at 100% even if he does see action Sunday. Thompson completed 20 of 31 passes against the Jets’ tough pass defense, averaging just 4.9 yards per attempt. The Kansas State product has completed 57% of his throws this season.