Tua Tagovailoa

Deshaun Watson Considering Trade Demand?

Multiple reports over the past few days have indicated that quarterback Deshaun Watson is unhappy with the Texans, and Chris Mortensen of ESPN.com has thrown his hat into the ring. Mortensen says that the rumblings about Watson’s displeasure are accurate, and that Watson could even demand a trade (Twitter links).

In addition to Watson’s concerns about how the Texans’ GM search unfolded, which we have already detailed, Mortensen says the three-time Pro Bowl passer continues to be concerned about the team’s insensitivity to social justice issues. In Watson’s view, that insensitivity manifested itself in the team’s decision to not interview Chiefs’ OC Eric Bieniemy, who is black, one of the hottest head coaching candidates in this year’s cycle, and a personal favorite of Watson’s (though Mortensen clarified in a later tweet that Watson’s anger is not “strongly connected” to social justice matters and is more related to the state of the franchise).

And according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, Watson is not just upset by the fact that owner Cal McNair did not consider the GM or head coaching candidates that Watson endorsed, despite assurances that he would at least take his quarterback’s opinions into account. McNair, who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to have the search firm Korn Ferry assist with the GM and HC hunt, ultimately disregarded the firm’s GM recommendations. Korn Ferry tabbed Steelers vice president of football and business administration Omar Khan and current ESPN analyst Louis Riddick as the two most viable candidates for the GM position, but McNair instead forged ahead with Nick Caserio, whom he had been targeting for some time.

Schefter went on to say that Watson, whose anger level on a scale of 1 to 10 was a 2 when the team traded wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins last year, is currently at a 10. While Caserio said in his introductory press conference that Watson is the Texans’ quarterback — thereby implying he would not trade him — Watson could certainly make life difficult for Caserio if he chooses to do so.

Interestingly, a Watson trade would not be as damaging to the Texans’ books as one might think, given that the Clemson product just signed a massive extension earlier this year. A trade would leave Houston with just $21.6MM in dead money for the 2021 season, and as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk writes, multiple GMs believe the Texans could acquire up to three first-round picks in a Watson deal.

Watson does have a no-trade clause written into his new contract, but according to Mortensen, he would consider a trade to the Dolphins. Of course, Houston would have had the No. 3 overall pick in the 2021 draft, but it traded that selection, along with its 2021 second-rounder, to Miami as part of the Laremy Tunsil swap in 2019. The Dolphins, who also hold their own first-round selection in this year’s draft (No. 18 overall) have the capital and the cap space to get a deal done.

Mortensen suggests that Tua Tagovailoa would head to Houston as part of a Watson trade, which would be a controversial and career-defining move if Caserio were to make it. Obviously, that is little more than speculation at this point, but it appears Watson’s feelings towards the Texans will be a major storyline of this offseason.

In related news, Korn Ferry named Colts DC Matt Eberflus as one of the top candidates for the Texans’ HC vacancy, according to Albert Breer of SI.com (via Twitter). McNair at least tried to interview Eberflus, but Eberflus turned down the request. Breer notes in a separate tweet that Houston is also eyeing Bills OC Brian Daboll, who has interviews lined up with the Chargers and Jets.

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Dolphins GM Chris Grier: Tua Tagovailoa Is Starting QB

One of this offseason’s most intriguing storylines may have just been nipped in the bud. Speaking at his end of season media availability, Dolphins GM Chris Grier declared Tua Tagovailoa the starting quarterback moving forward, via Armando Salguero of The Miami Herald.

“Tua we’re very happy with,” Grier said. “He’s our starting quarterback.” While Grier didn’t really hedge much, it’s worth pointing out that he did decline to answer whether the team would consider drafting a quarterback with the third overall pick, saying he wasn’t going to get into draft strategy. It’s difficult to parse this kind of coach and front office-speak, but Grier’s declaration did sound more definitive than when the Cardinals said Josh Rosen was “the guy” before promptly drafting Kyler Murray.

It sounds like the plan right now is to surround Tagovailoa with better weapons, and that will start with upgrading the receiving corp. “We’re very happy with that and looking forward to watching him progress here over the next offseason and going into next year,” Grier continued. Head coach Brian Flores also spoke to the media and said he expected his entire coaching staff back next year, including polarizing offensive coordinator Chan Gailey.

There had been an erroneous report Monday that Gailey was being let go. Flores also didn’t say whether he wanted Ryan Fitzpatrick back with the team in 2021, stating that he needed to evaluate the whole roster first. If the team really is intent on running it back with Tagovailoa, keeping Fitzpatrick would likely prove to be too much of a distraction.

Tagovailoa, of course, found himself benched for Fitzpatrick a couple of times, including in the team’s crucial Week 16 game against the Raiders when Fitzpatrick led a miracle comeback. Had Fitzpatrick not caught COVID-19, he almost certainly would’ve been inserted into their Week 17 loss to the Bills, which knocked them out of the playoffs, where Tagovailoa melted down.
Tagovailoa didn’t play all that poorly by rookie quarterback standards, but he didn’t show nearly as many flashes as Joe Burrow or Justin Herbert, and he often held onto the ball too long and took unnecessary sacks. His struggles with inefficiency led some to question whether or not the Dolphins, with their massive haul of draft picks, would consider starting from scratch with a new passer in this deep quarterback draft.
As of right now it doesn’t seem like they have any plans to do so, although it wouldn’t be too shocking if it turned out Grier and Flores were just playing media games. Tagovailoa finished his rookie season averaging 6.3 yards per attempt with 11 touchdowns and five interceptions in nine starts.

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Flores: Tua Will Remain Dolphins’ Starter

The Dolphins are now one win away from their first trip to the postseason since 2016, and they have Ryan Fitzpatrick (and a healthy dose of Raiders ineptitude) to thank for it. After Miami’s offense with QB Tua Tagovailoa under center stagnated throughout much of last night’s game against Las Vegas, head coach Brian Flores replaced the first-round rookie with the hirsute 38-year-old, and that sprinkling of FitzMagic was enough to pull out a last-second win.

Fitzpatrick completed nine of 13 passes for 182 yards and a touchdown in his limited action, and while much of that yardage came on a no-look prayer of a pass and a healthy run-after-catch from RB Myles Gaskin, the offense undeniably came to life with Fitzpatrick at the helm. That led most to assume that the veteran would start the Dolphins’ Week 17 game with the Bills next week.

But Flores said in his post-game presser that Tagovailoa remains the team’s starter and will get the call against Buffalo, as Cameron Wolfe of ESPN.com was among those to report. “Tua is a young player,” Flores said. “He’s developing. He’s improving on a daily basis. He’s learning from these experiences. He’ll be better next week.”

Last night marked the second time in five games that Tagovailoa was pulled for Fitzpatrick in the fourth quarter, and while Fitzpatrick wasn’t quite able to complete the comeback in Miami’s Week 11 loss to Denver, he got the job done against the Raiders. As a result, the Dolphins will clinch a playoff berth if they beat the Bills next week.

Tagovailoa’s surface-level stats look decent enough — he has completed 65.1% of his passes for 10 TDs against just two interceptions — but most of his throws are dinks and dunks, and his 6.3 yards-per-attempt average is among the worst in the league. He will need to take more downfield shots to pull out a victory over the Bills, but if he should struggle, Flores has shown he will not be afraid to send in Fitzpatrick.

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AFC Notes: Texans, Rivers, Tua, Bolles, Jets

Following the trade deadline, Deshaun Watson revealed how much of an issue a Will Fuller trade would have caused for him. Now, the Texans quarterback does not want Week 12 to have been his final game throwing to the deep threat. Despite Fuller’s six-game PED suspension set to drag into next year, Watson wants the Texans to bring back the impending free agent.

That’s very important,” Watson said of the Texans re-signing Fuller, via ESPN.com’s Sarah Barshop. “That’s definitely one guy that I’m going to be working on this last month and offseason, for sure. Will’s my brother. The whole organization knows that tooAnd you know, make sure that we get him back for next year, especially in this organization.”

A 2016 first-round pick, Fuller has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career. He did in his contract year and was on pace to venture well into four-digit yardage territory. The 26-year-old receiver finished his shortened season with 53 receptions for 879 yards and eight touchdowns — all career-high numbers — and will be one of the top free agents in 2021. The Texans will have exclusive negotiating rights with Fuller until the legal tampering period begins in mid-March.

Here is the latest from the AFC, shifting first to Houston’s Week 13 opponent:

  • Philip Rivers has not missed a game due to injury as a pro, having made 235 straight starts since the Chargers let Drew Brees defect to the Saints in 2006. But Rivers appeared on the Colts‘ injury report this week, being reduced to a limited practice Thursday because of a toe malady. Praising Rivers’ toughness, Quenton Nelson revealed (via the Indianapolis Star’s Joel Erickson and Jim Ayello) the 17th-year quarterback is playing through a “really bad” foot problem presently. Rivers said he has no concerns about being able to play in Week 13.
  • Also expecting to play Sunday: Dolphins rookie Tua Tagovailoa. After Brian Flores said Tagovailoa was “very close” to being able to play against the Jets, the first-round passer expects to start this weekend against the Bengals, Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald notes. Although Tua struggled in Denver and was benched for Ryan Fitzpatrick, Flores said the job is the rookie’s when he is medically cleared. Tagovailoa has been limited in both Miami practices this week.
  • Garett Bolles‘ belated breakout resulted in a big payday from the Broncos, who went from not picking up the once-embattled left tackle’s fifth-year option to signing him to a four-year, $68MM deal. That contract contains $38MM guaranteed and $21MM fully guaranteed over the first two years, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Although the $17MM-per-year figure places Bolles as the NFL’s sixth-highest-paid tackle, the full guarantee is more in line with his uneven performance through three-plus seasons. That number ranks 20th among tackles and comes in $43MM south of what the Ravens recently gave Ronnie Stanley in full guarantees.
  • More weirdness out of New York. Jets guard starter Alex Lewis did not play against the Dolphins last week, and Adam Gase said the absence was not injury-related. This may stem from a dustup between Lewis and Gase. The second-year Jets HC indicated the two had a “conversation” but stopped short of calling it a verbal altercation, SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano notes (Twitter links). Gase did not confirm if Lewis will return in Week 13. A 2019 trade acquisition, Lewis signed a three-year deal to return to the Jets in March.

AFC Notes: Dolphins, Tagovailoa, Colts, Castonzo, Broncos, Calabrese

Ryan Fitzpatrick helped the Dolphins improve to 7-4 with a win over the Jets on Sunday, but it doesn’t sound like he’ll get his starting gig back anytime soon. Speaking after the game, head coach Brian Flores confirmed rookie Tua Tagovailoa would remain the team’s starter when healthy. “Yeah, if he’s healthy, he’s the guy. I don’t know how many different ways we have to continue to say that. You keep asking, I’ll keep answering the same way,” Flores said, via Mike Garafolo of NFL Network (Twitter link).

Clearly he didn’t leave much wiggle room. It’s not like Fitzpatrick lit the world on fire against New York, but he did have two touchdowns and no turnovers. The offense has undeniably moved better with Fitzpatrick under center than Tagovailoa, but obviously Tua is the future. Flores felt comfortable benching Tagovailoa during their Week 11 loss to the Broncos, but clearly doesn’t want to make a full-on change. That being said with Tagovailoa potentially looking at a multi-week absence due to his thumb injury, Fitzmagic might not be ending too soon. If Fitzpatrick plays the Dolphins into the playoffs, it’ll be very interesting to see whether Flores can avoid changing his tune.

Here’s more from around the AFC as we wrap up Week 12:

  • Colts left tackle Anthony Castonzo went down with a knee injury, and Philip Rivers started coming under immediate pressure the moment backup Le’Raven Clark entered the game. While Castonzo was quickly ruled out with the knee injury, fortunately it looks like he avoided major injury, a source told Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). Rapsheet writes that it sounds like an MCL sprain for the long-time Colt. Head coach Frank Reich said after the game a worst-case scenario had been avoided. It sounds like Castonzo won’t be out too long, but any missed time would be a brutal blow for this offense. Indy will need him as they make their playoff push.
  • The Broncos were in an unprecedented situation Sunday as all of their quarterbacks were ruled out due to COVID-19 issues. That led to practice squad receiver Kendall Hinton, who played some quarterback in college, getting the start under center. But before Denver turned to Hinton they initially wanted to make offensive quality control coach Rob Calabrese their starting quarterback against the Saints, sources told Adam Schefter of ESPN.com. Calabrese has been with the team the past two years and Denver felt he knew the system better than anyone else. Schefter notes the league rejected the request out of principle against coaches being activated to keep teams from stashing potential players on the coaching staff. Calabrese played some quarterback at UCF, and ended his college career in 2012. Calabrese apparently ran the offense during practice on Sunday. It’s too bad Roger Goodell didn’t allow it, as that would’ve been even more bonkers and fun than the Hinton situation.

Dolphins’ Tua Tagovailoa To Miss Time

Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has been ruled out for today’s game against the Jets. Although scans on his thumb did not reveal a fracture, he has a good deal of swelling and weakness that could sideline him for multiple weeks (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo). 

Ryan Fitzpatrick will take over for the rookie, who saw his honeymoon end last week against the Broncos. Tagovailoa struggled mightily and, according to head coach Brian Flores, was benched for performance rather than an injury. Still, the No. 5 overall pick was set to start against the Jets today, up until the injury took him out of the equation.

Tagovailoa completed 11 of his 20 passes for just 83 yards last week before Fitzmagic took over. The Dolphins went on to lose, snapping their five-game winning streak. Before the rough outing against Denver, Tagovailoa had thrown for five touchdowns and no interceptions across three victorious starts.

The Dolphins are 6-4 heading into today’s game against the 0-10 Jets. If Tagovailoa needs extra time to heal up, Fitzmagic will be slated to start against the Bengals and Chiefs as the Dolphins make their playoff push.

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Extra Points: Watson, Tagovailoa, Prescott

The Houston Texans are at a crossroads as an organization. After surprisingly firing Bill O’Brien toward the beginning of the year they were left without a head coach and GM. Romeo Crennel and Jack Easterby have taken over those roles on an interim basis, but the franchise is currently in a bit of a rut and lacking direction. They’re also without a lot of draft picks, including their first-rounder next April, due to trades O’Brien made. As they look to dig themselves out of that mess, owner Cal McNair is apparently leaving no stone unturned.

McNair recently had dinner with quarterback Deshaun Watson, the one thing the team has going for them at the moment, and he picked his brain about what he’d like to see moving forward, McNair told Adam Schefter of ESPN.com. Schefter writes that “McNair wanted to hear Watson’s thoughts and opinions on who should be the next head coach.” Assuming Watson gets legit input, it would be relatively safe to assume the Texans will target an offensive mind. Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy is sure to be a hot name, although there are plenty of other offensive minds as well.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Tua Tagovailoa‘s honeymoon as the Dolphins’ quarterback came to an end Sunday in a loss to the Broncos. Tagovailoa struggled mightily during the defeat, and was pulled for Ryan Fitzpatrick. Speaking after the game, head coach Brian Flores confirmed Tagovailoa did not have an injury and was benched for performance. That being said, Flores also wasted no time declaring that his rookie will be his starter next week, meaning we’ll have to wait again for our first dose of Fitzmagic. Tagovailoa was 11/20 for only 83 yards before getting pulled during the loss, which snapped Miami’s five-game winning streak. He’ll have a get-right spot against the Jets next week.
  • Fortunately, we’ve got another positive update to pass along on Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott. Appearing on the radio Friday, team EVP Stephen Jones said he’s been getting “amazing reports” from doctors on Prescott’s status, via Jon Machota of The Athletic. “Shouldn’t come as any surprise,” Jones said. “He does everything to the nines and the 10s and he just does it the very best. He’s been so diligent in his rehab and that shouldn’t surprise anybody. They said if anything he’s ahead of schedule and rolling. That should come as no surprise. So we expect him to have a full recovery.” Jones also reiterated that Prescott avoided any infections, which can sometimes occur with compound fractures. Everything continues to look good for Prescott’s chances of being ready for Week 1 of 2021.
  • Let’s wrap things up with some punter news. Veteran specialist Jon Ryan has been working out and has drawn interest from teams recently, Tom Pelissero of NFL Network tweets. Ryan is 38 now but clearly has no plans of hanging up his cleats. Pelissero notes he led the CFL in gross punting average last season. He most notably spent ten years as the Seahawks’ punter from 2008-17.

AFC East Notes: Gilmore, Pats, Tua, Jets

Although the Patriots shopped Stephon Gilmore this spring, they hung onto him at the trade deadline after setting a high price for the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. When asked if the Patriots entertained offers for Gilmore, Bill Belichick said he was not aware of that occurring. The Pats gave Gilmore a $5MM pay bump this year but will face a decision on the standout cornerback in 2021. That will be the final season of Gilmore’s five-year, $65MM deal. With Jalen Ramsey and Marlon Humphrey each securing extensions worth north of $19MM per year, thus blowing the lid off a long-stagnant corner market, Gilmore will understandably want to cash in while still in his prime. His potential new contract affected his trade market, Tom Curran of NBC Sports notes. Gilmore will turn 31 just after the start of next season.

Here is the latest from the AFC East:

  • The Dolphins‘ trove of draft picks in 2021 appears to have affected their decision to move Tua Tagovailoa into their starting lineup now, creating an audition of sorts ahead of what looks like a strong quarterback draft. However, owner Stephen Ross was not behind the decision to insert Tagovailoa into the starting lineup, per the Miami Herald’s Armando Salguero. With Ross a major supporter of the quarterback the Dolphins were eyeing for more than a year before this year’s draft, it would certainly be interesting if the team continues to be linked to a potential first-round QB pick ahead of the 2021 draft.
  • With their 0-8 record at the bottom of the league, the Jets will continue to be linked to 2021 QB prospects — namely Trevor Lawrence. Their 2018 first-round draftee’s status will move the Jets closer to the Clemson quarterback. Sam Darnold is now unlikely to play against the Patriots, after suffering a shoulder setback against the Chiefs. Adam Gase said Friday that Darnold told him he was not throwing as well as he hoped, and the Jets on Saturday downgraded their starter to doubtful for Monday’s game. Joe Flacco is in line to receive a third start as a Jet.
  • More trouble for the AFC’s New York franchise. Jets players and their agents alerted the NFLPA recently about cameras existing in the team’s locker room, according to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. Specifically, the NFLPA contacted the NFL about surveillance equipment being hidden in smoke detectors in the Jets locker room, Mehta adds. The league indicated cameras have existed in and around the team’s locker room since 2008 and that the players were aware of them. Per several anonymous current and former players, via Mehta, that does not appear to be the case. No consent form permitting cameras is believed to have been signed, and Mehta adds the NFLPA is “troubled” by the Jets unilaterally placing cameras in the locker room.

Latest On Dolphins’ Decision To Start Tua Tagovailoa

The Dolphins started the Tua Tagovailoa era off with a bang, upsetting the Rams 28-17. While Tagovailoa wasn’t asked to do much thanks to a dominant day from Miami’s defense and finished with only 93 yards, Brian Flores decision to bench Ryan Fitzpatrick for the rookie certainly didn’t backfire.

Speaking of that decision, we now have some more details on the Dolphins’ thought process. The fact that Miami owns the Texans’ first and second-round draft picks next April played a role, sources told Adam Schefter of ESPN.com. With the way Houston is circling the drain at 1-6, those picks figure to be very high. Apparently the Dolphins wanted to make sure they got an extra long look at Tagovailoa just in case they’re in position to take a top quarterback in the 2021 draft.

That reporting would seem to indicate that if Tagovailoa flops down the stretch, Miami very easily could draft another signal-caller next year. Unless the Texans finish with the first overall pick they likely won’t be able to get Trevor Lawrence, but Ohio State’s Justin Fields would be a very real possibility. The Dolphins of course just drafted Tagovailoa with the fifth pick this past year, but the situation certainly wouldn’t be unprecedented after the Cardinals just jettisoned Josh Rosen after only one year to draft Kyler Murray.

The Dolphins own those picks from the trade of left tackle Laremy Tunsil. Owners can often get trigger happy with a desire to satisfy fans and play the more exciting option, but despite some speculation to the contrary Dolphins owner Stephen Ross played no role in the decision to move to Tagovailoa, a source told Armando Salguero of The Miami Herald.

This wasn’t a spontaneous decision either, as Salguero writes that Flores and general manager Chris Grier had already made the plan for the bye-week switch before the team’s win over the Jets in Week 6. Next up for Miami is a date with the Cardinals for Tagovailoa’s first career road start.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Dolphins’ Ryan Fitzpatrick Hasn’t Asked For Trade

Ryan Fitzpatrick led the Dolphins to back-to-back wins and a .500 record, but it wasn’t enough to stave off the inevitable rise of Tua Tagovailoa. Now relegated to backup status, the veteran says he has not requested a trade (Twitter link via Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald). At the same time, Fitzpatrick has yet to consider whether he’d be comfortable holding the clipboard beyond 2020.

[RELATED: Dolphins Turn To Tua Tagovailoa]

I like playing more than I like sitting watching,” said Fitzpatrick, confessing and stating the obvious.

FitzMagic, 28 in November, was a bright spot for the Dolphins in an otherwise trying year. He racked up 3,529 passing yards with 20 touchdowns against 13 interceptions and helped cap off the year in style with wins over the Bengals and Patriots.

The veteran is under contract for 2020 with an $8MM salary. Currently positioned as a pricey backup, Fitzpatrick isn’t quite sure of what the future holds beyond this year. For now, he’ll focus on helping the former Alabama standout transition to the pro game.

Tagovailoa’s debut as the Dolphins’ starter will come after their bye week on Nov. 1 against the Rams.

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