How should Dolphins handle the backup QB role after 2020 season?

Kyle Crabbs
·3 min read

The Miami Dolphins have officially made their transition at the quarterback position — the much anticipated change behind center has led Miami to the culmination of their rebuilding efforts beginning last January. Tua Tagovailoa is officially the starting quarterback of the Miami Dolphins. And with veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick currently serving as the backup after strong play to start the season, Miami has an admirable quarterback situation on their hands — this is the best shape the entire quarterback room has been in quite some time. And if Tagovailoa becomes everything Dolphins fans believe he can be, it might be the best shape the quarterback room has been in since the early 1990s.

But how do the Dolphins go from here. They presumably have their long-term quarterback to start, but the backup role is a big mystery. How should the Dolphins go about ensuring that the quarterback room remains a strength beyond this season?

They’ll have a few options.

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) congratulates Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) after Fitzpatrick threw his third touchdown pass of the game at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, October 18, 2020. [ALLEN EYESTONE/The Palm Beach Post]

Coax Ryan Fitzpatrick into another short-term deal to remain the backup

Fitzpatrick’s contract is currently set to expire at the end of the season and, based on how hurt Fitzpatrick seemed with Miami’s decision to make the change, he may ultimately want to go out on his own terms as a starter elsewhere. But if he’s receptive to the idea of staying in Miami for another few seasons as the backup signal caller, Fitzpatrick would be a great option for the Dolphins in the short-term scope as they’re learning just how good Tagovailoa can be. And with Tagovailoa’s durability still in question until he proves it shouldn’t be, having a veteran who can step in would bring a lot of value to a team that is expecting to be competing in 2021.

Dec 24, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; A general view of a Miami Dolphins helmet before the game against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Sign another veteran backup to replace Fitzpatrick for a longer term

This approach could get quite dicey rather quickly. Of the free agent quarterbacks set to hit the market, most are either old (Joe Flacco, Phillip Rivers, Matt Schaub, etc.), or very bad (Matt Barkley, Nate Peterman, C.J. Beathard, etc.). So this isn’t an ideal scenario for Miami to peg a potential backup. Cam Newton is set to become a free agent but he’s undoubtedly going to look for the chance to start. Andy Dalton and Mitchell Trubisky may be the most intriguing backup options on the free agent market depending on how much of a long-term backup the team could be looking to acquire.

Dalton’s style of play seems like a modest fit for Miami’s quick passing attack, too. That might be the best play if Fitzpatrick wants to move on.

DAVIE, FL – FEBRUARY 04: Chris Grier General Manager of the Miami Dolphins speaks during a press conference as he introduces Brian Flores as the new Head Coach of the Miami Dolphins at Baptist Health Training Facility at Nova Southern University on February 4, 2019 in Davie, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

Draft a rookie to backup Tagovailoa in the 2021 draft

Miami wouldn’t likely be drafting one in the top-100 picks, but never the less could peg a potential developmental backup to step in behind Tagovailoa. The risk here is what happens if Tagovailoa gets hurt? The Dolphins’ 2021 season would almost certainly be sunk if the team committed to two young quarterbacks and their starter went down.

Candidates for this scenario include Mac Jones (Alabama), Desmond Ridder (Cincinnati) and Tanner Morgan (Minnesota) as Day 3 options.