J.J. Watt deal with Cards likely creates Miami Dolphins opening to sign Haason Reddick

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Armando Salguero
·5 min read
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You know that old saying about life sometimes serving up lemons and that’s the time to make lemonade? Well, Monday was kind of like that for the Miami Dolphins.

And now they have an opportunity to mix up some potentially yummy, pass-rush-refreshing lemonade.

The reason for that is J.J. Watt signed with the Arizona Cardinals on Monday. And while that was all sorts of good news for the Dolphins because the Buffalo Bills were among the three reported teams — along with Green Bay and Cleveland — said to be interested in the free agent defensive lineman.

And, of course, Watt signed with the Arizona Cardinals.

And, you may ask, what kind of lemonade can that serve up for the Dolphins?

Meet potential lemonade Haason Reddick.

The signing of Watt with the Cardinals, at a reported price tag of $31 million over two years with $23 million guaranteed, makes it very unlikely Reddick returns to Arizona.

Sorry, Vance Joseph.

Reddick is an unrestricted free agent in a couple of weeks because the Cardinals declined the fifth-year option on him last May. That was before Reddick had a career year with 12.5 sacks, 16 QB hits, and six forced fumbles.

Reddick had been something a disappointment before 2020 but a move from inside linebacker to outside linebacker late in 2019 helped. And when Chandler Jones was injured the second month of the 2020 season, Reddick rose from 34 snaps per game to 49.

And his production similarly jumped.

Joseph, the former Dolphins defensive coordinator who is now the Cardinals’ defensive architect, found something.

The problem for the Cardinals, again, is that Reddick is unsigned for 2021.

Bad for the Cardinals. Good for teams needing a pass rusher who will fit their system.

More lemonade? Reddick seems to be a system fit for the Dolphins based on what they have done the last two years.

[Update: More lemonade? The Dolphins are planning to release linebacker Kyle Van Noy after signing him to a $51 million deal in free agency last year, the Herald has confirmed. The move will save the Dolphins at least $9.7 million and as much as $12.5 million in cap space this year, depending on whether they designate the move as post June 1 or not. So, suddenly, the Dolphins have more cap space.]

Now, it should be said the Dolphins were solid getting to the quarterback in 2020. Their 41 sacks was 11th most in the NFL. And the Dolphins have not indicated (as of this writing) they have designs on chasing Reddick.

But more quarterback pressure would definitely be better for Miami. It would be a great insurance policy if defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah doesn’t have another career year with nine sacks and Kyle Van Noy continues to provide the 6-6.5 sacks per year he has delivered the past two years.

Yes, the Dolphins pride themselves on creating pressure with their scheme. But that’s because they cannot pride themselves on having a Jason Taylor or Cameron Wake type that other teams have to account for on every play.

It would be optimal to have both a scheme that creates pressure and at least one dude who is a major disruption on every pass play.

Now that you’re sold on the idea of making this lemonade brew, let’s discuss tangible issues, including price.

The Cardinals very likely went hard after Watt because one of two things is true:

Perhaps they simply didn’t buy the one-year wonder act from Reddick. After all, they know him best.

Or perhaps they already had initial discussions with Reddick’s agent and understand the deal he’s expecting to sign is outside their price range.

The Cardinals, you see, are not expected to be flush with salary cap space. They were expected to have between $12 million and $16 million in cap space, before the Watt signing, depending on whether the 2021 cap falls between $181 million and $185 million.

The Dolphins will have more cap space — around $23 million to $27 million, without cutting anyone or restructuring deals, which would create significantly more cap space. [Update: The Van Noy cut adds at least $9 million to each of those numbers and it could be more.]

So, as has been reported in this space, the Dolphins can go as big or small in free agency as they wish. They can chase expensive talent in free agency as they did last year or continue to add through the draft while adding no more than perhaps one expensive free agent.

Reddick, 26 years old, fits either way unless he simply wants to set salary records.

That is not what he has said he wishes to do, although money is obviously important.

“I want to be one of the guys that’s called on to make plays,” Reddick told SiriusXM NFL Radio a few days ago. “I want the fit and the feeling to be right. I want a mutual understanding between me and the coaching staff about what’s expected, what’s to be done, and the effort I’m going to give.

“If it’s not here with the Cardinals and it’s somewhere else and I have to go to a different team, it’s all about being the correct fit, being the correct system and being somewhere I can still thrive, flourish and continue to grow as a player.”

Anyone want some lemonade?