A look at Miami Dolphins’ backup quarterback options if Fitzpatrick moves on

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Barry Jackson
·5 min read
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So if not Ryan Fitzpatrick, who makes sense to fill the Miami Dolphins’ backup quarterback job behind Tua Tagovailoa?

If the Dolphins move on from impending free agent Fitzpatrick — the Dolphins declined to say if they even want him back and Fitpatrick might look elsewhere anyway — these would be the options from the list of unrestricted free agents, excluding Cowboys Pro Bowler Dak Prescott (coming off a major injury) and likely 2021 starters Philip Rivers and Mitchell Trubisky:

Jacoby Brissett: The former Colts starter threw only eight passes this season as Rivers’ backup. Brissett has appeared in 49 NFL games and started 32, producing 31 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and an 84.1 rating.

Brissett, 28, likely will look for a chance to compete for a starting job. But if he cannot find one, Miami would make a lot of sense for the West Palm Beach native.

He could command a contract similar to the three-year, $24 million deal that Nick Foles secured from Chicago or the two-year, $17.5 million deal that Marcus Mariota landed with Las Vegas last year.

Tyrod Taylor: The Dolphins called him two years ago before offering a deal to Fitzpatrick, but Taylor opted for the Chargers, where he started one game and threw 36 passes in two years.

He would have started more games if the Chargers’ team doctor hadn’t accidentally punctured Taylor’s lung while administering a painkiller injection prior to the third game this season, which opened the door for Justin Herbert.

Taylor, 31, has appeared in 72 games and started 47 and produced an 89.5 passer rating, 54 touchdowns and 20 interceptions.

Andy Dalton: Dalton could return to Dallas as Prescott’s backup after signing a one-year deal for $3 million in base, with another $4 million in incentives. With Prescott injured, Dalton threw 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions and produced an 87.3 rating in 11 games and nine starts.

Dalton, 33, is an option for Miami if the Cowboys don’t keep him and if Dalton doesn’t find an opportunity to compete for a starting job.

Colt McCoy: He has started five games during the past three years — including two for the Giants this season - and though he’s capable of short bursts of production, the career work is mediocre: 30 touchdowns, 28 interceptions and 78.1 rating. He hasn’t had a passer rating above 79 since 2015. At 34, he’s likely to get a job somewhere.

Cam Newton: His 2020 season for the Patriots — eight touchdowns, 10 interceptions, 82.9 rating in 15 starts — does nothing to suggest he will become an effective starter again. At 31, he likely will need to settle for a backup job. This could be a second- or third-tier option for Miami.

Mike Glennon: He threw seven touchdowns and five interceptions and produced an 80.1 rating in five winless starts for the Jaguars this season and he’s 6-21 as a starter with an 83.5 rating, 43 touchdowns and 25 interceptions.

Glennon, 31, started 13 games as a rookie for Tampa in 2013 and has started 14 since. As a backup, you could do worse. You also could do better.

Taylor Heinecke: He raised eyebrows while throwing for 306 yards and a touchdown in Washington’s playoff loss to Tampa Bay last week. That should be enough to land some backup offers in free agency.

In his previous three regular-season appearances (including one start), he had a 71.7 rating, two touchdowns and three interceptions.

C.J. Beathard: He’s 2-10 in 12 starts for the 49ers during the past four years, and until the last two weeks of this season, coach Kyle Shanahan opted for unimpressive Nick Mullens after Jimmy Garoppolo was injured.

That was probably a mistake, because Beathard was impressive in those final two games, throwing four touchdowns and no interceptions and 455 yards in a win against Arizona and loss to Seattle.

For his career, he has an 81.1 rating with 18 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. At 27, he’s worth exploring.

Brandon Allen: He started five games for Cincinnati after Joe Burrow’s season-ending injury and produced an 82.0 rating with five touchdowns and four interceptions. He had a 68.3 rating in three starts for Denver as a rookie in 2019. Would rank in the 6-to-12 range on this list.

Jameis Winston: More surprising than his decision to sign with New Orleans to be Drew Brees’ backup was the fact he ended up No. 3 on the depth chart, behind Taysom Hill. He ended up throwing just 11 passes all season.

He might be the most physically gifted on this list, but knowing Brian Flores’ aversion for turnovers, there’s a risk in pursuing a player with 88 interceptions in 76 games (70 starts). He also has 121 touchdown passes and some team will sign.

What’s more, CBS reported that New Orleans wants him back if Brees retires, which most expect.

AJ McCarron: He has started only four games in seven years and has a career 86.7 passer rating with six touchdowns and three interceptions. He threw one pass for Houston this season. He’s worth considering as a last resort.

Other unrestricted free agent backup quarterbacks: Nathan Peterman, Robert Griffin III, Matt Barkley, Joe Flacco, Ryan Griffin, Geno Smith, Nate Sudfeld, Blaine Gabbert, Brian Hoyer, Blake Bortles, Brett Hundley, Sean Mannion and Joshua Dobbs.

Though the Dolphins have decent cap space, they’re in no position to spend more than $5 million or a bit more on a backup if they plan to sign at least one pricey free agent, perhaps a receiver. Keep in mind that Mariota will make $10 million in 2021 — unless the Raiders cut him.