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At sports’ most important, celebrated and focused-on position bar none — quarterback — we have never seen an offseason such as the one the NFL is smack dab in the middle of.
The Tom Brady-Patrick Mahomes Super Bowl just past was the reminder nobody needed: That a great QB is only about as important to your franchise as oxygen, or air-conditioning in South Florida. And that mediocrity at the position is a curse that can rob you of relevance for decades.
QB greatness as the sport’s towering Holy Grail is why five more golden arms led by Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence surely to Jacksonville No. 1 overall are pegged for the first of round of April’s NFL Draft by ESPN guru Todd McShay in his latest mock. He has QBs going 1-2-3-4. Which has never happened.
Like never before, though, this offseason finds passer-hungry teams weighing whether to trust the draft for their answer, or dive into the treasure trove of available veteran quarterbacks.
Matthew Stafford already has been traded, from Detroit to the L.A. Rams for Jared Goff and two first-round picks.
Thursday, the Eagles traded Carson Wentz to the Colts for two picks.
Philip Rivers has retired. Drew Brees looks like hes about to.
And we’re just getting started with this game of QB roulette, a Wheel of Fortune.
Deshaun Watson, very publicly demanding a trade out of Houston.
Dak Prescott, a free agent in Dallas.
Aaron Rodgers, reigning league MVP, uncertain about his future in Green Bay.
Matt Ryan, Derek Carr, Teddy Bridgeweater, Sam Darnold and Jimmy Garoppolo — all the subject of available-for-trade reports and speculation.
Along with Prescott, notable lesser available free agents starting in March also include B-listers like Miami’s Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jameis Winston, Cam Newton, Andy Dalton, Tyrod Taylor, Mitchell Trubisky, Jacoby Brissett and Joe Flacco.
With Stafford and Wentz traded and most experts believing Prescott and Rodgers will stay put, the intriguing grand prize is Watson. It’s a staring march as the player vehemently want to be traded but the Texans thus far indicating no intention to do so. Who will force whose hand? Who blinks first here?
About a third of NFL teams would consider a hard run at getting Watson — the Miami Dolphins at or near the top of that list.
The Watson to Miami speculation has not only not ebbed, it has grown. And in the usual way in the social media age, such as the recent photo, taken in Miami, that showed Watson arms-on-shoulders with Dolphins defenders Raekwon Davis and Christian Wilkins — the latter Watson’s former Clemson teammate.
Notably, the photo was tweeted out by one Bryan Burnley, Watson’s own marketing agent. It isn’t the only hint that Watson, who has a no-trade clause and thus could steer where he ended up, might prefer Miami has a destination. But Carolina and the New York Jets are among other ardent potential suitors.
With Watson trying to leverage a trade the NFL’s biggest offseason story and Miami enmeshed in it, Dolphins management faces a seismic decision:
Proof vs. Possibility.
Watson vs. Tua Taglovailoa.
It’s a lopsided either/or on the face of it. Watson is a superstar coming off his best season and coming into is prime. Taglovailoa is a fifth overall pick coming off a promising but up-and-down rookie year. Though the Fins have publicly committed to Tagovailoa as their starter moving forward, no team in its right mind wouldn’t rather have Watson. Period. No debate.
Where that either/or does become debatable is in the enormous compensation it would take for Miami to swing such a deal.
Watson vs. Taglovailoa becomes a lot more arguable if it’s Watson without a ton of surrounding offensive talent vs. Taglovailoa festooned with a trove of high-draft-pick help over the next two years — draft capital that would be substantially gone in a trade for Watson.
As an example, CBSSports.com recently speculated (guessed) that to get Watson, Miami would have to give up Taglovailoa, the third overall pick this April (acquired from Houston in the Laremy Tunsil trade), a 2021 second-round pick, and 2022 first- and second-round picks.
Other speculation is that Miami might have to part with both its first-round picks this April (third and 18th overall) and at least one starting player, with cornerback Xavien Howard sometimes mentioned.
The point is, you don’t have the pleasure of Deshaun Watson leading you for the next 10 years without the pain in how much you’ve had to spend to get him.
In some ways it’s a can’t-lose scenario for Miami, but fundamental in the decision on which way to go is a question the Dolphins must ask themselves — and a question on which their answer had better be right:
How much do you believe in Tua Tagovailoa?
And how great do you think he’ll be?
If your franchise is all-in on both answers, you surround Tua with talent and watch him soar.
If you’re not all in on both, you spend more than you’d like and as much as you need to on the biggest trade in the 56-year history of the Miami Dolphins.