The Miami Dolphins are in the thick of the AFC playoff race in the 2022 season entering Week 17, but they won’t have quarterback Tua Tagovailoa on Sunday after he suffered a concussion in Week 16 against the Green Bay Packers.
The 2022 season has been a success for Tagovailoa when he’s been healthy, but head injuries have put some major concern around the former first-round pick’s future.
Tagovailoa has been diagnosed with multiple concussions this season. With his long-term health and safety in mind, there’s a chance the Dolphins will sit him as a precaution to finish off the regular season.
In the 2022 campaign, Teddy Bridgewater and Skylar Thompson have backed up Tagovailoa at quarterback. The Dolphins starter is under contract for next season, and he’s relatively cheap (cap hit of about $9.6 million) compared to most quarterbacks.
The Dolphins have a window where they can still build up the rest of the team while Tagovailoa is on his rookie deal. They failed to make the playoffs in his first two seasons in the NFL, and with four straight losses late in this season, they are in danger of missing the playoffs once again.
Still, there’s no doubt that Tagovailoa has made some major strides in the 2022 campaign. Over just 13 games, he has accumulated 3,548 passing yards and 25 touchdown passes, which are both career-highs. He also leads the NFL in yards gained per pass attempt and yards gained per pass completion.
The addition of Tyreek Hill at wide receiver and an improved offensive line has certainly allowed the Dolphins and first-year head coach Mike McDaniel to unlock more of Tagovailoa’s talent. After all, the Dolphins took him with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft for a reason.
The University of Alabama product is an extremely accurate passer, completing 64.8 percent of his throws this season and 65.7 percent for his entire NFL career.
Even though he was intercepted three times in Week 16, Tagovailoa has just eight picks on the season.
Still, Dolphins fans may think there is a chance that the team can upgrade at quarterback in the coming offseason. Not only that, but with Tagovailoa dealing with head injuries throughout the 2022 campaign, there’s certainly some concern about his long-term outlook in the NFL.
The Dolphins have to be careful about their quarterback’s health, but they also may be able to improve the team by bringing in a quarterback.
But which quarterback would truly be worth it?
Which quarterbacks could Miami replace Tagovailoa with?
Sure, Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield, Jimmy Garoppolo, Daniel Jones, Geno Smith and other fringe starting quarterbacks could be available this offseason.
Some may view one or two of those players as possible upgrades over Tagovailoa. However, if they are, and most of them aren’t, no player on that list would be a big enough upgrade to make sense for the Dolphins.
Mayfield has played on three teams in the last two seasons, and Smith was essentially a career backup before taking over for the Seattle Seahawks this season. He and the Seahawks have wilted over the past few weeks in the NFC playoff picture.
Darnold has been extremely turnover prone in his career (52 interceptions in 54 games), and he’s far less accurate than Tagovailoa, completing just 59.9 percent of his passes in his career.
If the Dolphins really think they are an upgrade a quarterback away, there are a few options that would actually make sense.
Does Tom Brady make sense?
They could pursue Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, who is set to hit free agency after this season. They could also attempt to make a move for a quarterback such as Lamar Jackson or Derek Carr.
Even though these options may seem intriguing, the Dolphins are better off sticking with Tagovailoa.
Sure, Brady and Jackson have superior resumes to that of the Dolphins quarterback, but Tagovailoa gives the Dolphins the best chance for long-term success, as long as he stays healthy.
Tagovailoa has taken great strides in his first season with Hill on the roster, and as the Dolphins continue to build around Tagovailoa on offense, he’s only going to become more effective in McDaniel’s scheme.
Brady would make sense for a one-year push for a title, but then the team would have to search for a new quarterback to replace him. The veteran is also having one of the worst seasons of his career in the 2022 campaign, throwing just 21 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 15 games.
The Buccaneers (7-8) are clinging to a lead in a weak NFC South division.
If Miami made a move for Brady, it would essentially be punting away the fourth year of Tagovailoa’s rookie deal, and it would almost certainly have to move on from him. When one looks at the numbers between Brady and Tagovailoa this season, it’s hard to argue that Brady is an upgrade.
This would strictly be a pedigree play if the Dolphins went that route.
What about Lamar Jackson?
Jackson and Carr are interesting names to watch, but Jackson is the only player who would truly raise the ceiling of the Dolphins’ offense.
He’s an elite runner at the quarterback position, and the former MVP would likely thrive with Hill and Jaylen Waddle after spending most of his NFL career with subpar receiving options (outside of tight end Mark Andrews).
The issue here for Miami is that the Baltimore Ravens will almost certainly franchise tag Jackson so they don’t lose him for nothing this coming offseason.
Because of that, the Dolphins would have to give up draft capital or players in order to acquire him, and they’d likely give him a hefty new contract extension. The Dolphins did something similar with Hill this past offseason, and they traded a package that included a first-round pick for pass rusher Bradley Chubb at the trade deadline.
Miami can’t afford to gut its roster even more just to bring in Jackson, and trading for and extending him would limit the team’s flexibility on the rest of the roster.
Tagovailoa is eventually going to command a larger salary. The team around him is already set up pretty well, though there are still ways for Miami to improve on defense and with the offensive line.
Why trade more draft picks — that you can use to bring in cheap, young talent — when there are other positions that need fixing outside of quarterback?
The Dolphins’ four-game losing streak is frustrating, but Tagovailoa has taken major strides this season. His health could throw a wrench into any plans of him being the franchise quarterback, but if he is healthy, he is the Dolphins’ best option for the long term.