The Arizona Cardinals’ disaster of the 2018 season is the Miami Dolphins’ gain for their 2020 season.
Friday night, Arizona agreed to trade terms with Miami for what had to be the best and only offer on the table. Quarterback Josh Rosen has finally won his freedom from the Cardinals, and he goes to Miami as the Week 1 favorite to start. He could still find himself in this same situation in 365 days.
More on that later. But first, it can’t be understated how poorly Arizona handled all this. General manager Steve Keim and first-year head coach Kliff Kingsbury went the cute route in how they handled talk of Kyler Murray as the top pick dating back to the combine. They protected the decision we all know they’d make like a state secret for reasons unknown, but it was also disadvantageous to the team’s winning efforts.
Had the Cardinals made clear their intentions to draft Murray at the combine, for example, they could have put Rosen on the trading block before free agency. Of course they didn’t, and every team that needed a starting-caliber quarterback got one (save for the Dolphins, who struck out on Teddy Bridgewater and settled on Ryan Fitzpatrick).
Still, the Cardinals had another chance to deal Rosen before the draft. As our Robert Klemko noted this weekend, Keim got on the phone far too late in the game. The rest of the league knew the Cardinals didn’t want or couldn’t keep Rosen. No one in the league really needed Rosen.
It’s incredible to think that the Cardinals had a healthy, able-bodied top-10 pick at the most important position in sports on a rookie deal, and they played themselves out of every bit of leverage they could have had. Word was the Cardinals wouldn’t just give away Rosen for 80 cents on the dollar, but they ate those words. In order to get Rosen at 10 last year, Arizona gave up the 15th, 79th and 152nd picks in the 2018 draft. This year, they traded him away for the 62nd overall pick (while also getting a fifth-round pick back in 2020).
The Cardinals, led by Keim, have not been competitive since the 2015 season. This is still probably the least talented roster in the NFC West. The Cardinals got fleeced in this trade, but only because their actions over the past 10 or so weeks allowed it to happen.
Meanwhile, the soon-to-be tanking Dolphins just got a starting-level quarterback that, if they decide to keep him, they will only have to pay about $6 million over the next three years. Here are the Dolphins’ options in 2019:
· Start Rosen, be bad, draft high in each round with their bounty of picks assembled through deft trades, nab the quarterback of the future in the first round of 2020.
· Start Rosen, be mediocre, draft in the middle of each round with their bounty, then couple some of those picks to move up and draft the quarterback of the future where you need to in the first round.
· Start Rosen, find out he’s actually the franchise quarterback whether you’re bad or mediocre, use your picks to continue surrounding him with talent and ride with him through the next two years of his rookie deal plus the fifth-year option.
And all it cost you was a late second-round pick the year you knew you’d be bad.
It’s all very possible Rosen finds himself in a similar situation this time next April, where Chris Grier and Brian Flores aim to take Tua Tagovailoa or Justin Herbert with a top pick and eventually send Rosen to the bench. But you’d think they’d handle it with more care and consideration for both the team and the player than Arizona, a place that seemingly wrote the guide on how to not handle this situation—one that was authored by Keim with the forward written by Kingsbury and published by Michael Bidwill.