Davis: As Dolphins pin future on draft, expect rough ride for next two years
Trading away Laremy Tunsil and Kenny Stills for an impressive haul of high draft picks erases any doubt that Dolphins management is fully focused on the future and this season is just an annoyance to endure.
If you’ve invested in season tickets for 2019, tanks a lot.
The Dolphins have gone all in on a classic teardown, and now in possession of a pair of first- and second-round draft picks for each of the next two years, have the assets to deal into position to land whichever quarterback prospect they are targeting.
That could be Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa or Oregon's Justin Herbert in 2020, or perhaps Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence in 2021.
When you look at Miami’s roster stripped of most recognizable names and loaded with undrafted free agents and a staggering influx of players who have yet to even practice with the team, it appears likely they won’t need to trade up at all to get the pick of the draft litter next April.
As he always does, in a Sunday afternoon media call coach Brian Flores took exception to the suggestion that the Dolphins are tanking the 2019 season.
He assured that the objective of coaches and players will be to win every week. But there was a sense of resignation in his voice and his words lacked conviction.
On weighing potential trades, Flores said, “My reaction is always the same, does this help this organization? … In this instance I felt this trade would help this organization.”
The only way to reach that conclusion is through the scope of a distant objective. Certainly not in the interest of being competitive right now.
The philosophy of rebuilding through the draft is sound, and the Dolphins had a rare opportunity to acquire two first-round picks and a second-round pick in the deal with the Texans. Some argue Miami fleeced a team that doesn’t have a true general manager.
But they did so at the expense of one of the essential, cornerstone positions in giving up left tackle Tunsil, who is regarded as one of the league’s ascendant offensive linemen and is under contract for the next two years.
Flores in tough spot
Asked why a player like Tunsil didn’t figure in the rebuild, Flores said, “I like him, but at the end of the day we just felt that this was the best move for us.”
In building back up, they will need to expend one of those precious high picks or a boatload of money to acquire someone comparable.
What the Tunsil trade tells us is:
•The Dolphins are determined to do whatever it takes to land an elite quarterback;
•They are writing off being at all competitive over those next two seasons.
As for the season that begins Sunday against the Ravens, it will be grim and bear it.
Not only for fans but especially for the designated sacrificial lamb, aka quarterback.
The stripped-down roster makes it irrelevant that 36-year-old journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick was selected to start initially over Josh Rosen.
Whoever is back there stands little chance operating behind the patchwork line of LT Julien Davenport, LG Michael Deiter, C Daniel Kilgore, RG Shaq Calhoun and RT Jesse Davis.
Davenport was inadequate with Houston, Kilgore is aged and coming off injury, Calhoun is an undrafted rookie and Davis is out of position. Deiter, at least, is a third-round pick with potential, but he’d look a lot better with established line mates to mentor him.
Starting out with Fitz will give this group an opportunity to seek some footing before tossing in Rosen for trial by fire. But it’s apparent management has concluded that the 10th overall pick in 2018 isn’t the answer.
The preseason showed Rosen has talent, but not the makings of something special, which is what GM Chris Grier and coach Brian Flores are staking their careers on ultimately obtaining.
So what we’re watching is the painstaking process of rebuilding in all its misery.
Following Browns' model
It’s what the Cleveland Browns are just coming out of in constructing what they believe will become a contending team this season.
That required a 1-31 slog through 2016 and 2017.
The Browns have proven nothing yet, and there is no guarantee of success. They did get their franchise quarterback in Baker Mayfield.
The Dolphins are intent on following a similar blueprint. They are drunk on acquiring draft picks, and may not be done.
Dealing elite cornerback Xavien Howard is being mentioned if it would bring a ridiculous return.
They will ask everyone to trust the process — players, fans and media. But this management has yet to earn unwavering faith.
It’s one thing to acquire draft picks and quite another to succeed in building a winning team with them. The Dolphins’ draft history is sketchy. Grier still has a lot to prove.
S. Florida teams waiting for ... when?
Meanwhile, South Florida’s sports landscape is a vast construction site. These Dolphins haven’t even laid a workable foundation.
It’s too early to tell if the Hurricanes and Marlins are on the right track. The Heat is constrained by bad contracts. The Florida Panthers appear to be in the best shape, but they’ve been rebuilding for two decades.
A week away from the opener at Hard Rock Stadium, the Dolphins’ roster remained a volatile mix. They were busy signing other teams’ castoffs. Veteran linebacker Kiko Alonso joined the exodus out of Miami on Sunday.
As of Sunday afternoon they had acquired 10 players through trade or signings since Thursday’s final exhibition game. The roster churn can be expected to continue into the season.
It’s roster chaos, is what it is.
Want to get a look at the Dolphins’ future? Best bet this season may be to watch Alabama or Oregon or even Clemson.
Craig Davis has covered South Florida sports and teams, including the Dolphins, for four decades. Follow him on Twitter @CraigDavisRuns
More from Dolphin Maven
Please check out our site, dedicated to bringing you Dolphins news, insight and commentary year round.