The signs are all there. The news that the Dolphins will sign quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to his fifth-year contract extension is the latest exciting indication they’re serious about making this Super Bowl run, more serious than they’ve been in years.
This is good stuff, Dolphins fans.
This isn’t a series of headline-grabbing, one-off transactions.
For the first time in a long time, we’re witnessing a legitimate, carefully crafted, well-thought-out championship pursuit. The Dolphins are trying to win now, not two or three years from now, and they have a master plan. That’s becoming more clear with each conjoining move.
The Dolphins are positioning themselves financially (they’re releasing injury-slowed cornerback Byron Jones along with other moves), mentally (Tagovailoa’s mind is probably more at ease now that he doesn’t have to listen to Tom Brady rumors), and physically (Tagovailoa is taking jiu-jitsu) to make a Super Bowl run.
There’s no guarantee it’ll work.
Heck, there’s no guarantee Tagovailoa stays healthy next season, or that the Dolphins make the playoffs.
This fifth-year extension might turn out to be a big, greasy nothingburger.
I’m still unsure whether I’d give Tagovailoa (25 touchdowns, eight interceptions, league-leading 105.5 passer rating in 2022) the fifth-year extension if I was in charge. I can see it both ways.
It makes sense to give the fifth-year extension because Tagovailoa is a definitely talented quarterback, and you need a talented quarterback. Plus, giving him the fifth-year extension also allows you to use the franchise tag to keep him in 2025, if necessary.
However, Tagovailoa has a concussion history, which is the No. 1 concern. And you could point to his less-than impressive performances in crucial late-season games at San Francisco and the Los Angeles Chargers as reasons to wait on the contract extension.
But take a step beyond Tagovailoa’s extension.
Recall how the Dolphins have been lining things up – acquiring coach Mike McDaniel, wide receiver Tyreek Hill, left tackle Terron Armstead, edge rusher Bradley Chubb, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, and now awarding Tagovailoa’s fifth-year extension.
At the same time there have been reported contract renegotiations with Hill, Armstead and Chubb to create more money to get more players to pursue a title.
This is the best-planned title run in more than two decades.
How does the Tagovailoa extension fit into the plan?
Well, you’ve got him $23.1 million for 2024. That’s a bargain if he stays healthy and plays as well as he played last season. It gets you another year at a discount price, thus freeing up money to make other acquisitions.
Starting quarterback salaries are ranging past $40 million a year.
The New York Giants just gave quarterback Daniel Jones a four-year, $160 million deal with $82 million guaranteed. New Orleans just gave Derek Carr a four-year, $150 million deal with $100 million guaranteed.
So locking in Tagovailoa now could be considered wise.
If Tagovailoa doesn’t stay healthy?
You take your hit and re-group as best you can.
You could take comfort in the knowledge you were in the midst of executing something that was smartly designed instead of a haphazard, piecemeal series of events, which sometimes seemed to be how the team was built in the past.
I’ll say this again, the championship window is short with this current core of players, probably two years. Some guys will get injured, some guys will depart via free agency because they’ll get more elsewhere than the Dolphins can give, and some guys won’t perform up to expectations.
Perhaps you can get a new core and keep it moving, perhaps not. Whatever. That’s the long-range future.
This is about now, the 2023 and 2024 seasons.
The Dolphins have a plan.
With each day, and each week, you get a little more reason to think the Dolphins’ brass is making title-contending moves, better moves than we’ve seen in years.
These are exciting times, Dolphins fans.
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