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What are the Dolphins getting in Robert Quinn?

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Miami Dolphins vs Los Angeles Rams Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins agreed to a trade with the Los Angeles Rams on Friday, sending to LA a fourth-round draft pick for defensive end Robert Quinn, along with the two teams swapping sixth-round picks. The trade will be official on March 14, when the new league year begins, but, the addition of a two-time Pro Bowl selection, who is only 27-years-old, seems like a great addition for the Dolphins, even if it is at a position that seems to already have depth.

Quinn dealt with some major issues in the 2015 and 2016 seasons, which included hip, knee, back, and concussion problems. He played in just 15 games over those two seasons, but came back last year to play in 15 as an outside linebacker in the new 3-4 scheme for the Rams.

To get a better idea of who the Dolphins are adding to their roster, I spoke with 3k, the managing editor of SB Nation’s Rams team site, Turf Show Times.

1. How did Quinn adjust to playing a 3-4 outside linebacker last year compared to defensive end in a 4-3? Will he be better back with his hand on the ground this year?

He certainly didn’t look like his old self, but I’m not sure that had a ton to do with the defensive scheme. Obviously, he was drafted as a 4-3 DE. He played as much at North Carolina in those incredibly talented defenses at the end of the last decade. And he quickly turned into a beast by his second year as a 4-3 DE across from Chris Long with the Rams. All in all, I think he’s best served trying to get back to a 4-3 and see if he can recapture his form.

2. Has he fully recovered from the injury bug that got him in 2015 and 2016?

This is the bigger concern. In 2015, it was his back. In 2016, it was reportedly due to a concussion though it followed a scary, unexpected trip to the hospital when he was beset by seizures that were rumored to be linked to the removal of a benign brain tumor when he was a high school senior. He also carried some hip issues into 2017. So ultimately, my answer to your question is no. He hadn’t fully recovered. Hip and back injuries are some of the most pernicious for athletes. They can linger in ways that affect technique moreso than bone or ligament injuries. And that’s the real concern.

So it’s less an issue of has he recovered and more one of will he ever. I’m assuming the trade is contingent on some kind of medical evaluation, so were I a Dolphins fan, I’d at least have some comfort from that angle. But as someone who has seen every snap of his career and as much as I’d love to see him go off in 2018 as a fan of his, I’d also urge some kind of insurance on the depth chart.

3. Why was he available for the Dolphins?

The performance decline coupled with his contract and the fact the Rams’ roster is going to get pricy soon.

When the Rams extended him in 2014, he had become arguably the lone star on the roster. There was young budding talent on the defensive side (though none on the offense), but Quinn, along with CB Janoris Jenkins, was the only established producer. He was coming off of a 19-sack 2013 season and hit double digits for the third year in a row that season following the extension. So in terms of production, the timing was warranted. Obviously, his output has since dipped.

It’s always tough to back an eight-digit annual deal for an edge rusher hitting single digit sacks as he has the last three years. And that put additional pressure on the Quinn issue. The Rams don’t have a ton of depth at the edge, but looking at $25m for Quinn over the next two years with less than a million in dead cap led to a ton of Rams fans looking to cut him outright and save the money because there were so many upcoming competing contracts the Rams were going to need to try to make happen.

And that was ultimately the most important part. In 2014 when the Rams signed Quinn to the extension, the roster was a hot mess, ESPECIALLY on offense. The team was stuck in the Jeff Fisher whirlwind of perpetual mediocrity. Now? The Rams are coming off of a season in which they employed the 2017 Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year. And both are headed toward expiring contracts. DL Aaron Donald’s fifth-year option is being used for 2018; RB Todd Gurley’s will be the following season. Both will require hefty contracts on the books. The Rams just handed out a massive extension to ILB Alec Ogletree. And between WR Sammy Watkins, S Lamarcus Joyner, CB Marcus Peters and QB Jared Goff, the Rams still have tons of work to do this season and beyond to keep the core of the roster intact that will soak up most of the salary cap.

Quinn just wasn’t as crucial to the Rams’ success as he was just four years ago. That the Rams improved around him is hardly his fault. But it’s just the nature of the game and the timing that made him less of the precious commodity that he once was.

4. What should we expect to see from Quinn in 2018?

I’m certainly hoping for a comeback season. Quinn’s a professional. He’s a North Carolina dude through and through. Expect to see him with a lip in every now and then and a smile on his face every day. He’s the guy you want it to work out for and I’m certainly down to see him get back on track with yall this year. Expectations-wise? I think it comes down to September. What does the front four look like? What’s the rotation like for the DEs? How many 3rd and long situations are you guys able to generate to create those opportunities for DEs to pin them back and go all out? If things look strong on defense which has been the case for yall pretty often going back to 2006, I could totally envision a 2018 that has Quinn in the running for Comeback Player of the Year. And I’ll be rooting for it too.