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Dolphins on positive side of ESPN’s two ’biggest whiffs’ of offseason

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NFL: Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins traded starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill to the Tennessee Titans this spring, moving on from their 2012 first-round pick and signaling a restart for the franchise. As they were searching for a quarterback to assume the starter’s mantel this year, a lot of speculation focused on Miami native Teddy Bridgewater.

A free agent after spending one season with the New Orleans Saints, Bridgewater, who sustained a devastating injury in 2016, appeared to be on the verge of reclaiming the top spot on an NFL depth chart. Instead, Bridgewater returned to the Saints to backup Drew Brees, turning down the Dolphins.

NFL Network reported Bridgewater had an offer from the Dolphins that was bigger than the one-year, $7.25 million contract he signed to stay in New Orleans. There were also reports, including from Miami Herald reporter Armando Salguero, that the Dolphins were never big players in the chase for Bridgewater.

ESPN sees Bridgewater’s decision as one of the biggest “whiffs” of the offseason, and, surprisingly, not from the Dolphins’ point of view.

Kevin Seifert published “The NFL’s ‘off’ season: Ranking the seven biggest whiffs this spring” on Wednesday, and ranked Bridgewater walking away from a starting position as the second-biggest miss of the offseason:

After three largely inactive years, Bridgewater had a chance to start again with the rebuilding Dolphins. It was clearly not the most attractive quarterback job in the NFL, given its potential short-term time frame and the hurdles the Dolphins face in the AFC East. But by turning down the Dolphins and returning to the New Orleans Saints as Drew Brees’ backup, Bridgewater, 26, further delayed his return to the field.

Waiting for the right opportunity, or at least a better one, makes sense only as long as one still seems likely. When he hits free agency in 2020, possibly four years removed from his most recent meaningful snap, will a team in better shape than the Dolphins be interested?

What happens now: The Dolphins recovered well, signing veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick and acquiring Rosen. Bridgewater will sit behind Brees this season in New Orleans, barring an injury.

I will admit, when I saw the Dolphins listed at number two, I thought it was going to be about how the Dolphins missed again on a franchise quarterback, how the team is in dysfunction, and how they can never land the player they want - the tired storylines that seem to show up every time anyone talks about Miami. This actually went the other way though. It seems like Seifert was okay with the Dolphins not overspending for a player they may not have been crazy to land anyway. The “whiff” here was Bridgewater not jumping at a chance to get back on the field and show what he can be as a starter post knee injury.

Maybe this is Bridgewater betting on himself, letting his knee have another year to recover and another year to learn from Brees and the Saints coaching staff. That has paid off in the past, and maybe it does again here. But, it is a gamble when the last time Bridgewater threw more than 23 pass attempts in a season was in 2015, and barring an injury to Brees, that will likely not change in 2019.

It seemed like the Dolphins and Bridgewater were close to making a deal happen, but something stopped it - Bridgewater not wanting to leave New Orleans, Miami not really wanting to spend on Bridgewater, or maybe something else. According to ESPN, whatever stopped it led to Bridgewater having the second biggest whiff of the 2019 offseason.

Whatever the case, Miami ultimately signed Ryan Fitzpatrick and traded for Josh Rosen to fill the quarterback position, while Bridgewater returned to New Orleans.

And that brings us to the biggest “whiff” of the offseason. Seifert’s number one whiff is the “Arizona Cardinals botch the Josh Rosen trade.”

He writes:

To be fair, there is no guidebook for handling Arizona’s draft situation. No team had ever traded away a first-round quarterback after one year. The Cardinals made a defensible decision in drafting Kyler Murray, and that necessitated a move on Rosen.

But at 22, Rosen remains an elite asset who should have drawn more than a late-second-round pick and a fifth-round pick. The time to deal him was before they selected Murray, not after when there was no question they had to do it. Murray will help the Cardinals move forward, but the job would have been easier with more players and/or draft picks surrounding him from a Rosen trade.

What happens now: Rosen will get a chance to start with the Dolphins, a rebuilding team that nevertheless has better short- and long-term prospects than the Cardinals.

The Cardinals waited and waited to look to trade Rosen, and the Dolphins were willing to be patient. Not only did Arizona tip their hand by selecting Murray before they made a trade, every team who was thought to be interested in the second-year quarterback picked a rookie as the first round unfolded. Arizona ended up trapped with just the Dolphins still talking to them.

Miami was not going to pay a premium for a quarterback the Cardinals were looking to jettison. With no one fulfilling the initial request of a first-round pick for Rosen, for whom the Cardinals traded up to the tenth overall pick in 2018, Arizona’s demand became a second-round selection. The Dolphins were on the clock with the 48th overall pick, but decided to trade that selection to the Saints, adding a second-round pick in 2020 in the deal. Miami then came back on the clock with the 62nd overall pick, the antepenultimate pick of the second round.

Miami and Arizona finally made the trade, with Miami also sending a 2020 fifth-round pick to the Cardinals for Rosen.

Arizona got a second-round pick for Rosen and can say they landed multiple picks for the quarterback - a passer they traded three picks a year earlier to select. It cost Arizona their 2018 17th (first round), 79th (third round), and 152nd (fifth round) overall picks to land Rosen. It cost Miami the 62nd overall pick (second round) and a 2020 fifth round pick to acquire the former UCLA quarterback. And, Miami pulled in an extra second-round pick in 2020 before they agreed to the trade for Rosen.

Miami played the acquisition of Rosen well.

The Cardinals, according to Seifert, did not play the trade of Rosen well.

And Rosen lands with a team that has “better short- and long-term prospects.”

I am still a little confused by ESPN being okay with anything Miami has done, but it does seem like even they realize the Dolphins are building nicely with some good moves.