The Miami Dolphins attacked the 2021 free agency period, not with the fervor of a team looking to spend more money than anyone else, but as a team looking to make solid choices, build depth, and find the right pieces to add to the roster. That thought process also led to them making two trades to try to find missing pieces.
The first deal featured Miami working with the Houston Texans, a move that should not surprise anyone given the history of trades and free agency signings Miami has with the Texans at this point. The Dolphins sent defensive end Shaq Lawson and a sixth-round draft pick to the Texans for linebacker Benardrick McKinney and a seventh-round selection. The move gives the Dolphins a starter at inside linebacker while moving on from a defensive end who recorded four sacks in 14 games (7 starts) played last year. NFL.com’s Marc Sessler published his 2021 NFL trade grades on Wednesday, taking a look at all of the deals made thus far in the league year. How did he view Miami’s deal with the Texans? He seemed to like it for Miami.
Houston’s grade: C
Miami’s grade: B
A former Pro Bowler, McKinney wanted out of Houston and got his wish. He missed all but four games a year ago due to a shoulder surgery, but looms as a plug-and-play starter for Miami beside Jerome Baker at inside linebacker. Houston dumps his $28.5 million salary through 2023 in exchange for Lawson, an enticing first-round athlete yet to fully realize his promise. The Dolphins have landed a proven asset; the Texans are hoping Lawson’s best stuff is still to come.
The addition of McKinney does immediately provide Miami the inside linebacker they needed, though it does hurt the edge rushing where the roster is still shallow. It was a smart move for Miami, and one that Sessler recognizes.
He is not so high on Miami’s other trade this year.
The Dolphins sent a 2021 seventh-round pick to the Tennessee Titans for 2020 first-round pick offensive tackle Isaiah Wilson and a 2022 seventh-round selection. The move allowed the Titans to trade away a failed first-round pick, a player who only played four snaps, three on offense, as a rookie and had more legal and off-field issues than anything he did on the field. The Dolphins picked up a player who has the potential that led him to be selected in the first round, and they basically added him to the roster with no risk - all his guaranteed money had been voided by a suspension when he was with Tennessee. Sessler still trashes Miami for the deal, though:
Miami’s grade: F
Tennessee’s grade: D
A wretched mess. Three days after officially acquiring the flat-lining first-rounder, Miami released Wilson to the wind. It didn’t take the Dolphins long to realize what Tennessee learned through his painfully ponderous rookie campaign: Wilson doesn’t appear enamored with the concept of a career in the National Football League. I’m giving the Titans a “D” because they score no points for completely botching last year’s chance at a first-round talent.
I think Sessler is just completely wrong with all of this. First, the Titans should score points for being able to get anything for Wilson, even if it is just an accelerated seventh-round pick. The Dolphins should not be penalized with a failing mark because they took a chance on a player with the potential to land him as a first-round pick with zero risk to the team. Yes, the Dolphins released Wilson after just three days when he was late to his physical, late to his team orientation, skipped workouts he had committed to attend, and refused assistance from the club, but the Dolphins took the chance on landing a talented played at the cost of moving a 2021 seventh-round pick to 2022. There really is no impact to the Dolphins. It was a no-risk, potentially high-reward move. It did not work out, but this set of grades - for both Miami and Tennessee - seems to be too low.
Both of Miami’s trades made sense and were designed to make the team better. McKinney should be a starter in the middle of Miami’s defense while taking a flyer on Wilson could have given Miami an extra first-round pick from the 2020 NFL Draft. A B on the Texans trade seems about right. The Titans trade seems more like a C from my point of view - it was right in the middle with no real cost in any way. Perfectly average.