Prepare for the worst, and hope for the best. It’s a time-tested strategy that has been deployed by some of the best leaders from the boardroom, to the courtroom, to the battlefield, and quite recently, to the Miami Dolphins front office.
This week, NFL executives will gather in their war rooms to prepare for one of the biggest events on the football calendar, the NFL Draft. But as the clock strikes 8:00pm on the east coast and commissioner Roger Goodell declares the draft open, Dolphins general manager Chris Grier and his team will be sitting back and watching Tyreek Hill highlights instead of sweating out who the team will select in the first round (or second round for that matter).
As you probably know by now, Miami sent a treasure trove of draft capital including a first-round pick (29th overall), second-round pick (50th overall), fourth-round pick (121st overall) and fourth- and sixth-round picks in 2023 to acquire the 28-year old Hill, one of the most explosive and dynamic skill position players of the past decade. Following Miami’s acquisition of the former Kansas City Chiefs superstar, Grier was left with just four selections in the 2022 NFL Draft. Those selections are comprised of a third-round pick (102nd overall), a fourth-round pick (125th overall), and two seventh-round picks (224th overall and 247th overall).
And Hill isn’t the only key acquisition Grier has made this spring. Miami spent heavily to build a stronger supporting cast around 2020 fifth-overall pick Tua Tagovailoa who’s had an up-and-down career thus far in South Florida. Tagovailoa has struggled more than the team or fans would like while playing alongside a league-worst offensive line, an oft-injured and shallow group of pass catchers, and a near-non-existent running game.
The former Alabama Crimson Tide superstar has put up respectable numbers with 4,467 passing yards, a 66.2% completion rate, 27 passing touchdowns, 15 interceptions, and a 13-8 win-loss record with an additional 237 yards and six scores on the ground across 21 career starts, but he hasn’t yet shown the sky-high ceiling of fellow 2020 draftees Justin Herbert and Joe Burrow.
Grier recognized the problem and attacked it aggressively this offseason, signing the top free agent on the market in stalwart offensive tackle Terron Armstead, guard Connor Williams, wide receiver Cedrick Wilson, and running backs Chase Edmonds and Raheem Mostert. Miami also retained ascending tight end Mike Gesicki to catch passes alongside Hill, Wilson, and second-year stud Jaylen Waddle. To cap it all off, the team hired new head coach Mike McDaniel, a currently unproven, but highly touted offensive mind to revamp that side of the ball.
These additions, combined with several transactions made by Grier and his front office over the past 365 days, has Miami perfectly set up for success over the next two seasons, regardless of how the 2022 season plays out. But how, I can already hear you asking from behind your screen, can a strategy that strips a team of their draft picks and allocates truckloads of guaranteed money and salary cap space in exchange for a few stars and other free agents possibly be a recipe for success in a league in which you’re supposed to “build through the draft”?
“Remember Ndamukong Suh, Mario Williams, and Mike Wallace?” you’re yelling at your phone or laptop.
I get it, but hear me out.
If it seems like the Dolphins are going all in on Tua Tagovailoa this year, that’s because they are... this year. Chris Grier and his front office is, in fact, hoping for the best. He’s hoping that Tagovailoa gels with Mike McDaniel, takes advantage of Tyreek Hill’s game-changing ability, and makes a leap in 2022. He’s hoping that a revamped offensive line gives the third-year quarterback more time to throw downfield and unlocks the beautiful deep balls we saw at Alabama. He’s hoping that Tagovailoa becomes the franchise quarterback of the future.
But Grier is prepared for the worst, too.
Ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft, the draft in which Miami selected Waddle sixth overall, the team acquired the San Francisco 49ers’ 2023 first-round pick by trading back from pick three to pick twelve (and eventually back up to pick six). Earlier this April, Grier sent DeVante Parker, who, at best, would have been in a rotation as the team’s third wideout this coming season, and a 2022 fifth-round pick to the New England Patriots in exchange for a 2023 third-round pick. These moves give Miami five selections in the first three rounds of next-year’s draft.
So, let’s say everything goes awry this season: Tagovailoa fails to take a step forward or continues his run of poor injury luck, Miami fails to make the playoffs, and the team needs to reset at quarterback. Miami now has the ammunition to supplement its already young and talented roster with a promising young passer in what is projected to be a strong quarterback class headlined by the likes of Alabama’s Bryce Young and Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud.
Outside of the 30-year old Armstead, Miami doesn’t have a single projected offensive starter currently over the age of 28 (assuming Edmonds starts over Mostert at running back). The team doesn’t have a single projected defensive starter currently over the age of 29. In short, Miami’s window to compete is wide open, and even if the plan doesn’t come together this year, the resources are there to keep the window ajar well into the future without a major roster reset.
Plan for the worst, and hope for the best.
Follow Justin Hier on Twitter.