The Miami Dolphins are in a world of hard decisions. We’ve already had to part ways with three out of the first five players on our list, and I expect the last half to be more of the same.
That’s just the life cycle of NFL rosters. You want to keep everyone you like, especially drafted players, but the better they play, the more you pay.
You build a roster around a quarterback on a rookie deal, you put a bunch of talent around him, and then you have your three to five-year window to get it done. If the quarterback ends up being a franchise guy like I think Tua Tagovailoa is, you have to pay him what the market demands and then cut the fat.
If the quarterback is not the guy, it makes life easier. You can pay everyone you like, but you have to restart the process because the quarterback is the engine that drives the machine. It’s a tightrope type of balance if you’re not sold on your quarterback like half of the fan base is with Tua.
That being said, let’s get straight into it with the biggest name on the roster. Numero uno!
6. Tua Tagovailoa: Projected $40-50 Million Per Year - DEAL
I’m just going to answer this plainly, and say Tua Tagovailoa is a franchise quarterback, and should be signed to an extension. The only question here is what kind of deal is it going to look like.
Tua has not only gotten better every year, he keeps answering the questions doubters have about him. They keep moving the goalposts, and Tua keeps knocking it right through.
After the Flores years, people questioned whether Tua could throw the long ball to Tyreek, or be able to win from behind with his arm. He excelled in both areas, being one of the best downfield throwers in 2022 despite not having a cannon for an arm. He displayed a historic performance against the Baltimore Ravens, throwing for 469 yards and 6 touchdowns, winning the game from down 21 points in the second half. Tua was well in the MVP discussion until concussions derailed his 2022 season.
Coming into 2023, no one doubted what Tua could do physically but questioned if he could stay healthy through the course of a full season. He did that and some, leading the league in passing yards while sitting out a handful of fourth quarters. He’s at the helm of the NFL’s most productive offense.....but there are some holes.
Tua built his body up to withstand the pounding of an NFL season. However, he literally lost a step when it comes to mobility. I’m not sure whether he can’t run as well or didn’t want to risk an injury, but it was evident that he wasn’t the same runner as previous years. The best quarterbacks in the NFL are all mobile outside of Joe Burrow, but mobility was an emphasis on his offseason training last year before his season was cut short by two different injuries.
The goalposts have shifted once again in 2024, and what Tua needs to do now to convince the other side of Dolphins fandom that he’s a franchise quarterback is win in December and January. It’s not that easy, and you can’t just flip a switch, especially when the offensive line couldn’t stay healthy, and your top receivers are haning on by a thread battling through their own injuries.
It’s just hard to win with those injuries when you’re not a mobile quarterback, and mobility should be the emphasis of Tua’s offseason work.
I said it in the beginning, and I’ll say it again. Tua Tagovailoa is a franchise quarterback and should get an extension. I would do everything possible to get that number closer to $40 million than $50 million per year. It’s not outof the realm of possibilities that Tua understands that he can’t get top of the market money and expect to compete at the highest levels. I think $45 million would be the sweet spot for both sides.
7. Tyreek Hill: $31 Million 2024 Salary - DEAL
Superstar receiver Tyreek Hill will have the third-highest cap hit among receivers in the league. I don’t know about you, but I’d sign up for that every day of the week and twice on Sunday.
Tyreek Hill has been the most productive receiver in their first two years in Dolphins history, and it’s not close. Not only is Hill a deep threat menace, but he also has this connection with Tua that can strike any moment. The duo has been an absolute fireworks show for the last two years. Hill has also been the most reliable receiver with production and health. He’s battles through injuries, and trainers have to pull him off the field to get him out. The guy is a muscle. I’d give him the “Muscle Hamster” nickname if Doug Martin didn’t already have it because that’s pretty spot-on, but that’s not here nor there.
I could go on and on about how great Hill is, and if you’ve watched the Dolphins, he pops right off your screen, but he doesn’t come without his faults too. In big games, he’s had a case of the drops. There’s a handful of touchdowns should be credited to his and Tua’s name if not for Hill eating popcorn right before the game.
There’s also limitations to his game. Hill’s height and wingspan have him at a disadvantage in jump ball situations and making contested catches. Not saying that he can’t because he’s demonstrated that he can, but he’s not as reliable as some of the other top-tier receivers in those situations. His game relies on speed and route running. He’s an elite talent who gets separation like no one else with that speed, fear of that speed, and change of direction. Just need him to stop eating popcorn before games of a higher magnitude.
Even with coming down with a case of the drops in big games, this is an open-and-shut case. I’m signing the deal with a permanent marker.
8. Jerome Baker: $14.7 Million 2024 Salary - NO DEAL
This was a bit tougher to decide, but this salary is essentially a no-go for me. I tend to lean toward a deal for guys the Dolphins have drafted, but this is the sixth-highest contract at the position. I don’t see Baker as a top-ten NFL linebacker, and arguably may not be the best linebacker on the team.
His 2024 salary would cost more than players graded better than him, such as Roquan Smith and Matt Milano. That’s just too rich for my blood, and the Dolphins would only have a $4 million cap hit if he’s released post June-1st.
In my estimation, he has a market, and there’s a team that would trade for him, but he’s a prime candidate to stay around on a restructured contract. Baker is well-liked by the fans, and he leaves it all out on the field. It’s hard to forget that hit he made to stop a touchdown right as the half expired against Buffalo in the season finale. You can tell he wasn’t one hundred percent and still put his body on the line for his brothers. Glue guys like that are needed for a winning culture.
To reiterate, I’m going no deal on the $14.7 million 2024 salary, but if they can get his contract restructured down to single digits, I’m slamming the stamp of approval.
9. Connor Williams: Projected $14 Million Per Year - DEAL
The reality of Connor William’s injury and the downfall of the offense is too coincidental to push to the side. Even with occasional snaps into orbit or missile snaps that have smoke coming off the ball, Williams played at an All-Pro level this year and is now a Pro Bowl level two position offensive lineman. That’s elite and a commodity that most teams would love to have, so this is an easy deal.
Tua Tagovailoa is a pocket quarterback, plain and simple. He can work on mobility and will get better at that, but the way to beat a pocket quarterback is putting pressure in their face. When you’re not a tall quarterback, interior pressure is even worse, and Tua is both a pocket quarterback and short. The best way to combat that is to have a stud in the middle of the line who can call out protections and anchor against those big boys. Luckily, the Dolphins have one in-house, and it’ll cost them a pretty penny, but every penny spent will be worth it.
This deal will be around $14 million, or slightly lower due to Williams’ torn ACL. He won’t be back until around half way thorugh the season, but this is a long term play.
There’s more than one reason why the offense came crashing down in the seasons final stretch, but not having your All-Pro center calling out protections and keeping the pass rush out of Tua’s face was a leading candidate. Get the deal done.
10. Robert Hunt: Projected $8 Million Per Year - NO DEAL
Robert Hunt was the most reliable offensive lineman the Dolphins have had in the last three years. He was a no-name until his flipping touchdown that didn’t count against Baltimore in 2021. Since then, he’s been as good as they come at right guard. That’s the problem here. He’s been so good that he’ll command top money at the position, and the Dolphins can’t outbid the rest of the field for him.
The top of the right guard market is about $8 million, but wouldn’t be surprised if he got closer to $9 million, and he deserves it. I wish he could’ve collected more time at tackle because he was pretty solid in his limited snaps. He showed promise and could’ve made more money going that route. I get it though. It’s about comfort and dominating at your spot if you can, and he has.
One of the reasons I see Robert Hunt leaving is that the Dolphins are going to draft an offensive line. It’s been one of the weakest units for a long time and often injury-riddled. If the Dolphins sign Connor Williams, that gives them more flexibility to draft a guard, or center knowing Williams can both both spots at a high level.
The flip side here is that if the Dolphins decide to draft a center in round one and let Williams walk, Hunt could get his pay day, save the Dolphins some money in the process and have a true center that won’t snap the ball into the atmosphere. Both options could happen, but for the sake of the game, I’m expecting the Dolphins to lock up Williams, and draft a tackle in round one.
When the rent comes due, you can’t pay everyone, and guys like Hunt set to get their bag aren’t going to take a pay cut. They don’t need to, but they know the deal. Hunt will be one more casualty on the Dolphins chopping block to get out of the “capacolypse”.
That’s part 2 of “Deal or No Deal” so let us know in the comments if you agree with the list and who you keep or let go.