There are a lot of opinions regarding the Miami Dolphins’ decision to send a late second-round pick and a mid-round pick in 2020 to the Arizona Cardinals for second-year quarterback Josh Rosen.
While we won’t know a true answer as to whether this was a good decision or not for the Dolphins until it actually plays out, I’m going to do my best – as a lifelong Dolphins fan – to let you know why I believe this particular trade is the best thing the Dolphins’ front office has done since selecting Dan Marino in 1983.
We all know the current state of the Miami Dolphins. The reason we all know it? Well, it’s because they’ve been in the same state of mediocrity for the last two decades.
Over the last 20 years post-Marino, the Dolphins have selected between picks 1-10 five times, between picks 11-20 eight times, between picks 21-32 four times, and have been without a first-round pick three times. Over this span of time, taking out the three years they didn’t have a first-round pick, they’ve averaged a first-round draft selection of pick No. 14 – almost dead center in the middle of the league.
When you single out the last six NFL drafts, the Dolphins have always selected between picks 11 through 22 with an average selection of pick 15 – even closer to the middle of the league, right where you don’t want to be.
This has resulted in four playoff appearances and just one playoff win (the year 2000 in a Wild Card win over the Colts) for 19 quarterbacks (will be 20 QB’s once the 2019 season starts) since Marino retired after the 1999 season.
Successful teams in the modern-age of the NFL typically have superstar quarterbacks, and that statement is even truer over the last couple of years as rules have been changed to help protect the passer while also making it more difficult for defenses to protect against the pass.
Here is how the Dolphins truly benefit the most by making this deal for Rosen. Keep in mind, all of this is predicated on Rosen starting the 2019 season. Early reports are saying it will be a true quarterback competition between Rosen and career journeyman, Ryan Fitzpatrick, but only one of these two guys have any chance of being the future for this team at the QB position, so Rosen better be the chosen one (pun intended).
Miami has made it no secret that the 2019 season will be the start of a rebuild so that the team can (hopefully) be set to truly compete in the next few years.
All signs pointed towards the Dolphins going the best-player-available route with each pick in the 2019 NFL Draft as they attempt to get younger across the board after parting ways with the likes of Ryan Tannehill, Danny Amendola, Ja’Wuan James, Frank Gore, Cameron Wake, and Robert Quinn this offseason.
After playing out the 2019 season and letting some of these young players gain some experience, the Dolphins seemed likely to find their franchise quarterback in the 2020 NFL Draft, which is likely to feature the likes of Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert, Jake Fromm and Jacob Eason at the quarterback position.
With that being said, let’s rewind to the 2019 NFL Draft where the Arizona Cardinals and new head coach Kliff Kingsbury held the No. 1 overall pick. It didn’t take long for the Kyler Murray to the Cardinals talk to heat up, and as we all know, Arizona made Murray its top selection, basically marking the end of Rosen’s time with the team.
This created an opportunity to pick up the No. 10 overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft for the price of a late second rounder in 2019 and a 2020 mid-round pick. Along with this unexpected opportunity to land a potential franchise QB for a couple of draft picks, it allows for the Dolphins to take a year or two and see if there’s any hope for Rosen to be the face of the franchise, or if they need to address the position in either the 2020 or 2021 NFL Draft.
If there are any qualms about the price the Dolphins paid for Rosen, keep in mind that draft picks are always a gamble – even top-10 picks are far from a sure thing.
For comparison sake, the second-round pick (No. 62) the Dolphins traded to Arizona this year resulted in Andy Isabella. Here’s a quick breakdown of the recent history of the No. 62 overall pick, along with the pick both before and after No. 62 in the last five NFL drafts.
2018: DJ Chark (No. 61), Brian O’Neill (No. 62) and Carlton Davis (No. 63)
2017: Josh Jones (No. 61), JuJu Smith-Schuster (No. 62) and Dion Dawkins (No. 63)
2016: Vonn Bell (No. 61), James Bradberry (No. 62) and Adam Gotsis (No. 63)
2015: Ali Marpet (No. 61), Quinten Rollins (No. 62) and Frank Clark (No. 63)
2014: Allen Robinson (No. 61), Jimmy Garoppolo (No. 62) and Jarvis Landry (No. 63)
Can you find a stud at this particular selection? Sure. But it’s still a huge gamble when you compare it to a potential franchise quarterback.
Rosen’s rookie deal was worth $17.59 million over four years, and while his contract is fully guaranteed, it comes at a lower annual salary after the Cardinals covered a significant amount of his signing bonus last season.
The Dolphins have a plethora of cap space, and will only see a $4 million hit now with Rosen on the team. And with the way teams are forced to pay for quarterbacks, Rosen’s current contract with Miami makes him one of the best bargain QB’s in the league.
This deal allows the Dolphins to spend sparingly at the quarterback position while they attempt to build a complete roster around whoever the team decides will be the future at QB.
A common narrative surrounding Rosen is that he’s a below-average NFL starter after his one season in Arizona. If this is how you feel about Rosen, I suggest you take a deeper dive into things.
Keep in mind that Rosen was playing as a 21-year-old rookie for a team with one of the worst rosters in the NFL. Even more importantly, he was playing behind an offensive line that ranked dead last in pass-blocking efficiency, according to Pro Football Focus, as they allowed the league’s second-most total pressures (218), the fourth-most hurries (142), the second-most hits (42) and the second-most sacks (34) over the course of the 2018 season.
Rosen was also playing under a coaching staff that had very little experience when it comes to actual in-game play calling and decision making. Head coach Steve Wilks ended up being fired after just one season and offensive coordinator Mike McCoy was also replaced in favor of first-time offensive coordinator, Byron Leftwich, marking the fifth offensive coordinator Rosen has played for since 2015 at UCLA.
Remember when Jared Goff was written off after a disappointing first season with the Rams? Insert Sean McVay and a change in coaching philosophy and you have the quarterback on the team that represented the NFC just two years later in the Super Bowl.
2021 NFL Draft
Here’s where the ultimate fallback plan comes into play. Hopefully, for Rosen and the Dolphins, selecting a quarterback in the 2020 NFL Draft won’t be a priority, but in the event the Rosen experiment doesn’t work out over the next couple of years, the 2021 draft will likely feature one of the top QB prospects we’ve seen coming out of college since Andrew Luck.
Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence led the team to a National Championship as a true freshman last season, and already looks the part playing at 6’6, 215 pounds.
He can already make all the throws offensive coordinators look for, and anonymous NFL scouts have told reporters that he would have been the No. 1 overall selection after his freshman season if he would have been eligible.
A lot can happen between now and April of 2021 when Lawrence will be eligible to drafted – if he declares after his junior season – but don’t be surprised to see QB-needy teams looking to stockpile future draft picks in hopes of attempting to land this highly-touted prospect.
If you have any other candidates for the Dolphins’ best move since drafting Marino, I’d be happy to listen. Just drop a comment below and we can discuss!
Be sure to check out the latest episode of the Loaded Box Podcast as the guys discuss the over/under win totals for each team in the AFC!