Dolphins Should Draft And Start a Rookie QB in 2019

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The Miami Dolphins tried — perhaps for too long — to make quarterback Ryan Tannehill work.

They made a mistake by extending him after his rookie contract, but at least they seem to have wised up to that error, because they intend to part ways with him before the 2019 offseason begins, according to the Miami Herald. Tannehill is a replacement level starting quarterback, but isn’t likely to get paid like one. He’ll likely make good money. After throwing for 1,832 yards, 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions, a team like the Tennessee Titans (to back up a spotty and oft-injured Marcus Mariota) or Jacksonville Jaguars (to replace Blake Bortles while they develop another young quarterback) could consider Tannehill. The problem is that his contract is likely to be bloated (guessing: around $10 million to $15 million per year). And those veteran quarterback contracts can prove to be a burden when a team plans to draft a young quarterback for development. The money can be spent elsewhere.

The Dolphins can and should draft a quarterback (or draft two quarterbacks), and begin to look toward their future. Unfortunately for the Dolphins, the most popular quarterback prospect, Oregon’s Justin Herbert, has elected to return to school for his senior season. So their quarterback of the future will likely be Missouri’s Drew Lock, Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins or Duke’s Daniel Jones. If Miami finds this draft class lacking, then they can think about signing Nick Foles to a stopgap deal, much like the one the Denver Broncos have with Case Keenum. They can cut him this offseason without much issue. Or they can keep him around, but they would have to shell out $20 million, which is only worthwhile if he’s the starter. That’s certainly questionable for Keenum.

But how long do we believe Foles can hold up a franchise? He’s got magic — it’s inexplicable. But so did Keenum. The spell will break. The magic will wear off. And the Dolphins will be left with Tannehill 2.0, who, if Miami isn’t careful, will occupy too much cap space.

That’s largely why the Dolphins should draft and insert a rookie quarterback into their lineup immediately. The Cleveland Browns, Buffalo Bills and Baltimore Ravens, who all drafted quarterbacks in the first round in 2018, have proven that teams can win with rookie quarterbacks, particularly if that rookie runs. Frankly, the Ravens and Browns are proving they waited too long to go to their rookie.

Looking at the 2019 quarterbacks, Lock and Jones are solid runners. Haskins is less likely to run, but had four rushing touchdowns in 2018. Running the ball can buy time for a quarterback’s development — while also helping that quarterback win football games. We’re seeing Jackson improve weekly as a passer. (With Allen, not as much yet).

The Dolphins will be selecting in the middle of the first round, which might mean they’ll have to trade up to secure one of the top quarterbacks in this draft class. The quarterbacks always seem to creep up the draft board. But by sacrificing some draft value in the future, they can begin to build around a young, talented and malleable quarterback who should get help from a strong defense and an offense that seems to have some developing skill players in running backs Kenyan Drake and Kalen Ballage, tight end Mike Gesicki and receivers Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant. That’s far more than Allen has had to work with in Buffalo.

After releasing Tannehill, the Dolphins will have roughly $45 million in cap space, which is league average. They can’t spend like their AFC rivals in the New York Jets, who have $106 million. But the Dolphins can make signings this offseason and in offseason to come, and if smart, they can help their young quarterback with a supporting cast.

The days of stopgap quarterbacks need to end. Their contracts are too big and the college game has never been closer to the NFL. Young quarterbacks don’t need to hold a clipboard. They should play, which provides a distinct team building advantage for teams that can support their quarterback through his early growth, much like the Los Angeles Rams have done with Jared Goff.

The Dolphins have the opportunity to get the quarterback position right from a talent and salary cap standpoint. They shouldn’t stall any longer with Tannehill, Foles or any other veteran quarterback. They should look to the future in the 2019 draft.