The Miami Dolphins have proven two key facts this offseason: They're committed to Tua Tagovailoa, and they're not afraid to work a deal.
The Dolphins drove home the first point with their trade out of a prime spot to draft a quarterback, then further reinforced it by swinging a subsequent deal to move back into the first six picks shortly thereafter. In a flash, Miami general manager Chris Grier repositioned his team well inside the top 10 but just outside of a spot in which the buzz might pick up about his team's situation under center, and picked up future first rounders to go with it.
It was the latest move in a demonstrated style from Grier's Dolphins, one in which he's shown the willingness to move quality players or assets to accrue additional draft capital. He's built himself a war chest to spend on talent to surround Tagovailoa. Now it's up to Tagovailoa to hold up his end of the bargain.
"Especially when you're picking where we're picking, you always look at your team, and Tua's a big part of that," Grier explained Wednesday. "So as we build around and what we're doing, yeah, you're always looking at what does your quarterback do best, but you're also looking at weighing that versus the best players available and what you do for your team, because at the end of the day it's always about the team. It's not about one player, one pick, one person. You've heard Brian (Flores) talk about team-first players that fit right. For us, it's just looking for the right player, the right person, the right fit for our team, as well as the mesh with the quarterback."
Tagovailoa has a considerable amount to prove in Year 2 after his rookie season was less than stellar. While the former Alabama star learned the game on the fly and attempted to keep Miami in playoff contention amid a season played during a pandemic, the quarterback drafted immediately after him (Justin Herbert) became a ball of fire, lighting up the stat sheet on his way to winning Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Tagovailoa has legitimate reasons for a slow start. He was coming off a significant hip dislocation suffered in his final collegiate season, which required surgery and a grueling rehab to even throw in time for NFL scouts. He began his NFL career during the earliest stages of the COVID-19 pandemic and was forced to play his rookie season without a proper offseason for mental and physical acclimation. And he wasn't exactly stepping into the most talented offense in the NFL when he was promoted following the team's bye week.
Despite this adversity, Tagovailoa put his best foot forward and has been nothing but positive going into his second season.
"Communication's been great. He's been around, as you know, working hard," Grier said of Tagovailoa. "He's been working with the receivers. He's a very competitive kid, as you know. I think coming off the injury last year with no OTAs, no minicamp and being thrown in right away, that's a hard transition, especially coming through the rehab part of it he's doing. He's healthy now.
"He's been working very hard. I know our players that have been around and popped in and out here have said he's been great with the players and the receivers have been working. Like I said, he's gonna take the next step. The kid's been a winner everywhere he's been. I'm really excited for him, especially to have an offseason under his belt, and I think that'll be really important for him."
A full offseason of learning and a chance to get some on-field reps will only further build on the foundation Tagovailoa was able to cobble together as a rookie. The offseason is also a controlled environment of sorts, meaning we'll likely hear nothing but great things from Miami about Tagovailoa this offseason. After all, their draft maneuvering all but guaranteed they'll go elsewhere with their first-round pick, and they're not precluded from potentially trading out again, either. The pressure is on Grier in the spring and summer.
Then, it shifts in a massive way to the shoulders of Tagovailoa in September. Here's to hoping Grier brings in some more talent to assist Tagovailoa in year two so the quarterback can prove the GM right in calling him a winner.