Miami Dolphins make Ryan Tannehill risk even bigger with no safety net

Everything’s riding on Ryan Tannehill this year. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

The Dolphins are making a sizable gamble on Ryan Tannehill with the hope that he not only produces a nice comeback story after a major knee injury, but also immediately start playing the best football of his life at 30.

And while that’s living a little more dangerously than some might be able to stomach, their logic is reasonable given how well he played last time he was on the field.

What doesn’t make sense, though, is that they’ve heightened the risk by going forward with the smallest possible safety net. With no addition in the draft and no proven free agent coming aboard, they’ve made this as difficult on themselves as possible.

The lesson they said they learned from last season’s debacle — David Fales, Matt Moore and $10 million man Jay Cutler combined for some of the worst quarterback play in the NFL — doesn’t seem to have stuck.

“Last year didn’t go, obviously, the way we hoped,” vice president Mike Tannenbaum said in January. “It gave us a chance to reflect on some things we could do better. Part of that is making sure that we have good depth at as many positions as possible, knowing that over the course of a 16-game season, they’re going to play. That’s what history shows us.”

Similarly, coach Adam Gase said it’s not prudent to go without contingency at quarterback, and owner Stephen Ross was so fed up by how poorly Tannehill’s fill-ins did last year that he dropped an f-bomb when assessing the season after the finale.

Yet here the Dolphins are, about two weeks away from the start of Organized Team Activities, and the fallbacks in case something goes wrong with Tannehill are Fales, Brock Osweiler and Bryce Petty. If Gase felt shaky proceeding with Moore as his starter last summer, imagine how unsettling it’ll be to march on with one of those three.

It’s hard to pick a frontrunner for the backup job, and that’s not good. The Miami secondary looks like it’ll be in for a fun spring of OTAs and minicamp as these guys try to separate themselves.

It’s very possible none of them would make an NFL roster other than the Dolphins’ this season.

Fales probably — maybe — has the inside track after performing well enough last year (mostly in practice) that he had Gase touting his potential this offseason and got re-signed. The Dolphins cut him at the end of the preseason last year, and he was out of the league until they called again when Cutler got hurt in October.

He’s played in three games since being drafted four years ago and in two appearances for the Dolphins last year, he completed 29 of 43 passes for a total of 265 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

Likewise, Osweiler hasn’t been flush with suitors over the past year. In fact, teams have worked noticeably hard to get rid of him.

Houston gave up a second-round pick last March just to get Cleveland to take his contract in a trade. On the hook for the rest of his guaranteed money either way, the Browns decided they were better off paying him $16 million to leave than to stay.

His best season, the one that landed him a four-year, $72 million contract, was in 2015. He stepped in for Peyton Manning in Denver and completed 61.8 percent of his passes for 1,967 yards and 10 touchdowns against six interceptions while posting a passer rating of 86.4.

That came after three years of being coached by Gase, who was with the Broncos when they drafted Osweiler at No. 57 overall in 2012 and left for Chicago in the 2015 offseason.

Petty, who was acquired on a waiver claim Friday, is the only one who has no history with Gase and he’s the least formed of the three. At 26, he’s a year younger than Fales and Osweiler.

The Jets drafted him in the fourth round in 2015, and he never broke through as a full-time starter. He stayed on the bench his entire first year, then appeared in 10 games over the next two. He completed 53.1 percent of his attempts, had four touchdown passes, threw 10 interceptions and mustered a 57.1 passer rating.

The best thing to be said of that trio is it’ll barely cost the Dolphins anything. The three of them combined — Miami will keep two, at most — are set to count $2.1 million against the salary cap this season. The rosiest view is that perhaps Gase, hired by this team in large part because of his reputation as a quarterback whisperer, can work his magic to turn at least one of them into a viable backup.

As good as Gase might be, that doesn’t look like a great hedge in case Tannehill can’t make it through the next seven months without interruption.

[Miami Dolphins’ 2018 salary cap spending shows their priorities]

[Takeaways from the Yahoo! Sports scouting series on the Dolphins]

[Parkland-Douglas football team makes Miami Dolphins draft announcements]

Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook.

Miami Dolphins add Jets QB Bryce Petty on waiver claim

Bryce Petty is the newest Miami Dolphin. (Getty Images)

With no quarterback in the draft, the Dolphins were searching to add one more before the start of Organized Team Activities this month and did so today by claiming Bryce Petty off waivers from the Jets.

Petty, who turns 27 soon, joins David Fales and Brock Osweiler in the competition to earn the backup job behind Ryan Tannehill.

The Jets drafted him in the fourth round in 2015, making him the fifth quarterback selected that year. He appeared in 10 games, including seven starts, and posted a passer rating of 57.7. He completed 53.1 percent of his attempts, averaged 135.3 yards per game and threw four touchdown passes against 10 interceptions. He was also sacked 21 times.

Petty became particularly expendable once New York drafted Sam Darnold at No. 3 overall last week.

In South Florida, Petty is best known for a play in 2016 when Dolphins defensive linemen Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh converged on him in the backfield for an incredibly violent sack. The Dolphins had a photo of that hit on the wall of their auditorium.

Here’s the play:

[Miami Dolphins’ 2018 salary cap spending shows their priorities]

[Takeaways from the Yahoo! Sports scouting series on the Dolphins]

[Parkland-Douglas football team makes Miami Dolphins draft announcements]

Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook.

2019 NFL Draft: Miami Dolphins could revisit quarterback position

Drew Lock could be the top quarterback in next year’s NFL Draft. (Getty Images)

Long before this year’s NFL Draft, Dolphins coach Adam Gase said he was comfortable with the prospect of not taking a single quarterback. It seemed obvious that Miami would take somebody at the position, but he warned against assuming that.

In the end, the team wrapped up the draft Saturday with eight draft picks and not a single quarterback among them — not even a seventh-rounder who could be a developmental project.

And that might not be a big deal.

The Dolphins are all-in on Ryan Tannehill as their starter this year, and any quarterback they took in the draft might not be ready to work as a viable backup this season anyway. It’s not an enormous problem for Miami to revisit the quarterback position a year from now.

If they do, Missouri’s Drew Lock is the early leader in that class. He’s 6-foot-4, 225 pounds and offers an array of skills as a pocket passer.

Lock, who is coming back for his senior season in the fall, led the country with 44 touchdown passes last year. He completed 57.8 percent of his passes, averaged 304.9 yards per game and had just 13 interceptions out of 419 pass attempts as the Tigers went 7-6.

Former Florida dual-threat quarterback Will Grier should be near the top of most draft boards, too, Now at West Virginia, he will be 24 years old when he hits the 2019 draft.

Grier has good mobility and terrific accuracy. He completed 64.4 percent of his passes, averaged 317.3 yards per game and had 34 touchdowns against 12 interceptions last year. He also ran for two touchdowns.

There are many other candidates, including Michigan’s Shea Patterson, Clayton Thorson of Northwestern and Jarrett Stidham from Auburn, but the upcoming class isn’t thought to be as strong as this year’s.

Led by Baker Mayfield at No. 1 to Cleveland, last week’s draft saw five quarterbacks go in the first round. That’s the most since Dan Marino’s 1983 class.

Mayfield and Sam Darnold (No. 3) were well out of Miami’s reach, but a somewhat unexpected opportunity emerged when Josh Allen and Josh Rosen slipped past Denver at No. 5. The Dolphins could have traded up to get either of them, but were content to stay at No. 11 and didn’t want to give up future assets.

For an idea of what the price might have been, take a look at what the three teams who traded up to get top-10 quarterbacks paid.

The Jets gave up three second-round picks to go from No. 6 to No. 3 last month. On draft night, Buffalo spent two second-rounders to jump from No. 12 to No. 7 so it could grab Allen. Then, one spot ahead of the Dolphins, Arizona traded up from 15th to 10th for the cost of a third and a fifth.

That last one wouldn’t have been an overwhelming sacrifice, but Miami was never totally sold on Rosen and was thrilled to get Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick so late when it had him graded as a top-six player in the draft.

At the tail end of the first round, Baltimore put together a package to swap its No. 52 pick (second round) with Philadelphia’s spot at No. 32. The Ravens exchanged fourth-round picks with the Eagles, moving Philadelphia up seven spots, and sent over a 2019 second-round pick. Essentially, they gave up a future second-round pick so they could take Lamar Jackson.

There’s nothing wrong with Miami’s aversion to get involved in those bidding wars, and delaying the quarterback pick to next year has some logic to it.

Perhaps Tannehill has a gigantic comeback season and continues the progress he showed under Gase in 2016, and there wouldn’t be much motivation for the team to plan for a post-Tannehill future if he’s a 30-year-old Pro Bowler this season. And it’s possible Gase knows how to unlock something in David Fales or Brock Osweiler, both of whom are 27.

Maybe all the Dolphins’ plans, including betting so big on Tannehill, will backfire and send them spiraling toward a 3-13 year. In that case, they’d have a significantly higher pick with which to address the quarterback situation.

The Dolphins’ patience made sense this time around, and it’ll take a year to see how well that decision plays out. If it doesn’t, they’ve got good options next spring.

[Dolphins’ NFL Draft week a success with smart picks, restraint on trade calls]

[Minkah Fitzpatrick in Round 1 is a homerun for the Dolphins]

[Parkland-Douglas football team makes Miami Dolphins draft announcements]

Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook.

2018 NFL Draft: Dolphins pass on highly rated QB Mason Rudolph in 3rd

Will the Dolphins look smart for passing on Mason Rudolph? (Getty Images)

DAVIE — The Dolphins got skunked on the top quarterbacks in the draft, watching the last of them go one pick ahead of them at No. 10, then turned down a chance to grab one from the next tier in the third round.

Leading up to the NFL Draft, it seemed unlikely Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph would still be around when Miami’s spot came up in the third round, but there he was at No. 73. The team had arguably the fifth- or sixth-best quarterback sitting there for them to take, but opted for Ohio State linebacker Jerome Baker.

“It was a consideration,” general manager Chris Grier said of taking a quarterback. “But for us, Baker was a guy at that spot who was just too good for us to pass up.”

The Dolphins didn’t feel that way about Rudolph, who didn’t overwhelm them with his personality and playing style, and he went three picks later to Pittsburgh.

He’s a 6-foot-5 pocket passer who proved himself as an accurate thrower on deep balls and was proficient running the kind of up-tempo offense Adam Gase has wanted to implement.

Rudolph piled up 12,765 yards and 86 touchdowns while completing 63.6 percent of his passes in three years as a collegiate starter. He had decent mobility as well, which is a must for Miami.

Once the Dolphins lost out on the first four quarterbacks, especially Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen, it set them up with the daunting task of trying to find an undervalued quarterback they believed to be someone they could develop as a challenger to Ryan Tannehill.

However, they had to balance it with addressing major needs at tight end and linebacker. Miami wasn’t necessarily out to grab a safety at No. 11 overall, but they were thrilled to see a potential top-five pick fall to them in Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick is believed to be an incredible talent with the potential to vie for a starting spot this year, but it wouldn’t have been the end of the world for the Dolphins to go into the season with Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald.

Had they gone with a linebacker at No. 11, like Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds, they still could have taken tight end Mike Gesicki in the second round and maintained the flexibility to pounce on Rudolph in the third.

Instead, he goes to the Steelers and will get at least one year to learn behind Ben Roethlisberger. When he is ready, he’ll step in as the quarterback of an exceptionally stable organization with many good pieces in place offensively.

That’s good a spot for Rudolph.

In Miami, he would’ve been expected to beat out David Fales and Brock Osweiler for the backup job this year. And that’s a particularly high-pressure spot considering there are no guarantees when it comes to Ryan Tannehill’s health.

At this point, any quarterback the Dolphins get will be more of a long-term developmental prospect. They have two picks in the fourth round — Nos. 123 and 131 — to go for someone like Kyle Lauletta from Richmond or Luke Falk of Washington State if one of them hangs around long enough.

The chances of hitting jackpot decrease as the draft goes on, and there’s a reason most of the analysts and teams had Rudolph ranked decisively ahead of the rest of the class. The Dolphins didn’t think he would be a franchise-changer in the long run, and now it’s possible they’ll be in the same situation at quarterback a year from now. Unless they strike gold in the late rounds or Tannehill puts up a monster comeback season — they’re betting big on the latter — the next young quarterback could be a year away.

[Miami Dolphins stuck without a QB in Round 1 of NFL Draft; Will it cost them?]

[Vote: Grade the Miami Dolphins’ NFL Draft picks]

[GALLERY: Check out the best photos from the NFL Draft in Arlington, Texas]

[What the Dolphins think of skill players in this year’s NFL Draft]

[Frank Gore’s on a mission with Miami Dolphins]

Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook.

Stocked at quarterback, Miami Dolphins move on from Brandon Doughty

Brandon Doughty is a free agent. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

Stocked at quarterback, Miami Dolphins move on from Brandon Doughty

The Dolphins placed Brandon Doughty on waivers today, ending his two-year run as their practice squad quarterback. The move frees up Doughty to look elsewhere for playing time, which appeared unlikely with Miami.

Doughty, 26, was the team’s seventh-round draft pick in 2016 and never made it onto the active roster.

When Ryan Tannehill went down in 2016, the Dolphins brought in free agent T.J. Yates as the backup to Matt Moore. When they needed an emergency option again last year, they called David Fales.

Going into the upcoming season, the team has Tannehill entrenched as the starter with Fales and recently signed Brock Osweiler competing to be his backup. Fales appears to be the frontrunner for that spot, and Osweiler, despite his struggles, has played in 42 career games.

It’s also possible Miami will draft a quarterback in one of the higher rounds this year.

That setup wouldn’t have left much of an opportunity for Doughty, and given the timing of this move, it has the appearance that he wanted to be turned loose to find another team.

Doughty has one season remaining of practice squad eligibility.

In four preseason games last year, he had two touchdown passes against two interceptions and completed 19 of 40 attempts for 263 yards. He played extensively in the final game at Minnesota, completing 8 of 17 throws for 106 yards.

Doughty was a South Florida kid who grew up rooting for the Dolphins and played at North Broward Prep. He started three years at Western Kentucky and earned back-to-back Conference USA MVP honors before being drafted.

[Insane 2017 Miami Dolphins season made Adam Gase a smarter coach]

[Will Dolphins’ passing game have better ball distribution this year?]

[Are the Dolphins going to turn Ryan Tannehill loose as a runner after two knee issues?]

Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook

2018 NFL Draft: Mel Kiper explains Dolphins’ quarterback options

Would the Dolphins spend a pick on Kyle Lauletta? (Getty Images)

If everyone is operating under the assumption that the top four quarterbacks in next month’s NFL Draft are out of the Dolphins’ reach at No. 11, it’s time to sift through contingency plans.

The first task is figuring out what position to address with such a high pick, and the second is to determine whether there’s a worthwhile quarterback later in the draft. With regard to the latter, they could push that decision to the 2019 draft depending on who’s available to them this year.

ESPN analyst Mel Kiper is among those who believe the first four quarterbacks will go in the top five picks, so he has Miami drafting Florida State safety Derwin James in the first round.

As far as quarterbacks go, he’d push for the Dolphins to take Richmond’s Kyle Lauletta in Round 2 or 3.

“You don’t want to force the quarterback pick at No. 11 unless you feel Lamar Jackson’s worthy of being that high of a pick,” Kiper said this afternoon. “I have him going No. 15 to Arizona. If you’re looking for a second- or third-round quarterback that’s intriguing to me, it would be Kyle Lauletta from Richmond.”

Kiper also suggested Western Kentucky’s Mike White as a possible second- or third-rounder and he likes Marshall quarterback Chase Litton, who turned pro after his junior year, in the late rounds.

He sees a high ceiling for Litton, if a team is willing to “put him on the shelf for a couple years.” That would require the Dolphins to roll along with David Fales or Brock Osweiler as the backup to Ryan Tannehill this season. Tannehill’s contract is up after 2020.

“Had he gone back to Marshall and had a big year, he probably would have been a second-round pick (in 2019),” Kiper said. “Now you may be able to get a guy like Litton in the fifth or sixth round.”

He would do something like that rather than punt until next season, when the quarterback class is more unpredictable than it was this year.

“You don’t know what’s going to be there next year,” Kiper said. “I mean, Drew Lock out of Missouri and Clayton Thorson out of Northwestern—You don’t know how that group’s going to develop. Brian Lewerke of Michigan State.

“These guys (in the 2018 class) were highly rated coming into this year. They didn’t just come out of the blue and magically appear.”

Kiper likes Lauletta for the Dolphins ahead of Mason Rudolph, who is thought by some to be a potential late-first-round selection.

Despite playing for the Richmond Spiders in the FCS, Lauletta has been impressive in the lead up to the draft. He’s 6-foot-3, 215 pounds and looks like a savvy passer who can improvise and function under duress.

He had 28 touchdown passes against 12 interceptions last season, completed 64.9 percent of his passes and averaged 340 yards per game.

“Watching him at Richmond and the way he played at the Senior Bowl, he just didn’t seem to be in awe of anything,” Kiper said. “He just fits in, goes out there and competes. The level (of competition) didn’t bother him coming out of the I-AA ranks. I like Kyle Lauletta. That’s a guy in the second or third round could be viewed as this year’s version of Jimmy Garoppolo.”

[Dolphins coach Adam Gase says offseason moves are a net positive]

[Ryan Tannehill will be back for the Dolphins in time for OTAs]

[What exactly is Mike Tannenbaum’s building plan for the Miami Dolphins?]

Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook

2018 NFL Draft: No certainty Dolphins will pick a quarterback at all

Will Josh Allen or any of the other Big Four still be available when the Dolphins pick at No. 11? (Getty Images)

ORLANDO—It seems obvious the Dolphins need to get a quarterback reasonably high in this year’s NFL Draft class. Even if they’re committed to Ryan Tannehill for the remainder of his contract, three more seasons, they need a quality backup for 2018 and a contingency for the future in case Tannehill isn’t good enough.

But coach Adam Gase said it’s not automatic the team will jump on one.

With Miami appearing to be boxed out from getting one of the top four quarterbacks at No. 11, attention turns to the second-tier guys like Mason Rudolph and Lamar Jackson. If the team isn’t sold on someone in that range, it won’t give up a second-round pick at that position.

“Chris (Grier) will do a good job putting the draft board together and we’ll pick the right guys,” Gase said. “I don’t know how the draft is going to fall … What if three teams trade up even higher than what we’ve been seeing and everybody’s gone?

“Are we taking a guy just to take a guy? I mean I’d love to add a quarterback as much as anybody else but at the same time, I want it to be the right guy for us.”

The Dolphins are high on Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen, and there remains a small chance one of those two could slide. Southern California’s Sam Darnold and Allen are likely to be the first two picked, leaving Mayfield and UCLA’s Josh Rosen.

While the first four teams in the draft all need a quarterback, if one of them becomes fixated on another player, the remaining teams ahead of the Dolphins don’t appear to be looking for one.

Mayfield seems to be the most likely to fall a few spots in that scenario, and Gase would be thrilled if that happens.

On the flip side, part of the urgency for Miami to pick a quarterback is to take advantage of having the No. 11 pick. The organization believes it won’t be slotted that high very often (many outside those walls don’t agree), so it can’t sleep on the opportunity.

However, if they aren’t taking one at No. 11, there’s nothing rare or special about the rest of their picks beginning with No. 42 in the second round. Or, what if one of the top four slips to them and it’s not a guy they want? At that point, if the Dolphins aren’t fully on board with a specific quarterback, it’d be more sensible to revisit the position in the 2019 draft.

Gase is very confident in backup David Fales, who played sparingly last year, and said there was no way Miami was letting him leave in free agency. Fales appears to be the man to beat as Brock Osweiler, Brandon Doughty and any potential rookie vie for the No. 2 spot.

The Dolphins have typically kept two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster during Gase’s two seasons as head coach, and Doughty has been on the practice squad. This is his final season of eligibility for NFL practice squads.

Last year they put Tannehill on Injured Reserve during training camp and went with Jay Cutler and Matt Moore as the active quarterbacks. When Moore got hurt, they brought in Fales. Collectively, Cutler, Moore and Fales combined to give Miami the fifth-worst passer rating in the NFL.

Fales, 27, was with Gase in Chicago in 2015 and had been with Miami until the final cut of the preseason last season. Osweiler also has history with Gase, having played under him in Denver from 2012 through ’14.

Gase would almost certainly have to carry three quarterbacks in 2018 if the Dolphins draft one, because of his interest in Fales and to avoid being forced to play the rookie if Tannehill gets hurt.

“Probably,” he said. “Yes… That’s an important position. I like the guys that we have on our roster right now, and then if we add someone else, obviously we’re doing it for a good reason.

“At that position, the more guys that we can bring along and the more guys that we can develop—I think it’s hard to just say that we’re going to keep a practice squad guy.”

If the Dolphins don’t draft a quarterback in the first- or second-round, they’d still likely bring in a late-rounder or undrafted rookie to compete with Doughty and the others. It’s just that it could be a name very few in South Florida recognize.

[Dolphins coach Adam Gase says offseason moves are a net positive]

[Ryan Tannehill will be back for the Dolphins in time for OTAs]

[What exactly is Mike Tannenbaum’s building plan for the Miami Dolphins?]

Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook

Miami Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill injury: Update on rehab work

Ryan Tannehill has five months to be ready for training camp. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

INDIANAPOLIS—Regardless of whether the Dolphins draft a quarterback high this year or find a quality veteran in free agency, they remain firmly committed to Ryan Tannehill.

Tannehill, who hasn’t played since December 2016 because of injuries to his left knee, is ahead of schedule on his rehabilitation and is expected to be back no later than the start of training camp. Miami hasn’t ruled out him being on the field for Organized Team Activities in May, either.

Going without him last year, when the Dolphins settled for Jay Cutler as his replacement, underscored how valuable he is.

“I’m extremely excited,” Gase said. “I know really our entire roster is. The guys that I talk to at the end of the year, everybody appreciated what he brought to the table in years past.

“Sometimes you lose perspective of what somebody does for your team and what he did for us in 2016 when we lost him and going through an entire season without having him. I think the appreciation for him, not only for the coaching staff but other players is very high.”

Tannehill was with the team throughout last season and stayed current on tweaks Gase made to the offense in order to ensure he would not be behind when he came back.

He also often did rehab exercises in view of the media at practices and games. He was running stadium stairs by midseason and looked good throwing deep balls in pre-game warmups. All of that has been encouraging to the Dolphins.

“As far as what the trainers and doctors have told me, everything has progressed extremely well,” Gase said. “He’s a physical freak, and we’ll just kind of play this one as the week goes on, throughout the offseason. I won’t personally know until we get into those stages to where we can be out at practice throwing.

“All I can do is hear things are going good. He’s moving around well (and) he’s able to do what he needs to do to play quarterback.”

Tannehill will turn 30 this summer, and the confident comments on his recovery from knee surgery don’t guarantee anything. He and the Dolphins were equally adamant that he was fine a year ago.

The upside, though, is that his return offers a chance to continue the improvement he showed under Gase while playing for him two years ago. Tannehill posted career highs in passer rating (93.5), completion percentage (67.1) and yards per attempt (7.7).

With Cutler, Matt Moore and David Fales playing quarterback for the Dolphins last year, they ranked 18th in the league in yards and had the third-most interceptions. Their collective passer rating of 78.7 placed 28th.

Gase said he has no doubt Tannehill will be the Dolphins’ starter in the upcoming season and “I don’t see that changing anytime soon.” If Miami drafts a quarterback at No. 11, or any other round for that matter, it would theoretically be to use that player as Tannehill’s backup in 2018.

Gase does not believe Tannehill would view it as a threat or have any objection to the team drafting a quarterback.

Tannehill’s contract runs through 2020 and pays him an average of $20.1 million per year. His $19.8 million salary cap hit this season will rank no higher than 15th at his position.

[The Dolphins claim they want Jarvis Landry back, but do they really?]

[The latest on where the Dolphins stand with RT Ja’Wuan James]

[Miami Dolphins DE Charles Harris gets a chance at a starting job in 2018]

Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook

ESPN ranks Miami Dolphins among league worst in quarterback confidence

Ryan Tannehill is coming back, but not everyone is as confident as the Dolphins. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

The Dolphins have been adamant that they expect quarterback Ryan Tannehill to be healthy and back to normal for the upcoming season, but those outside their building are a bit more skeptical.

ESPN published a list this week that ranked all 32 NFL teams in terms of confidence in their current quarterback situation. The best of the bunch, predictably, were the Patriots, Eagles and Packers. Not only do those teams have top-line starter, they also have reasonably reliable backups in case of emergency.

The Dolphins, meanwhile, checked in at No. 26 overall. That puts them ahead of just six teams.

Miami heads into the busy part of the offseason with Tannehill and former seventh-round pick Brandon Doughty as the only quarterbacks under contract. Tannehill is coming off two knee issues, one of which cost him all of last season, and Doughty has yet to appear in an NFL game.

Longtime backup Matt Moore figures to be gone as he hits unrestricted free agency. Moore, who has been with the team since 2011, was bypassed in favor of retired Jay Cutler to be the starter when Tannehill went down in training camp, then was shelved late in the season as Miami proceeded with Fales as the backup.

Fales, by the way, was auditioning for the No. 2 spot last year and is going to be a restricted free agent. Dolphins coach Adam Gase has long been a fan of his and seemed interested in bringing him back.

Miami’s quarterback situation will look dramatically different if it makes a significant move in free agency or the draft. There are several compelling free agents at the position, and the Dolphins should be in reach of a top college prospect if they hang on to the No. 11 pick. They could draft a quarterback with a plan of him being Tannehill’s backup for 2018 and evaluate the newcomer’s viability as a starter—as well as Tannehill’s progress—after that.

[Dolphins feeling good about where they stand at cornerback–for now]

[Miami Dolphins players react to Parkland shooting]

[The Palm Beach Post‘s first 2018 NFL mock draft]

Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook

Colin Kaepernick fits Miami Dolphins’ QB need behind Ryan Tannehill

Colin Kaepernick (7) makes sense for the Dolphins for football reasons. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

The answer to the Dolphins’ quarterback uncertainty is sitting there to be had. He’s waiting for their call.

With no guarantee on Ryan Tannehill’s left knee, they need a sound backup plan to avoid the fiasco they got into last summer in which they were begging broken, old Jay Cutler to take their $10 million.

There’s a highly available 30-year-old who’d be happy to hear from them. He’s still in his quarterbacking prime and, believe me, very well rested. Plus, if Miami brings him in soon, he’ll have ample time to adapt to the offense.

Much like Tannehill, this guy is good, not great. He has taken a team to the Super Bowl. He possesses the mobility coach Adam Gase believes is an absolute necessity, and over the past decade he’s been one of the five safest quarterbacks in the league when it comes to interceptions. In his most recent season, he put up a better passer rating than Tannehill’s career average.

There’d be little question about it if his name wasn’t Colin Kaepernick.

The Dolphins’ power trio of Gase, Mike Tannenbaum and Chris Grier can’t let anything hinder them from doing their sole job of assembling the best possible roster. Politics, regardless of whether their views and Kaepernick’s are aligned, don’t show up on scouting reports.

That’s the opinion of their boss, anyway.

When Dolphins owner Stephen Ross was asked last year whether Kaepernick’s stances, including being the originator of the national anthem protests, were keeping him out of the league, he couldn’t fathom that being true.

“A lot has been written about it, but you know owners, or coaches… they’ll do anything it takes to win,” Ross said. “And if they think he can help them win, I’m sure—I would hope they would sign him.”

Kaepernick can help the Dolphins win. He wouldn’t be coming in to compete against Tannehill, who will be Gase’s unquestioned starter if healthy, but he’s a more proven option than David Fales or anyone they might pick up in the draft.

It’d be ideal for Miami to find some veteran backup as a contingency, a point underscored by seeing Josh McCown go to the Jets last year and far outperform Cutler for about half the cost. Considering how tight the Dolphins’ salary cap situation figures to be, however, their budget will put serious restrictions on who they can get.

So what does a 6-10 team with limited finances do? It scrolls Craigslist looking for bargains like Kaepernick. Finding undervalued assets is enormously important for a team like the Dolphins.

Based on what’s been reported, it appears he just wants to play. It’s highly doubtful he’ll be holding out for a huge contract offer or demanding a chance to be the starter. He’s precisely the bargain Miami needs.

Would signing Kaepernick look a little desperate? Probably, but the Dolphins are desperate. Ross unloaded his frustration after the team plummeted out of the playoff race with three straight losses to end the season.

“You put as much as I put into a team and you try to do all the right things to win, how can you not be disappointed?” he said.

Doing all the right things to win means basing football decisions on football criteria. The three men running this team can’t be scared off by the likely public relations headache that accompanies signing Kaepernick, and they ought to know another 6-10 season wouldn’t bode well for job security.

The first thing he’d need to do is rectify his past support of Fidel Castro, but everything else he’s voiced over the past few years has now become commonplace in the NFL. The league saw entire teams kneel after Donald Trump’s criticism in September. Six Dolphins players did so that weekend, and many more players and staff wore #IMWITHKAP t-shirts before the game.

It’s not a huge leap from #IMWITHKAP to #KAPSWITHUS.

Tannehill’s standing within the organization is secure enough that he shouldn’t be upset about them bringing in Kaepernick as insurance. If he was too frail for that, it’d be an issue no matter who the Dolphins bring in, and given his knee injury, they can’t afford to ride into next season without a Plan B.

Gase seems sturdy enough to manage it, too. Remember all the times he held his ground when fans called for him to bench Tannehill and Cutler?

“I’ll make the decision on quarterback,” he said. “We’re not going to take public polls.”

Fine. Don’t take one on Kaepernick, either. Instead, recognize the gift of being able to acquire a low-risk, high-reward backup quarterback and make the decision that makes this team better.

[Jarvis Landry stars in 2018 Pro Bowl, which could be his final game with Miami Dolphins]

[Jason Taylor weighs in on Jarvis Landry’s free agency saga]

[Dolphins legend Don Shula asks for patience for coach Adam Gase]

Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook