Five major questions the Miami Dolphins have to answer in the offseason

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·4 min read
Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) sits on the bench as the Tennessee Titans lead in the fourth quarter at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee on Sunday, January 2, 2022. (Al Diaz/adiaz@miamiherald.com)
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  • Miami Dolphins
    Miami Dolphins
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|
  • Deshaun Watson
    Deshaun Watson
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|
  • Brian Flores
    Brian Flores
    American football coach
  • Chris Grier
    American football executive (born 1970)

The Dolphins are no strangers to change, and they’re set to look like a much different team in 2022, from the head coach who leads them to the makeup of the roster. Between the end of their 2021 season and the start of the 2022 regular season in September, the Dolphins front office, led by general manager Chris Grier, will look to put together a team that has the franchise in the playoffs for the first time since 2016. The Dolphins came one win shy of the postseason but face a long offseason ahead, starting with replacing Brian Flores, fired on Monday after three seasons.

Here are the five major questions the Dolphins will have to answer in the offseason.

Who will be the next head coach?

The Dolphins have a litany of items to address in the offseason, but all are moot until the team hires its next head coach. As of Friday afternoon, the Dolphins have requested interviews with seven assistants, all of whom are coaching with teams in the playoffs.

Owner Stephen Ross said Monday that he does not have a preference between a former head coach or an up and comer. Among a handful of duties for the next head coach, Ross said they will be in charge of the next two questions.

Is Tagovailoa’s future in Miami?

Flores’ dismissal provided no more clarity on Tua Tagovailoa’s future in Miami after his second season in the NFL, which included multiple missed games to injury but some of his best football during the team’s seven-game winning streak. Ross said he has confidence in Tagovailoa, selected No. 5 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, but added that any decisions on the quarterback would be placed in the hands of the next coach. How much Tagovailoa will factor into the coaching search is unknown — will a candidate be less likely to get the position if he doesn’t want to move forward with Tagovailoa? And a source confirmed national reports that the team is expected to move forward with Tagovailoa as the team’s starter for the 2022 season. Given the dearth of high-end options at quarterback in the draft and free agency, a third season with the young signal-caller might ultimately be the team’s best option for 2022.

Will Watson Watch re-emerge?

It appears this question has been answered. Deshaun Watson did not play for the Houston Texans this season amid close to two dozen civil suits alleging sexual misconduct and 10 criminal complaints. Watson is also still seeking a trade because of disgruntlement with Houston ownership. NFL Network reported that part of Watson’s reasoning for wanting to come to Miami was to play for Flores. And ESPN reported Saturday that with Flores gone, the chances of the Dolphins acquiring or pursuing a trade for Watson are “greatly diminished, if not gone.” Ross did not answer a question regarding whether he spoke to Watson before the trade deadline. It was reported that Ross was given permission to speak with him as the team mulled a midseason deal.

Does Howard’s contract situation have to be addressed again?

In August, the Dolphins restructured the contract of Xavien Howard, their Pro Bowl cornerback, after he requested a trade because of frustration with his deal. Among the concessions, the Dolphins moved $3.5 million in incentives to the 2021 season and Howard received much of that money for being named to the Pro Bowl and playing 90 percent of the defensive snaps. Howard’s agent, David Canter, told the Miami Herald he received what he interpreted as assurances that the deal will be renegotiated in late February or early March, in line with the marketplace and based on health and performance. But it’s unclear if the Dolphins perceive that assurance the same way that Howard does.

According to Spotrac, Howard is again set to become the seventh-highest paid cornerback in 2022 by average salary, one spot behind teammate Byron Jones. $6.775 million of Howard’s $12.375 million salary in 2022 is guaranteed, among other concessions. Howard is the team’s best player, and the Dolphins have the cap space to adjust his contract, but whether the front office wants to bend again remains to be seen.

How will the Dolphins spend their money this offseason?

The Dolphins are expected to have more than $70 million in cap room this offseason, more than any team in the NFL. With the Dolphins seemingly opting against a move for Watson and deciding to stick with Tagovailoa, a decision has to be made on top pending free agents Emmanuel Ogbah and Mike Gesicki. Regardless, this is a team in need of upgrades at multiple positions, notably offensive line, running back and wide receiver.

Some of the biggest names set to hit free agency could help the Dolphins move from playoff spectators to participators, such as New Orleans Saints tackle Terron Armstead or Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin. The Dolphins are sure to be major players in free agency and after signing a host of players in the 2021 cycle that had minimal impact, Grier will have to hit on multiple signings to elevate the Dolphins.

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