Tua shows up to OTAs. Is a deal with Dolphins getting closer?

The offseason is typically used as the time to handle NFL business, but it seems as if Tua Tagovailoa is walking a fine line of sending the Miami Dolphins organization a message while still trying to be the leader of his offense.

After reports surfaced that Tagovailoa began skipping the Dolphins’ OTA sessions last week, the franchise’s starting quarterback for the past four seasons apparently changed course, showing up to Monday’s on-field offseason work, which was the first day of Phase 3 of the offseason program.

Whether Tagovailoa attends the whole week, and whether he participates in the on-field portion of practices, which are all voluntary at this point in the year, is yet to be determined. But the NFL’s leading passer from the 2023 season was indeed working Miami Gardens on Monday, according to team sources.

However, Tagovailoa’s attendance doesn’t mean he’s close to finalizing a contract extension that makes him one of the 10 highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL, securing a contract that pays him $45-plus million annually.

Kirk Cousins got the most substantial deal from an NFL team this offseason when the Atlanta Falcons signed the injured 35-year-old, nine-year starter from the Minnesota Vikings, giving him a four-year, $180 million deal, which guarantees Cousins $90 million.

And last week Detroit gave Jared Goff, who owns a 66-50-1 record, a four-year, $212 million extension, guaranteeing the eighth-year veteran $170.6 million.

That new deal made Goff, who averages $53 million a season, the sixth quarterback — joining Joe Burrow ($55 million), Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert, Lamar Jackson and Jalen Hurts — to average more than $50 million a season on his deal. The prevailing thought among some agents is that Tagovailoa should be next.

Wiith Jacksonville trying to extend Trevor Lawrence, and DallasDak Prescott making $29 million in the final year of the four-year, $160 million deal he signed in 2021, there’s a chance the quarterback market will continue to go up before Tagovailoa gets his deal.

Talks with Tagovailoa’s agent and general manager Chris Grier tabled during the NFL Draft, but the hope was that a deal could get done this summer. Now it seems as if one might not get done until training camp, and maybe even the start of the regular season.

The Dolphins got through the most financially challenging offseason in two decades without redoing Tagovailoa’s deal, which would have created additional cap space since it would reduce his $23.2 million cap hit, which accounts for all of his fifth-year option.

And while the Dolphins’ biggest negotiating leverage is the franchise tag Miami could use to retain Tagovailoa in 2025, preventing him from becoming an unrestricted free agent, going that route would eat up another $42.5 million in cap space, which would hinder the team’s ability to put talent around the 26-year-old quarterback.

A multiyear deal, no matter the price, would spread out the cap hit for the first three or four years, keeping it manageable, which would likely allow the Dolphins to field a more competitive team. This is important considering safety Jevon Holland’s contract expires at the end of this season, and Miami could be facing another Christian Wilkins-like exodus if he’s allowed to become a restricted free agent.

While edge rusher Jaelan Phillips and receiver Jaylen Waddle each had fifth year options triggered this month, guaranteeing respectable salaries for the 2025 season, players in their position would prefer a multiyear deal. If both continue on the pace they’ve been on the past three seasons we could be talking about $100 million contracts for each.

And let’s not forget that 2025 is realistically the last year on Tyreek Hill’s contract because it’s very unlikely Miami honors the $45 million salary he’s due in 2026 in the final season of the four-year, $120 contract the All-Pro receiver signed in 2022.

To afford the rising cost of the roster, the Dolphins need to get a multiyear deal done with Tagovailoa because the only other option is to move on to another quarterback.

Plenty of players skip, or limit their participation in the offseason program for various reasons, and dissatisfaction with their contracts usually sit at the top of the list.

Last year Zach Sieler attended, but sat out all of Miami’s on-field OTA work while his camp pushed for an extension, which he got in late August, less than two weeks before the regular season started.

Connor Williams skipped all of Miami’s offseason program, including the mandatory minicamp, and was fined $93,000 for doing so, because he wanted years added to his contract, to protect him from suffering a catastrophic injury like the ACL tear that is seemingly threatening to end his career now.

Wilkins participated in the offseason program, and even worked for the first two weeks of training camp before shutting it down right up the start of the regular season when negotiations between his camp and the Dolphins fell apart.