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Pat Leonard’s NFL Notes: It would be foolish to think Miami Dolphins aren’t looking to upgrade at quarterback


Tua Tagovailoa can’t be the Miami Dolphins starting quarterback in 2023.

Whether it’s ‘Tampering Tom’ Brady or Lamar Jackson, rules-breaking Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has to go all-in on a star QB to maximize one of the NFL’s best receiving corps led by Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle.

Especially if the Jets acquire Aaron Rodgers from the Packers, are the Dolphins really going to keep the injury-prone Tagovailoa in place as their starter, sign a mid-level veteran backup and simply cross their fingers?

It shouldn't be surprising if the Dolphins move on from Tua Tagovailoa.

“You can’t count on Tua,” one league source said, citing the QB’s concussions among other durability issues.

The Dolphins picked up Tagovailoa’s $23 million fifth-year option for 2024 on Friday. But sticking with him at QB will not suffice, and it is incongruent with Ross’ rabid recent pursuit of an upgrade at the position.

What? Ross thinks it’s worth a $1.5 million fine and a league suspension to tamper with Brady in 2019-20 while he was on the Patriots — and in 2021 while he was on the Buccaneers — but it’s not worth a couple of draft picks to get Jackson?

You think Ross won’t try to pry Brady out of retirement after trying to sign him twice while he was playing on two different teams?

You shouldn’t need someone to tell you it’s raining if you’re already standing outside soaking wet.

Dolphins GM Chris Grier and coach Mike McDaniel have been very careful with their words to leave all of their options open.

CBS insider Josina Anderson recently reported that the Dolphins will explore all options at QB, including possibly moving in a different direction from Tagovailoa.

They can still trade him after picking up this fifth-year option. In fact, that offers potential suitors two years of control at a reasonable cost on a player who carries substantial risk.

Miami just cleared more than $55 million in salary cap space this past week through player releases and restructures as free agency approaches, as well.

One source said if Miami does make a move at QB, he believes they would get either Brady, Jackson or 49ers free agent Jimmy Garoppolo.

Garoppolo would be a couple of steps down from the others and comes with his own injury history. But his familiarity with McDaniel and his offense from their time together in San Francisco is a natural possible fit. It also would be the cheapest route, so that’s probably the fallback option if Brady and Jackson don’t happen.

But imagine how lethal McDaniel’s offense would look with Jackson under center and Hill and Waddle running routes.

“That would be one of the fastest offenses this league has ever seen,” another league source said. “What would defenses do? How would they defend the box?”

It is no secret that Jackson would love to play in his home state if he is traded by the Baltimore Ravens. Brady already unretired once last year, and it wouldn’t shock anyone in the league if he did it again.

Ross and the Dolphins already made the mistake of drafting Tagovailoa over Justin Herbert in 2020.

Then, although Tagovailoa played pretty well early last season, his concussions called into question just how long he will be able to play in the league at all. And the Dolphins lost his final four starts, including a three-interception defeat to Green Bay.

Miami went just 9-8 to finish second in the AFC East, far behind the Bills (13-3), before playing Buffalo close with third-string QB Skylar Thompson in a 34-31 road Wild Card playoff loss.

Tagovailoa said he is working on learning how to fall more safely, but football is violent. There is only so much a player can control — often it’s nothing at all — when taking a hit.

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The Dolphins need to upgrade at QB. Especially if the Jets land Rodgers, they need to swing big to keep pace with the Jets (Rodgers), Bills (Josh Allen) and Patriots (Bill Belichick).

And Miami’s recent history doesn’t just show that they might hunt for a new quarterback; it shows that they will.

Has anyone stopped to think about whether Rodgers would be able to handle the spotlight in New York? It sure seems like the Jets have. This has been one of the most clandestine courtships of a star player I can remember. I wonder if the Jets are trying to be careful about what gets leaked and said locally for fear of scaring off their famously rabbit-eared top target.

The L.A. Rams have released edge rusher Leonard Floyd, 30. The Giants wanted Floyd in the 2016 NFL Draft and made a huge push again for him in 2021 but failed to prevent him from re-signing with the Rams. Something to keep in mind.

Keep an eye on Buccaneers free agent corner Jamel Dean, 26, when the NFL free agent negotiating window opens on Monday. Outside corner is the Giants’ biggest need on defense, where they also are looking at defensive tackles and inside linebackers. Dean is a strong outside cover corner with good size who is still young. He has seven interceptions, 41 passes defended in a Super Bowl ring in for NFL seasons. He would be an excellent fit in Wink Martindale’s blitz-heavy scheme after playing for Todd Bowles.

Odell Beckham Jr. worked out for 12-14 NFL teams in Arizona on Friday, and there are more teams interested who didn’t attend in person. It should be interesting to see if someone intends to pay OBJ real money after seeing him run routes and demonstrate he’s healthy.

Is there a scenario where Rodgers is the Packers’ QB in 2023? “If things don’t work out the way we want them, yeah, he would.” — Packers president Mark Murphy to WBAY-TV


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