After another early playoff exit, Dolphins GM says he wants Tua Tagovailoa in Miami ‘long-term’

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Dolphins general manager Chris Grier has remained confident about Miami’s trajectory since a rebuild that started in 2019.

After Saturday’s wild-card playoff loss to Kansas City — yet another early postseason exit for the Dolphins — Grier was hesitant to declare his efforts a success.

The Dolphins have put together four straight winning seasons, but have no playoff victories to show for it. Miami has gone 23 years since its last postseason win, which is now the longest drought in the NFL after Detroit beat the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday night.

“It’s a little mixed,” Grier said Monday. “I only mean that because this is now Year 2 of (coach) Mike (McDaniel). We won nine games a year ago, 11 this year. We’ve taken steps. I think we have a good roster. Whether a success, failure, I leave that to you guys to judge.”

Grier was more clear on whether the Dolphins intend to seek a contract extension for fourth-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

“The goal is to have him here long-term playing at a high level,” Grier said, adding that the team didn’t talk money with Tagovailoa during the season but communicated with his agent throughout the year.

Other starters from Tagovailoa’s 2020 draft class have reset the quarterback market with their contracts, including Jalen Hurts and Justin Herbert last offseason.

The 25-year-old Tagovailoa is set to make $23.2 million in 2024 on the fifth-year option of his rookie deal. He led the NFL in passing with a career-high 4,624 yards and set career highs in completion rate (69.3) and passing touchdowns (29). He was named to his first Pro Bowl.

Tagovailoa also answered questions about his durability, which Grier said last offseason was a concern. He started every game for the first time in his career — one year after being diagnosed with two head injuries that made him briefly consider retirement and prompted the NFL to alter its concussion policy.

Tagovailoa has improved in two seasons under the creative play-calling and support of McDaniel, but he has struggled in Miami’s biggest games. He was 10-1 against opponents with losing records while going 1-6 against winning teams.

Tagovailoa’s three lowest passer ratings of 2023 were in Miami’s three losses to end the season. He was intercepted twice in a blowout loss at Baltimore. He passed for a season-low 173 yards with two interceptions in the regular-season finale against Buffalo. And he was 20 of 39 with one touchdown and an interception against Kansas City.

Tagovailoa said after the playoff game that he wasn’t worried about an extension.

“I don’t feel any pressure at all,” Tagovailoa said. “I have full trust in myself. I have full trust in what I’m capable of doing for our organization.”

BALANCING ACT

Tagovailoa’s offseason jujitsu classes helped him better protect himself on the field to avoid head injuries, but his late-season struggles led to questions about his ability to make plays when the planned one breaks down.

“He’s as good of a learner as I’ve ever seen,” McDaniel said. “I think that’s what I want to see, is that continued thirst to find different ways, while maintaining and growing your confidence, to always create new edges in your game. Is Tua going to be a zone-read-option quarterback? No. But I think he has developed in some — like buying extra time when necessary. I think that will continue to improve where you can just maybe move off the spot a little bit and not necessarily run for a first down, but you can extend the play.”

O-LINE UNCERTAINTY

Veteran left tackle Terron Armstead said he has not yet decided if he will return for a 12th season. Injuries limited Armstead to 10 games this season and kept him out several more last year.

Three other starters on Miami’s offensive line will enter free agency: guards Robert Hunt and Isaiah Wynn and center Connor Williams.

Williams, who signed a two-year deal ahead of the 2022 season, suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament against Tennessee in Week 14. He was rated the No. 2 center in 2023 by Pro Football Focus. Wynn, who signed a one-year deal last summer, had his season was cut short by a quad injury in Week 7.

Hunt, who missed time with a hamstring injury, has spent his entire four-year career with Miami and was rated a top-10 guard by PFF this season.

NEXT STEPS

Miami will enter the offseason $40 million over the salary cap with several key contributors set to hit free agency, including defensive tackle Christian Wilkins and linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel.

Grier indicated he is confident in the roster and is hoping to retain as many players as possible.

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