The Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars have agreed in principle to a trade that will send tight end Julius Thomas to the Dolphins in exchange for an undisclosed 2017 late-round draft pick.
The trade, which cannot be consummated until the NFL’s league year begins March 9, cleared numerous hurdles Monday -- not the least of which was as many as two other teams trying to get involved in talks with the Jaguars but the Dolphins prevailing.
Ultimately, the reason Thomas is going to the Dolphins and not elsewhere is because he wanted to reunite with coach Adam Gase and the offensive system under which Thomas had back-to-back 12-touchdown season in Denver.
Gase was the offensive coordinator with the Broncos when Thomas was there and runs the same system in Miami that Thomas (and the rest of the Broncos) prospered under in Denver.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Thomas will walk into the Dolphins locker room when the trade is done and be the most experienced player in the Miami offense despite it being his first season with the Dolphins.
Thomas left Denver for Jacksonville in 2015 but never reached the heights he did in Denver and, indeed, struggled with numerous injuries -- including hand and back issues.
One of the hurdles that was overcome Monday to get Thomas to Miami was a restructuring of his contract.
Thomas originally was signed through 2019, with cap hits of $8.3 million this coming season, $9.8 million in 2018 and $10.3 million in 2019.
Those numbers have been cut significantly, according to a league source as has the paragraph 5 salary Thomas is scheduled to earn. But Thomas will get a chance to earn back much of his money through incentives if he plays at the level he did in Denver -- something he has confidence he can do because of his past performance.
Thomas is basically betting on himself. And he’s showing the Dolphins he wants to play in Miami rather than anywhere else.
This was a key point for the Dolphins because they are focused on working deals that may not meet the top of the pay scale but still reward players that show a desire to be in Miami.
The Dolphins are also focused on rewarding their own players who already played for them rather than players new to the team. The Dolphins in the past have been known to pay incoming free agents while allowing their own players -- running back Lamar Miller and defensive Olivier Vernon, for example -- to move on to other teams.
That is changing now under Gase, general manager Chris Grier and executive vice president for football operations Mike Tannenbaum.
The team wants to keep its own players and not overpaying players that are coming in to the team this season.
The Dolphins and Jaguars continue talking about doing a deal for left tackle Branden Albert. Although that deal is close and Albert visited the Jaguars on Monday, that issue is separate and apart from the Thomas trade.
The Dolphins are expected to send the Jaguars a late 2018 draft pick in that trade.