Armando Salguero

Dolphins, Eagles have forged relationship that has benefited both teams

Miami Dolphins RB Kenyan Drake runs a drill at the Miami Dolphins training facility in Davie, FL, August 14, 2017.
Miami Dolphins RB Kenyan Drake runs a drill at the Miami Dolphins training facility in Davie, FL, August 14, 2017. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

The Miami Dolphins and Philadelphia Eagles are going to spend the week together, practicing for a couple of days before culminating the week with a preseason game Thursday night. And that makes sense because these two teams work well together.

Coaches Adam Gase and Doug Pederson (a former Dolphins backup quarterback who famously closed out Don Shula’s record 325th career victory) are friendly.

Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman and Dolphins EVP Mike Tannenbaum also have a longstanding relationship and are often seen together at NFL annual meetings.

So it’s no surprise these two organizations, hospitable to one another and never competing for the same division title or playoff berth, hooked up in the spring of 2016 to pull off what now looks like something of a coup for both teams.

The Dolphins-Eagles trade of March 9, 2016 has had undeniable and fundamental affects on both rosters.

It put the Eagles in position to select Carson Wentz, who they view as their franchise quarterback. The Dolphins, meanwhile, added starting cornerback Byron Maxwell, starting linebacker Kiko Alonso and were in perfect position to draft starting left tackle Laremy Tunsil.

A direction setting deal for both teams.

I’ve spoken to multiple people about how this deal came to be and the picture they paint includes thoughtful consideration of depth charts and salary caps, some detective work, and admittedly, a hefty amount of luck.

It began when Roseman called Tannenbaum the last week of February 2016 looking for a way to have his team climb from the No. 13 spot in the first round of that April’s draft to the Dolphins’ No. 8 pick.

Roseman never told the Dolphins he intended to use the five-spot climb as a precursor to going higher to get a quarterback although that’s exactly what he did.

But before the Eagles could make the definitive move for Wentz -- they swapped the No. 8 pick, a third-round pick, a fourth-round pick, a first-round pick in 2017, and a second-round pick in 2018 -- they had to get the Dolphins on board with the initial trade.

After making it immediately apparent they would be open to a trade, Dolphins brass involved owner Stephen Ross on the idea and began a studying the historical difference in production between the No. 8 and No. 13 picks in the previous 10 drafts.

That study told Miami the difference was negligible. No. 13 picks have started practically the same amount of games as No. 8 picks.

Initially, the Eagles offered draft compensation including multiple picks. Then the sides started talking players.

The Eagles gave the Dolphins a list of players they were willing to offer.

The Dolphins soon singled out Maxwell. He was the key because the Miami defense needed not just cornerbacks, but long, press cornerbacks.

The problem is Maxwell was not good in Philadelphia in 2015, his first and only season after signing as a free agent. But the Dolphins didn’t see this as a problem. The team had contacts in Seattle, where Maxwell played well in a system similar to the one the Dolphins wanted to use. So Dolphins people talked to Seattle people.

Tannenbaum, I’m told, also was able to benefit from his relationship with Atlanta coach Dan Quinn, who had been Maxwell’s defensive coordinator in Seattle in 2013 and ‘14..

So after positive feedback from Quinn and Seattle people and studying Maxwell at length, the Dolphins decided the veteran made sense. But they needed more.

And so the Eagles offered a “throw-in.”

Several players were on this list and the Dolphins studied them all. They looked at Mychal Kendricks, who was coming off a 13-start season. The player who stood out over the others was Alonso.

Why?

He’s a three-down linebacker. And his contract situation meant the Dolphins would have him under their control for up to two seasons before having to pay him or lose him in free agency. (Turns out the Dolphins signed Alonso to a contract extension after 2016).

Alonso, who had knee issues in Buffalo and Philadelphia, came contingent on passing a physical. So did Maxwell and that almost wrecked the trade.

Dolphins doctors saw reason for concern with Maxwell’s shoulders during their first exam. For two hours while further tests were done, people within the Miami organization thought the trade could collapse.

But Maxwell was cleared and he hasn’t displayed any signs of shoulder issues since.

Soon after the trade, Gase confidently stated it would bring the Dolphins three starters. Well, Maxwell and Alonso were two. But by then the team already knew it could pick one of five or six players at No. 13 who would almost certainly start.

On draft day, Tunsil dropped from his perch as the potential No. 1 pick to No. 8. And the Dolphins were sweating because they would have picked him at No. 8 had they stayed there. But Tunsil, amid rumors of drug use and family issues spurred on by a leaked video, kept falling.

Miami got him at No. 13 and he’s now the starting left tackle.

“We just go lucky,” one Dolphins source admits.

This deal turned out well so far for both teams. And that makes the amicable bond between them a little stronger.

The Miami Dolphins lost to the Baltimore Ravens 31-7 on Thursday Aug. 17, 2017. It was Jay Cutler's quarterback debut, and special teams needed a little work - Armando Salguero and Adam Beasley recap their observations.

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