The Miami Dolphins know they need to add a new quarterback for 2018.
This isn’t conjecture or speculation on my part. I’ve been told by club sources that, yes, they are aware they need a quarterback. (I got the feeling they also would like me to simply accept that, shut up, and let them work things out without me screaming that they must draft a quarterback.)
So with that need now out in the open, the Dolphins are about to undergo a serious study of all their available quarterback options. There are different ways the team might fill its need depending on how serious the personnel department views that need.
And it’s likely to start on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills.
That’s when coach Adam Gase might give backup David Fales some playing time. Fales, 27 and in his third NFL season, has thrown only five passes in the NFL — in Chicago during the 2015 season when Gase was the Bears offensive coordinator.
But he got first-team repetitions in practice this week and Gase is preparing Fales to play. The final decision whether to use Fales is apparently not yet made and, ultimately, the game situations will dictate that because Gase still wants to win.
But Gase also wants the option of playing Fales because he doesn’t want to conclude this season without having a solid evaluation of what Fales can do in a regular-season game. And Sunday presents that last opportunity.
So Gase would like to come out of the game knowing whether Fales is a worthy option as a backup quarterback.
And, that’s right, we’re talking backup quarterbacks here.
The Dolphins have already settled on the idea that Ryan Tannehill will be their starter in 2018. That is decided. Done.
Tannehill, who injured the ACL in his left knee twice in nine months, is expected to be recovered from the latest injury he suffered last August and be ready to compete next training camp at the latest.
A quick point:
Tannehill has had two ACL injuries in nine months. That’s not me turning a phrase to make his knee injury sound ominous. That’s what the Dolphins tell me. So those who think that Tannehill had one ACL injury in December 2016, didn’t rehabilitate or heal properly, and then re-injured it in August 2017, are wrong.
Two ACL injuries in nine months.
Despite this, nothing I have heard suggests Tannehill will not be the starter when 2018 training camp begins. The team is all in with him.
But what do the Dolphins do for a backup quarterback?
It won’t be Cutler. He said this week he doesn’t want to be a backup. So unless another unforeseen crisis arises, he’s playing his last game for Miami on Sunday.
It probably won’t be Matt Moore. He is unsigned for 2018. He will be 34 then and for all his worth in the locker room and quarterback room, he didn’t fare well when he got his chances to play this season — losing both starts and emerging from each so injured he couldn’t serve as the backup the following week.
So it might be Fales if he plays well and earns enough team confidence to be invited back for training camp in 2018. Yeah, at that point Fales would have to continue to play well.
After all that, things get very interesting.
The Dolphins may try to find a veteran backup in free agency. Or they might try to draft a quarterback. Or they might do both.
The question is to what degree?
If you’ve read anything I’ve written the past week, you know I believe the Dolphins should draft a quarterback as high as they need to if that player is the best player available when they’re selecting. And, yes, that includes picking a quarterback in the first round.
That move might not help the team immediately. For those who need success next season to keep their jobs, that move might make them uncomfortable because, again, rookie quarterbacks slated to be backups often don’t play or contribute to winning right away. And such a move might cause Tannehill to weird-out because it would be a message that he needs to play well or be replaced.
But recognizing all this, I still think picking that best available player is the right thing to do for the future and well-being of the franchise. If he doesn’t help next year, so be it. This team isn’t going to the Super Bowl next season anyway, folks.
If Tannehill gets uncomfortable, he should get over it. Competition is a thing in the NFL.
This is a deep philosophical conversation the Dolphins must have because they also want the best possible linebacker, and the best possible offensive lineman, and the best possible safety, and the best possible tight end in the coming draft. Adding a quarterback to the list guarantees something has to give.
The Dolphins will not be able to fill all their needs in the next draft.
So does the team still pluck a quarterback who may not play amid all those seemingly more pressing needs?
Tough call for the Dolphins.
Not a tough call for me. My answer would be unequivocally yes. Absolutely!
There is nothing more important than finding a potentially great quarterback — even if he’s not going to play right away.
Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero