Armando Salguero

A Dolphins trade many hated in 2017 is key reason team could get Robert Quinn now

Robert Quinn celebrates a 2016 sack against Seattle.
Robert Quinn celebrates a 2016 sack against Seattle. TNS

The compensation in the Robert Quinn trade that the Los Angeles Rams and Miami Dolphins agreed to days ago is coming into focus.

We knew the Dolphins sent the Rams a fourth-round pick in the trade, along with exchanging their 183rd overall selection in the sixth round for one of the Rams’ four scheduled picks (194, 195, 196, 198, or 209) in the same round.

What is interesting is the Dolphins had two fourth-round picks before Friday.

A league source told the Miami Herald the Dolphins are giving up the higher of their two fourth-rounders (111 overall) while keeping the lower one (130 overall) which they got in a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles.

So what does this mean?

Obviously, it would have been better if the Dolphins had been able to convince the Rams to take the lower of their two fourth-rounders.

I don’t know if there were teams driving up the asking price or the Rams played great poker or what specifically led to the pick being No. 111 overall instead of No. 130. I do know other teams were interested in Quinn so perhaps that factored.

The point is ...

What the Dolphins have effectively done is trade Jay Ajayi and the 11th pick in the fourth round of the upcoming draft for Robert Quinn and the 30th pick in the fourth round of the same draft.

(Yes, there are late-round picks being exchanged too).

But for our purposes today I want to concentrate on the front side of these transactions.

One of the disappointing things the Dolphins did in trading Ajayi was not waiting until after the season to try and possibly maximize the player’s value. They also didn’t seem to look very hard for another taker after the Eagles raised their hands as being interested in Ajayi.

But that’s the past. It cannot be helped. And we’re dealing in uncertainty because no one can actually guarantee Ajayi would be worth more this offseason than he was in the middle of last year. Also, the Miami coaching staff didn’t want Ajayi on the team one minute longer so the front office was under pressure to pull the trigger.

The thing is that trade, which didn’t seem palatable at the time and suffered a lot of negative public relations when the Eagles kept advancing in the playoffs, thus lowering the pick’s value, and Ajayi played relatively well, thus causing fans to miss his talent, seems better now.

And one reason is should seem better is because it played a significant part in the Quinn acquisition.

I’m told it is unlikely the Dolphins would have been able to land Quinn had they not had the extra fourth-round pick from the Ajayi trade.

They don’t have a fifth-round pick, and trading their lone fourth-rounder could have caused the Dolphins to hold back because it would have meant them sitting on their hands for a couple of rounds in the coming draft. That would have been a bitter pill to swallow, and it’s possible the Dolphins would not have done that.

But having two fourth-rounders gave the Dolphins the ability to use one of them and still remain in the fourth-round mix, albeit later on.

Now let’s look at the trade through the lens presented above ...

The Dolphins gave up a 24-year-old former Pro Bowl running back for a 27-year-old former Pro Bowl defensive end. Obviously, the defensive end is always more valuable unless you’re talking about an elite running back. So that’s a benefit to Miami

Both players had injury histories. So that’s a wash at the moment.

Ajayi came to and left the Dolphins with a chronic knee situation that put him on a contract clock the moment he stepped on the field. The Dolphins, who didn’t draft Ajayi until the fifth round because of that knee issue, didn’t expect the player to be around five or six years down the road. They expected to pick him, play him until his rookie contract ran out, and then move on.

So Ajayi was going to be done with the team after 2018 anyway.

Quinn is a different matter. He has two years left on his second contract. If he plays well this year, the Dolphins might be tempted to extend that deal.

Quinn didn’t come into the league with any injury issues — except for maybe that brain tumor.

(More on that later).

Quinn sat out his entire junior season at North Carolina because he was ruled ineligible by the NCAA for lying to investigators about receiving jewelry and other inducements.

And still he was selected 14th overall in the first round of the 2011 draft.

During the 2012, 2013 and 2014 seasons Quinn established himself among the NFL’s best pass rushers. He was an NFL defensive player of the year candidate in 2013 when he led the NFL with 19 sacks and 23 tackles for loss.

Then injuries hit. In 2015 he had back issues. In 2016 he had a concussion that limited him to nine games. Last season he seemed to have some hip issues, although he played through those.

So Quinn comes to the Dolphins with some injury question marks that must be hashed out in the physical before this trade is official. Last season he collected 8.5 sacks despite that injury history and despite moving from his natural position as a 4-3 defensive end to a 3-4 edge rushing linebacker.

Quinn will be moving back to defensive end in Miami.

Oh, the brain tumor. It is reportedly benign.

It was discovered when Quinn was a senior in high school. He had been having headaches that would not relent and had experienced a couple of blackout episodes.

He was taken to the hospital where doctors found the tumor. They relieved the pressure on the skull caused by the tiny mass, but it’s still in his head.

“I try not to think about it,” Quinn told the Los Angeles Times. “I’ve been living with it for so long, it’s nothing.”

Again, the Dolphins’ physical will be a thing to monitor.

The Dolphins are not getting a perfect player. They are getting a player with some scars and a history for missing games the past three years. They’re also getting a player who has been very productive at his position and was productive last season.

The Dolphins are going to have a better defensive line if Quinn plays up to what he has done most of his career when he has been healthy.

And the reason that has a chance to happen is in no small part because they traded Ajayi.

Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

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