Armando Salguero

Dolphins excited about adding Robert Quinn. Team track record begs restraint

Mario Williams got his Dolphins career off to a great start with a sack against Seattle in his first game.
Mario Williams got his Dolphins career off to a great start with a sack against Seattle in his first game.

The idea of adding a 27-year-old defensive end who has collected 62.5 sacks in 76 NFL starts the past seven seasons -- and for a fourth-round draft pick -- sounds wonderful. It would be a no-brainer if we knew it was definitely going to work out.

If we knew Robert Quinn in 2018 could be the player he was in 2012-2014.

If we knew Quinn’s back, a problem in 2015, is sound.

And the concussion thing, a problem in 2016, is not an issue.

And his hips, a nuisance in 2017, are good.

And he hasn’t slowed down. And the Los Angeles Rams, the team that knows him best and is trading him, are wrong. And the Dolphins, who get him starting March 14 when the trade becomes official, are right.

It would be awesome if, in short, we could have confidence the Dolphins’ latest acquisition is going to pay dividends.

So raise your hand if you’re confident this is a home run by Mike Tannenbaum and Adam Gase and Chris Grier...

I’m not raising my hand.

Because I don’t know. I have no clue. I have no access to the information they have. I haven’t watched any tape on Quinn that compared him in 2017 to how he moved and performed in 2014.

All I can go by is the team’s word.

The Dolphins think this is going to work. The team privately is excited about adding Quinn and there’s confidence within the organization this is going to be a good move.

But here’s the issue: When the Dolphins last offseason said some move they were about to make was the right thing to do, I accepted that. They had benefit of the doubt because 2016 proved the folks running the team knew what they were doing.

That’s what getting to 10-6 and qualifying for the playoffs earns an organization: Benefit of the doubt.

The problem is that also works in reverse. So when an offseason of work leads to a 6-10 season with no postseason and very little apparent cohesion in the locker room or on the field, I go the other direction.

That kind of season isn’t rewarded with benefit of the doubt. It merely gives rise to doubt.

So we’re more or less back to square one, folks.

We don’t know the Dolphins are going to get things right or wrong this offseason because they had one offseason in which they did some good work. And they had one offseason in which they didn’t do as well.

So forgive me, dear Dolphins braintrust, if my confidence is shaken. If my trust in your decisions is not as strong in March 2018 as it was in March 2017. If I judge when the evidence is actually presented instead of before the trial of the season even begins.

There is no way to say with certainty that adding Robert Quinn is smart or not. It seems like a good idea. But that’s absent, you know, facts. In the abstract. Other Dolphins moves also seemed like good ideas against such a low threshold of proof. And then games proved otherwise.

What is certain is the Dolphins are making yet another signature move at the defensive end spot. That position more than most has been a focus of this front office.

And some of those moves have worked. And some of those have bombed.

Let’s look at those:

Mario Williams: The Buffalo Bills released Williams in March 2016 and seven days later the Dolphins signed him to a two-year, $17 million contract that included $11.98 million in guaranteed money. Williams collected a sack in his first Dolphins game. And then he fell off the map. He was benched five games into the season and was sometimes not even active for games. He was cut after one season in Miami.

Good or bad decision? Bad.

Andre Branch: The Dolphins added Branch as a free agent on March 16, 2016 by giving him a prove-it contract worth $2.75 million. Branch proved it. He collected 5.5 sacks and filled a gap that no one expected him to fill. He stepped up as a starter and was one of the leaders in the locker room.

Good or bad decision? Good.

Andre Branch, Part II: Branch was heading into free agency last March. So the Dolphins, not certain what the draft would bring, decided to reward Branch. He got a three-year, $24 million deal. He got $16.8 million fully guaranteed at signing, which meant the Dolphins were fully invested in Branch as part of their culture, their future, their success. Except Branch backslid. Yes, he had his 4.5 sacks because that is what he has been (a 4-5-sack-a-year-guy) throughout his career. But he went from 49 tackles to 23, from two forced fumbles to zero, his tackles for loss went from eight to five. Branch was hurt much of the season and required knee surgery afterward. But the most disappointing thing? After being a light in the locker room in 2016, someone who brought players together and was very much a leader, Branch seemed to step back from that role in ‘17.

Good or bad decision? Incomplete, but trending poorly.

William Hayes: The Dolphins gave up a sixth-round pick to the Rams for Hayes and a seventh-rounder. And for that nominal investment the Dolphins got 10 games out of Hayes in backup duty. He collected one sack. He was very good against the run, as had been his reputation. He collected 19 tackles, four of them for loss. Hayes was a rental and he may or may not return.

Good or bad decision? Good.

Charles Harris: The Dolphins picked Harris in the first round of the 2016 draft. He was compared to Jason Taylor when he was picked. He’s not being compared to Taylor now. Although the Dolphins say they love Harris and coach Adam Gase recently said Harris will compete for a starting job, the bottom line is Harris didn’t do anything dynamic his first season. The Dolphins say he has an amazing work ethic. So do about 90 percent of NFL players, including ones that weren’t drafted in the first round. The Dolphins say he plays hard all the time. So do about 80 percent of NFL players.

The only thing that matters is cold-blooded production and 19 tackles with two sacks and five tackles for loss simply is not good enough for a first-round pick no matter how awesome the Dolphins say it is. Harris needs to step it up. He doesn’t need to double his sack total for everything to start looking good. He needs to triple or quadruple it.

Good or bad decision? Incomplete.

Anyone with eyes sees the Dolphins aren’t exactly knocking it out of the park so far with their defensive end acquisitions. Some have worked. Some have failed. Some have yet to fully play out.

One thing is certain: It would be a mistake to be all-in on Quinn, expecting him to be great, based on Miami’s recent history with defensive ends.

Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

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