Armando Salguero

These are some ways the Miami Dolphins plan to tank in 2019

Miami Dolphins’ owner, Stephen Ross, discusses the firing of Head Coach Adam Gase

Miami Dolphins' owner, Stephen Ross, discusses the firing of Head Coach Adam Gase during a press conference at the Miami Dolphins training facility in Davie, FL.
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Miami Dolphins' owner, Stephen Ross, discusses the firing of Head Coach Adam Gase during a press conference at the Miami Dolphins training facility in Davie, FL.

The Miami Dolphins will not be trading for Nick Foles this spring.

The Miami Dolphins will not be signing Foles, a Super Bowl winning quarterback, if he becomes available in free agency.

The Dolphins aren’t planning on bringing Teddy Bridgewater, a Miami native and scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent, back to South Florida as the starting quarterback of their 2019 team.

The Dolphins aren’t planning on letting Ryan Tannehill remain as the starter in 2019, either, by the way. After seven years with the club, the people who run the organization, including owner Stephen Ross, are agreed they are moving on from Tannehill.

That Tannehill part is not news. That was decided toward the end of last season and reported first in this space on Dec. 23.

What is new, however, is how the break is likely to happen: While the Dolphins hope they can trade Tannehill, thereby getting some sort of draft compensation for the quarterback in return, the chances of that happening are not great.

Trading a player, you see, requires multiple parties to agree — the team trading him, the team acquiring him, and the player himself.

And because Tannehill’s contract would have to be traded along with the quarterback, it limits the number of teams who would be willing to accept Tannehill because he would cost $18.7 million in base salary in 2019 and $19.5 million in 2020.

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That bitter financial pill could be a hard one to swallow for a team that must give up draft pick compensation for player who has been solid but not outstanding as a starter and probably isn’t the kind of quarterback a team brings aboard as their new and unquestioned starter.

Tannehill and his representatives could relieve this issue by agreeing to renegotiate his contract with a new team, but that’s not their priority. Their priority is not to ease the burden of trading for Tannehill or help the Dolphins trade him.

Their priority is to have Tannehill pick where he plays to maximize his chances of succeeding.

So the more likely scenario for resolving Tannehill’s departure from Miami is an outright release of the player at some point in the offseason.

Tannehill, by the way, is expecting that release.

All this from sources around the NFL, within the Dolphins organization, and others familiar with the Dolphins’ plans.

All this as part of a tanking philosophy the Dolphins are about to embark on this offseason.

There have been doubts among fans the Dolphins — or any NFL team — could actually plan to tank. Don’t doubt it.

Multiple sources have confirmed that the words “tank,” or “tanking” were used during Miami’s recent round of head coach interviews. It did not come up in every interview. But it came up.

It was discussed.

About that tanking ... It needs to be defined.

Many Dolphins fans believe “tanking” to mean that the coaching staff, players, and everyone in the organization will do what is necessary to lose. That is an artificial approach the Dolphins are definitely not going to take.

The Dolphins aren’t going to throw games on purpose.

Miami’s approach to tanking will be organic.

The club will not dive into the deep end of the free agency pool in 2019, as I reported inartfully in my column Tuesday morning.

So every significant roster need the Dolphins have now — offensive line, defensive line, cornerback, quarterback — will not be filled with the best (highest-priced) player available at the position.

That is a departure for Miami.

Recall the Dolphins chased Ndamukong Suh as a free agent in 2015 and he was the best defensive lineman available.

Remember the Dolphins paid exorbitantly for receiver Mike Wallace in 2013’s free agency period.

They not only paid big money for but gave up multiple drafts picks for receiver Brandon Marshall in 2010.

And they chased the best inside linebacker on the market in Karlos Dansby that same offseason.

The Dolphins have been no strangers to purchasing free agents at Saks. They’re going to be thrift store shopping if (big if) they enter the free agency market in 2019.

And the type of free agent the Dolphins are likely to value is changing also.

Last year, the team added running back Frank Gore, guard Josh Sitton, and re-signed defensive lineman William Hayes. All those players were over 30 years old. All those players finished the season on injured reserve.

The Dolphins are no longer expected to sign aging free agents who pose a greater possibility of getting injured.

The Dolphins are also going to be shedding talent from their roster this offseason. Yes, Tannehill. But there will be others, too.

And while sources are not agreed on what names will be either cut or traded, the profile of those players is the same:

Think veterans with higher priced contracts that have not exceeded the value of their deals.

That puts a target on players such as Robert Quinn ($12.9 million cap hit in 2019), Andre Branch ($9 million), Sitton ($7 million), and obviously DeVante Parker ($9.4 million).

So with all this news about who the Dolphins are not going to have and not going to sign, the logical question is who the team will have.

It’s simple.

Young players.

Cheaper players.

Players who can be part of better Miami Dolphins teams in better days perhaps two or three years from now.

The Dolphins will be doing all they can to stock up on draft choices for a future date.

That might mean trading down in multiple rounds of the coming draft to add extra picks either this year or next year.

That means filling needs now with the best players available in the draft so they can form a foundation for a great team in the future.

So offensive linemen.

Defensive linemen.

Foundation pieces.

And what about the quarterback position?

A source within the team said this week that Ross loves the idea of Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa being on the Dolphins if he’s available in the 2020 draft. The source said he heard Ross say so.

So the #TankforTua social media movement isn’t just a hashtag birthed as a joke.

It’s real, folks.

And if not Tagovailoa in 2020 then maybe someone better in either 2020 or 2021.

The point is the Dolphins expect to maximize their chances to get to players such as Tagovailoa or maybe Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence in the 2021 draft by losing in 2019 and securing a high enough draft position to be in position to make such high picks.

Is that tanking? Not in the sense the Dolphins will be planning to lose.

But it is tanking in the sense the Dolphins will put a team on the field for at least one year that may not be able to help but lose.

And who will be that sacrificial team’s quarterback?

One source joked this week the Dolphins will give Luke Falk, who was on injured reserve as a rookie in 2018, and recently signed Jake Rudock, a chance to show their abilities. One of those might actually start games for the Dolphins in the coming season.

There probably will be other quarterback possibilities explored as well. But the plan with that quarterback will be apparent. He’s going to join the long line of quarterbacks who followed Dan Marino after he retired in 2000.

But he’s probably not going to remind anyone of Marino’s talent in any significant way.

And when he plays, it will be apparent that he’s trying. But it will also be apparent the Dolphins are tanking.

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Armando Salguero has covered the Miami Dolphins and the NFL since 1990, so longer than many players on the current roster have been alive and since many coaches on the team were in middle school. He was a 2016 APSE Top 3 columnist nationwide. He is one of 48 Pro Football Hall of Fame voters. He is an Associated Press All-Pro and awards voter. He’s covered Dolphins games in London, Berlin, Mexico City and Tokyo. He has covered 25 Super Bowls, the NBA Finals, and the Olympics.

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