Look at the top of the Miami Dolphins’ salary structure for 2019 and the name Robert Quinn glows in neon.
It’s not that Quinn, scheduled to have the second-highest cap hit on the team next season, is someone Dolphins fans should get excited about. The $12.9 million scheduled cap hit on a player who delivered only 6.5 sacks last season extinguishes any such excitement.
It’s that he obviously does not fit the team.
He’s older (he will be 29 in May) so he doesn’t exactly fit a franchise focused on the future more than the present.
He’s a 4-3 defensive end on a team that will run multiple looks on defense, including 3-4 looks, under new coach Brian Flores. (Quinn was admittedly uncomfortable in the 3-4 with the Los Angeles Rams before he was traded to Miami in 2018).
And then there is the obvious disconnect between salary and production. Quinn is scheduled to be paid among the top 20 edge rushers in the league on an annual average basis in 2019. But his production was tied for 49th in the league last season.
So it would seem obvious the Dolphins do one of two things:
1. Cut him outright.
2. Trade him.
Both accomplish the same thing in that they free up cap space. But the fact is the Dolphins are trying everything they can to trade Quinn because adding draft capital for them is a priority.
And based on the past week, they’re more than willing to sweeten the financial pot for other teams in exchange for draft resources they badly desire.
Specifically, the Dolphins have already invested $1.12 million in getting Quinn traded when they paid that amount in a roster bonus due last Friday. So, yes, the Dolphins have to swallow that for a player they’re trying to move.
But what paying that money effectively does is it lowers the pain for a team willing to acquire Quinn. Instead of taking on $12.9 million this year, such a team would take on $11.8 million for Quinn.
But we’re not done. A well-placed league source said the Dolphins are open to paying more of the freight to move Quinn. How much more is dependent on the draft pick compensation return in a trade.
This is not a unique practice for the Dolphins this offseason. In fact, they did it days ago when they traded Ryan Tannehill to the Tennessee Titans. The Titans paid Tannehill a $7 million guarantee to agree to the trade. And the Dolphins paid $5 million of that.
The point of making that payment was so that Tennessee would give the Dolphins a fourth-round pick in 2020 for the exchange.
Said another way, the Dolphins helped buy themselves a solid draft pick for Tannehill.
And they are willing to do the same for Quinn, per a source.
So what does this mean?
It means the Dolphins are obviously placing a high value on stocking draft choices for 2019 and 2020. I would not be surprised if they’re successful trading Quinn, it will be for a 2020 pick.
And they’re willing to pay to make sure the pick is better than it might otherwise be.
I would speculate (full disclosure: no sourcing here) the Dolphins would want to get a third-round pick for Quinn in 2020. It would make sense because the actual cash price will be mitigated by them for the new team, and draft picks in the future are typically acknowledged to be worth one round less than in the present.
So a 2020 third-rounder is roughly equivalent to a 2019 fourth rounder.
This, by the way, is fine with the Dolphins because they are fully invested and about the 2020 draft and the 2020 season. This season, not as much.
And here’s where I tell you this is not a typical approach because most teams don’t like to be in the habit of paying the salaries or guaranteed monies of players on other teams. It does help those other teams. And it costs, well, cold, hard cash.
But the practice is acceptable to the Dolphins because they’re not expecting to challenge anyone for a championship this year -- whether that team has Quinn or not. So helping move Quinn to someone else by paying for it is not a competitive disadvantage it might be in a normal year.
The other factor is Stephen Ross is obviously all in on putting his wallet on the line to help his team do whatever it can to add draft picks. If that means paying the Titans $5 million to take Tannehill and give up a fourth-rounder, so be it.
And if that means paying some team more to take Quinn and give up a higher (better) pick to trade for Robert Quinn, a source said the Dolphins (Ross) is willing to do that, too.
Whatever you may think of Ross, that’s a laudable approach by him to try to help his team.