The stripping away of talent continued for the Miami Dolphins on Thursday, this time with the trading of starting defensive end Robert Quinn to the Dallas Cowboys for a sixth-round draft pick in 2020.
And this move might signal the end of the blood-letting this offseason.
(And it might not. More on that in a minute).
This is certainly another move in which the Dolphins traded, released, or declined to re-sign players that formed a significant part of the squad last season and, in some cases, the past several seasons.
If tallies of such things interest, the Dolphins this offseason have so far gutted the roster of ...
The starting quarterback. The backup quarterback. The third-string quarterback.
The starting running back and leading rusher.
Both starting defensive ends and the team’s two sack leaders.
A starting wide receiver who led the team in receptions and yards.
The starting left guard, who was injured after one game.
The starting left guard, who took over and started 14 other games.
The starting right tackle.
The Dolphins have moved on from 13 players who represented 105 combined starts in 2018. Said another way, the Dolphins have moved on from nine starters this offseason.
The Dolphins have moved on from 16 combined sacks (52 percent of team’s 2018 total), 813 rushing yards (46.7 percent of the team’s 2018 total), three touchdown catches, two rushing touchdowns (42 percent of the team’s 2018 total), and 24 touchdown passes.
This is not opinion. This is not a statement of good or bad.
This is fact.
This has happened.
And to fill the void the Dolphins have added a new starting quarterback.
A couple of backup tight ends.
A career backup guard.
A career backup cornerback.
There’s more: Multiple league sources I spoke with during the NFL Annual Meeting this week said the Dolphins will eventually strip away other veterans from the roster because they don’t fit the current trend of going younger and cheaper — if not this year, then next year.
The Dolphins, these sources insist, are locked into keeping the players added in the past three drafts. And everyone else is going to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
That means next offseason Reshad Jones, 32 years old in 2020, will likely be cut a after the team tries to trade him. Jones would have been among the players cut already this year but his contract has so far insulated him from that fate because it would cost more to cut him than keep him.
But next year, Miami can save up to $11.5 million in cap space by cutting or trading him. Indeed, the Dolphins can save up to $13.1 million this year by trading Jones after June 1.
So do not be surprised if the Dolphins try to trade the former Pro Bowl safety before the 2019 regular season begins.
Such a move might return a low-round draft pick, likely in 2020. And it would relieve the logjam at safety that currently includes Minkah Fitzpatrick and T.J. McDonald and Jones — three starters playing two positions.
Jones last season tied for second on the team with three interceptions, including one he returned for a touchdown.
One more thing: During the annual meetings the Dolphins pushed back on the idea that they’re tanking in 2019. Coach Brian Flores, a proud individual, led that charge up the narrative hill when discussing conversations he’s had with general manager Chris Grier.
“He knows and everyone knows that I’m always going to go out there and try to win every game we go out there and play,” Flores said. “Yes, [the term tanking] struck a nerve, and I think it will always strike a nerve, because I think it’s disrespectful to the game. I think to even say that — and I’ve heard it multiple times — I do think it’s a disrespect to the game that I love.
“Quite honestly, I won’t stand for it, to be honest. That’s where I’m at. We’re going to leave it there and we’re going to try to win every game.”
That’s what I would expect Flores to say.
But owner Stephen Ross made the point mere hours later that he gave Flores a five-year contract when similar new coaches hired this cycle got four-year deals — because of the idea that 2019 is going to be a lost year.
Neither Flores nor his agent declined that extra year. The fact 2019 is going to be a washout for the Dolphins didn’t seem “disrespectful” to Flores then.
And no one expects Flores not to try. No one expects players to lay down.
As has been written multiple times in this space, the tanking of 2019 will be organic. As you just read the Dolphins have jettisoned multiple productive players. At least one more accomplished veteran might be gone before the season begins. Yes, some of those players had bloated salaries or were getting older.
But most of the players Miami has dumped have some value, as shown by the fact many are now on other teams.
The Dolphins, meanwhile, have not replaced most of those players.
The team today lacks two viable edge rushers of note. Charles Harris, the former first-round pick, has three career sacks. And he’s Miami’s most notable edge rusher now.
The team lacks a starting right tackle.
The team lacks a starting left guard.
We know Ryan Fitzpatrick is the starting quarterback but until that moment he is the backup to a high draft pick who is performing at a high level, he’s just the place-holder at the position.
The Dolphins can call what they’re doing whatever they want. They can call it a yak, if they like.
But the most lucrative part of free agency has passed and two starting-caliber edge rushers are not walking through that door. The team instead has set its primary focus on the draft and the future.