Remember New Year’s eve 2018? Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross announced the firing of head coach Adam Gase (yeah, happy New Year, Adam) and in doing so also told reporters, his organization and most importantly, you, that things were changing.
“We’ve been operating under a philosophy that we had a good young roster and it needed maybe free agents and draft choices and we’d be very competitive,” Ross said. “To keep operating under that philosophy would be like the definition of insanity.”
Then Ross announced a new way of doing things. He said the Dolphins would turn away from overpaying expensive veteran free agents that brought playoff hopes but rarely delivered playoff berths.
Instead, Ross said, the team would build through the draft and do things “the right way” to find “sustained winning seasons.”
And nine months later, the Dolphins are hoping to trade for Jadeveon Clowney.
Now, let me see ... Does this sound like the path Ross laid out? Or the path the Dolphins have been following for years?
Does trading for Clowney, the Houston Texans franchise player who must be paid $16 million in 2019 and cannot sign a long-term contract until after the season, sound like the long-view approach to building a club? Or does it sound like an uncertain rental agreement?
Is Jadeveon Clowney, a premier talent who has delivered less-than-premier statistics, going to lift the Dolphins to sustained winning? Or maybe 7-9?
We all know the answers.
The 2019 Dolphins trading for Clowney on its face looks a lot like the 2015 Dolphins signing Ndamukong Suh — except the 2015 Dolphins had a better roster than these latter-day Dolphins. And Clowney is aiming to make more than Suh when he signs a multiyear contract.
This puzzled me. Because I thought Ross was a serious man and was being sincere when he spoke on New Year’s eve.
So I reached out to multiple Dolphins people to ask how this makes sense.
And none of them could — or would — offer an explanation.
And that made me smile because these are people who want it to make sense. Need it to make sense. It’s in their best interest that this at least looks like it makes sense.
But, frankly, there is only one scenario in which this makes sense for the Dolphins. And here it is:
If the Dolphins can make this trade they believe they have a very good chance of making, it has to be almost exclusively on their terms.
That’s right, the only way trading for Pro Bowl pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney makes sense for Miami is if the Houston Texans basically agree to get rolled in the deal.
What I mean by that is the same Texans who wanted a first-round pick for Clowney as late as three weeks ago, have to accept no draft picks for Clowney.
The Dolphins need all their draft picks the next couple of years. Frankly, the Dolphins have such a terrible roster right now, they need more draft picks than they currently have to be in the conversation for rehabilitating that roster in the next couple of years.
So it makes zero sense to send any of those picks to the Texans for a guy that team is obviously trying to dump.
If Fake GM Mando is running the Dolphins, I tell Houston Fake GM Bill O’Brien there are no draft picks in play or I walk. Then I tell him he can scan my roster (which, by the way, I didn’t put together because yikes) and he can have any player on that roster with a handful of exceptions.
Those exceptions: The Texans cannot have cornerback Xavien Howard, although he’s a Houston native. They cannot have left tackle Laremy Tunsil, even though they need a left tackle. They cannot have linebacker Jerome Baker, even though they need a linebacker. They cannot have defensive lineman Christian Wilkins, even though they’re giving me a defensive lineman. And they cannot have safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, even though Miami’s coaching staff sometimes plays him out of position at strong safety because they will eventually figure it out.
Everyone else, the Texans can scrutinize. Anyone else they can have.
In fact, take two guys if you like.
You agree to that, Fake GM Bill, and we have a deal.
That’s the only way the Dolphins trading for Clowney makes any earthly sense to me.
Because that way, my team has added a potentially elite pass rusher to go with its potentially elite cornerback, and potentially elite left tackle, and in next year’s draft I have all my picks to chase a potentially elite quarterback.
All the other guys I can fill in.
Receivers, running backs, guards, all the other positions I can figure out via the draft or free agency in the next two offseasons.
Because I’m a freaking personnel genius!
The problem with this fantasy is Houston’s Fake GM Bill is probably not going to do this. Whatever his reasons for not wanting Clowney on his team, he’s not going to simply give the guy away for, say, Kenyan Drake and Kenny Stills.
He would be unwise to do that.
And yet we can hold out hope this happens because when the Texans had a real general manager on duty three years ago they signed quarterback Brock Osweiler to a $72 million contract. And after only one season, they bailed on Osweiler by trading him to Cleveland.
And in that trade the Texans actually paid the Browns a second-round pick to take Osweiler off their hands. The Texans wanted that terrible contract off their books so badly, they basically paid the Browns a high draft pick to do it.
Clowney and Osweiler are not in the same orbit. One is a good NFL player. The other is Osweiler. So I wouldn’t expect the Texans to pay Miami to take Clowney.
But the Dolphins paying the Texans with valuable draft picks to add a pricey defensive lineman who won’t be signed to a long-term deal initially?
That would be the Dolphins being what Stephen Ross said they weren’t going to be anymore.