The Miami Dolphins beat Tuesday's NFL trade deadline by making a very good, smart move. Alas, it was a very good, smart move for the Philadelphia Eagles.
For the Dolphins, it was a very bad, dumb move or at the very least a perplexing one defying logic. The team can spin this any way this wish in an attempt to justify the trade, but I'm not buying it and I doubt most fans are, either.
Miami traded a Pro Bowl running back just now coming into his prime at age 24 and all they got was a fourth-round pick in exchange. A fourth-rounder! Miami may as well have given Ajayi to Philly for a stationary bike and box of kicking tees. Quick fact: There have been exactly 50 fourth-round picks in Dolphins history, and those 50 players have combined for this many Pro Bowl appearances for Miami: One, by defensive tackle Paul Soliai, in 2007. That's it. With that track record, do you like Miami's chances of drafting something more valuable than they just gave away. Me, neither.
And so the NFL's lowest-scoring offense just got weaker.
A team already dim on starpower just got less interesting.
And a team in playoff contention (at least ostensibly) at 4-3 just got less likely to stay in the hunt -- to a degree it almost felt like Tuesday's trade was a little white surrender flag for this season.
I thought the idea of a trade deadline was to get better now or grow the chance of being better down the road. Miami seemed to do neither in giving away its No. 1 running back for some second-day draft longshot in April.
I know the official spin. The nameless club sources throwing crumbs to the chirping media want it out there that Ajayi had become an attitude problem, was a bit too me-first and complained internally about lack of carries. There can be little doubt that coach Adam Gase had Ajayi in mind (likely among others) when he complained too many players weren't studying hard enough on their own and were underprepared.
To other media outlets these club sources were suggesting it wasn't an attitude issue but one of production, noting Ajayi's per-carry average had plummeted from last year's robust 4.9 yards to a current 3.4.
None of that justifies this trade. The decline in production starts with the offensive line, and continues with defenses that are unafraid of Jay Cutler or Matt Moore and thus able to prioritize stopping the run with impunity.
Neither would Ajayi's less-than-ideal attitude justify what happened. There are other ways to discipline a player and shepherd him into your "culture" than to abruptly trade him for a sack of sunflower seeds. I get Gase's frustration over his offensive woes. I even get the idea of a wakeup slap with an attention-getting move. So you maybe cut the backup guard. You don't give away your top running back.
This was not a deal made from a position of luxury or strength. This wasn't New England trading Jimmy Garoppolo because they have a guy named Tom Brady. This was Miami trading a top-tier NFL back when all that's left are unproven Damien Williams and Kenyan Drake.
Just for fun, as a gauge of how football fans see Jay Ajayi, I checked ESPN's fantasy football stats Tuesday. Percentage of fantasy leagues in which Ajayi is “owned”: 99.3 percent. Percentage of leagues in which Ajayi currently starts: 92.5 percent. That's top 10 in both categories, despite that 3.4 average.
That is enormous public faith in Ajayi, a belief the Philadelphia Eagles apparently shared.
What a shame the Dolphins gave up on him — too soon, without sufficient cause, and for so little in return it's an insult.