Chris Perkins: Dolphins’ Noah Igbinoghene trade could lift first-round pressure from his shoulders

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Cornerback Noah Igbinoghene is gone. The Dolphins traded him to Dallas on Tuesday.

And just like that, poof, another NFL first-round pick has departed from the team that selected him. That’s usually an unfortunate and regrettable situation.

In this case, however, it’s probably a good thing because Igbinoghene, one of the Dolphins’ three first-round picks in 2020, gets a fresh start. He was traded to the Cowboys for cornerback Kelvin Joseph, a 2021 second-round pick.

The pressure of being a first-round pick seemed to get to Igbinoghene on and off the field. It’s not an easy situation. Expectations are high for first-round picks and not everyone can deal with those expectations.

Now, juxtapose Igbinoghene’s situation with Dolphins defensive tackle Zach Sieler, a former seventh-round pick.

Sieler spoke with reporters Tuesday, a few days after signing a three-year, $38.6 million deal with $20 million guaranteed. He said he feels “blessed” to receive his new deal.

“It’s one of those things you just dream about it and work every day toward it,” he said. “It’s one of those things I’m kinda like just don’t talk about it just work. Things will come. And just go from there.”

Igbinoghene entered the league under a different type of pressure than Sieler.

Both had to succeed to prove their worth. But Igbinoghene was expected to succeed, and when he didn’t he was labeled a disappointment. Sieler was almost expected to fail, and when he didn’t he was labeled a success. It’s two very different situations with very different expectations and outcomes.

Even defensive lineman Christian Wilkins, the No. 13 pick of the 2019 draft, admitted there’s a lot of pressure associated with being a first-round pick.

“There are a lot of things that people don’t understand or really get to know,” Wilkins said, “but there is a lot of pressure that comes with that.”

However, wide receiver Jaylen Waddle, the No. 6 pick of the 2021 draft, likes the pressure.

“I think being a first-round pick they really expect you to come in and make something shake ASAP,” he said. “It’s definitely some pressure being a first-round pick, going out there and learning on the fly kinda. For sure. It’s fun though. It’s fun. The pressure, it makes the game a little more fun. I ain’t gonna lie.”

That didn’t seem to be the case for Igbinoghene.

He’s probably relieved to get a fresh start in Dallas, where expectations won’t be as high because he wasn’t the Cowboys’ first-round pick.

At least that’s what coach Mike McDaniel hopes.

“I’m so happy for, and really proud of Noah because everybody wants to be a first-round draft pick, and as a 20 year old that sounds cool, but there’s a burden with that,” McDaniel said, “and what you’ve seen is a guy grow as a player and as a person, and I think being able to be 23 years old and go to a place with a fresh start, specifically with a guy that I’ve worked with in (Dallas defensive coordinator) Dan Quinn and just knowing his coaching mentality, I think it’s good for them, I think it’s a good fit for us, and that’s how deals are done.”

Igbinoghene was a sore spot for the Dolphins.

He was a good guy. Don’t get it twisted.

But he was also the No. 30 pick of the 2020 draft, a draft that could still go sideways.

Recall quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was selected No. 5, one spot ahead of Justin Herbert, the Los Angeles Chargers quarterback. We’re still awaiting the clear winner on that one.

Also recall right tackle Austin Jackson, who some still don’t trust as a starter, was selected No. 18. We’re still waiting to see how that one turns out in the long run.

On a personal note I’m a bit disappointed that I never got to see more of the new Igbinoghene, the guy not concerned with competing.

Igbinoghene seemed to have a new attitude. He was asked in July about how the injury to cornerback Jalen Ramsey changed his outlook for the season. His answer was interesting.

“But for me, my mentality, it’s not really a competition to me anymore,” Igbinoghene said. “I’m more so just focused on how I can get better and support my teammates and being a good teammate and just wishing the best for all my teammates, and if I can just focus on my technique and what I need to do to get better; then the rest and the positioning whether it’s first-string, second-string, third-string, that’s going to take place for itself and I’m allowing the coaches to really focus on that instead of me worrying about that so much.”

That doesn’t seem to be a great attitude for an athlete in a competitive sport.

Hopefully, that attitude allows Igbinoghene to now deal with the pressure and thrive in Dallas.

We know Sieler’s attitude is likely to allow him to deal with the pressure and thrive with the Dolphins.