Chris Perkins: Dolphins shouldn’t give Tua Tagovailoa an extension, and certainly not superstar money

I’ve said this numerous times: the Miami Dolphins can win a Super Bowl with Tua.

There’s no doubt in my mind about that.

The bigger question is whether the Dolphins can win a Super Bowl with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa commanding, say, $30 million or more per year against the salary cap.

I’m not certain on that one.

This is the dilemma facing the Dolphins every day of the offseason.

His contract extension talks, Tagovailoa told us Thursday night from his third annual “Luau with Tua” at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, are ongoing.

“Just letting my agent deal with that and talk to the team about that,” Tagovailoa said. “For me, my focus is, when OTAs come, go to OTAs, show up and be the best teammate I can be.”

Tagovailoa is a legit Pro Bowl player and all-around good guy.

I like him. I respect him.

He’s also never won a playoff game and remains an injury risk.

So what’s the magic (salary cap) number for Tagovailoa for the 2024 season, the number that allows Miami to build around him so it remains in Super Bowl contention?

What’s Tagovailoa’s magic (salary cap) number for the next few seasons?

In the Dolphins’ world, the Tagovailoa contract extension is where the 2024 salary cap becomes real.

This, for the Dolphins, is that time, after you’ve restructured all the contracts and written all the checks that allow you to manipulate the numbers, that the 2024 salary cap becomes finite and limiting.

I’ve said I’d have Tagovailoa play this season on his fifth-year option and not give him the extension right now. I’d wait until after the season.

If Tagovailoa and the Dolphins don’t agree to a contract extension, Tagovailoa, the No. 5 pick of the 2020 draft, will play this season on his fifth-year option salary of $23.1 million with the same figure counting against the salary cap.

That’s a bargain.

It would allow the Dolphins to add talent and build around Tagovailoa.

But, speaking broadly, Tagovailoa playing the 2024 season on his fifth-year option leaves both sides exposed to huge risks.

For the Dolphins, one more good season from Tagovailoa (Pro Bowl berth, playoff appearance, staying healthy, etc.) and his contract extension soars even higher.

For Tua, one more injury, and a few more missed games due to injury (hamstring, knee, or, gasp, concussion), and lots of guaranteed money likely disappears.

Tagovailoa was impressive Thursday night.

It had nothing to do with his obvious weight loss, a topic he artfully sidestepped when asked.

It had to do with his overall comfort and composure.

Tagovailoa, married, a father of two kids, and entering his fifth NFL season, seems complete, content and stable in many ways.

That’s a good thing.

For the Dolphins, it means they can move ahead while comfortably knowing Tagovailoa’s strengths (accuracy, anticipation, timing, vision) and weaknesses (mobility, agility, improvisation).

To me, the Dolphins need to proceed with rarely-seen prudence and caution when it comes to Tagovailoa’s extension.

What I mean is that they can’t insult Tagovailoa, but they also can’t follow the market.

Quarterbacks are chewing up so much of the salary cap it seems the NFL might have to implement an NBA amnesty-style market correction sometime soon.

I exaggerate.

But common sense must take over at some point or the Super Bowl dream becomes untenable for many teams with good, not great, quarterbacks.

Some of these quarterback salary cap hits are absolutely crazy.

Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes will count $37 million against the Chiefs’ salary cap this season. That’s reasonable. Heck, let’s be honest, that’s bargain basement.

The New York GiantsDaniel Jones will count $47 million against the salary cap this season. That’s unreasonable.

DallasDak Prescott will count $55 million against the Cowboys’ salary cap this season. That’s highly unreasonable.

Cleveland’s DeShaun Watson will count $63 million against the Browns’ salary cap this season. That’s absolute madness.

And the numbers are going up at an unsettling rate.

New flash: 80% of these quarterbacks aren’t worth the money they’re getting.

These guys aren’t that good.

Tagovailoa is a high-quality quarterback, but he needs help.

He does well helping himself in the offseason.

Last year, it was jiu-jitsu to help learn how to fall in hopes of avoiding concussions.

Perhaps his current weight loss hints at the need for mobility and agility.

Whatever the case, Tagovailoa needs on-field help, such as from a turnover-producing defense or a security blanket-style No. 3 receiver.

If the Dolphins award Tagovailoa a contract extension this offseason, here’s hoping they leave sufficient space under the salary cap so that they can build around him for the next couple of years.

I don’t usually root for the organization over the player.

But when it comes to a Tagovailoa contract extension, at this point, a team-friendly deal is best for everyone.