Dolphins are in a tough spot with Tua Tagovailoa

It's easy to say, "Yes, Tua Tagovailoa deserves a new contract." The hard part comes from pegging the right value.

The Dolphins and their quarterback clearly haven't been able to do that, or he'd already have a new deal. And Tua is doing the only thing he can to exert leverage — he's staying away from voluntary workouts.

It's surprising that the news stayed under wraps for as long as it did. But no one had any real reason to think he wouldn't attend.

Both Tagovailoa and coach Mike McDaniel have said that Tua will be at OTAs, which begin on Monday. If he doesn't show up for those on-field practice sessions that lay the foundation for the training camp to come, it will be significant.

He's making $23.1 million this year under they fifth-year option. That's way too low, given that he led the league in passing last year. But the Dolphins surely think Tua's expectations are way too high.

It's a tough spot for the team. For starters, delay has already made a deal more expensive — thanks to the massive contract that the Lions gave to Jared Goff this week. Also, the fans love Tua, which makes it harder for the Dolphins to make a football decision regarding whether to give him what he wants.

While teams claim to make football decisions and only football decisions, teams ultimately make business decisions. And when a player has become a key part of the business, there's value in keeping him around.

Case in point — those Jared Goff chants might have had something to do with the Lions giving him $148 million guaranteed at signing, as a practical matter, along with a $73 million signing. The Dolphins have a similar problem.

The other problem for the Dolphins is that, unlike the Lions, they've been letting key players leave in lieu of paying them. Most recently, defensive tackle Christian Wilkins exited for the Raiders. At some point, the Dolphins need to keep one of their own.

So, yes, this is a tough one. And the Dolphins might find themselves biding against themselves to placate Tua, even if the best football decision would be to give it another year and either tag him or let him test the market in 2024.