Advertisement

Kelly: Could Tua Tagovailoa’s hold-in stall Dolphins’ progress? | Opinion

Tua Tagovailoa is embarking on a new-age protest. Call it the quarterback edition of an NFL hold-in.

The Miami Dolphins’ starting quarterback hasn’t taken a 11-on-11 snap all offseason, and that includes Tuesday’s minicamp practice, and his rep limitation during Miami’s team periods, is intentional.

In the offseason, if you want to get an organization’s attention, forcing the decision makers’ hand in negotiations for a contract extension, which would be the largest in franchise history, this is the time to do it.

And Tagovailoa’s approach is calculated, and borderline brilliant. If the team — which won 11 games last season before falling apart due to injuries in January, and the offense, which was the top-ranked unit in 2024 — aren’t clicking on all cylinders when the regular season begins in September it can partly -—if not mainly — be blamed on the franchise for dragging their feet on a lucrative extension general manager Chris Grier said was a top priority.

“Tua should have [already] been paid,” said receiver Tyreek Hill, who is also sitting out these summer practices while lobbying for his contract to be revised, returning him to his previous status as one of the NFL’s highest-paid receivers.

Even though they are not on the field for minicamp together in 11-on-11 work, Tagovailoa has made it a point to conduct more offseason work with his receivers than at any point of his career.

“They are going to get it done,” Hill said about Tagovailoa’s negotiations. “Obviously, a lot of people are comparing the Jared Goff [contract], but I feel like Tua is supposed to be up there with some of those [quarterbacks], and past some of the quarterbacks. Just understanding his story, and the progression of how he’s getting better each and every year, and how he’s carrying this offense, it’s crazy. He’s going to continue to get better.”

The biggest debate is whether he will be paid a salary that averages more than $45 million a season, and when?

“Whoa, whoa, whoa. I coach football,” coach Mike McDaniel said when asked about players lobbying for new deals. “I’m egregiously obvious this offseason that it is very important for me to stay in that lane.”

Tagovailoa admitted that the negotiations have come “a ways” from Miami’s initial offer, which based on his tone was a low-ball offer.

“I’m confident that a deal will get done, but it’s not in my control,” said Tagovailoa, who will earn $23.2 million this season if Miami forces him to play on his fifth-year option. “It’s really up to both sides meeting in the middle.”

When asked about his mood during this critical offseason, Tagovailoa pointed out he’s “not frustrated. I’m another world.”

The media then began making suggestions on what word fit?

Aggregated? Annoyed?

Tagovailoa pondered for a couple seconds, then replied “I just want to get something done.”

Concerned? Pissed off?

“That’s way off,” Tagovailoa said. “Probably antsy….

“I wouldn’t say pissed off. This is the nature of the beast,” Tagovailoa continued, discussing the business of the NFL. “This is how it goes.”

The rise in the quarterback market — primarily the four-year, $212 million extension Detroit gave Jared Goff, which guarantees Goff $170.6 million — could have forced the Dolphins to drastically improve their initial offer.

However, the improvement apparently isn’t enough to get the extension finalized.

“I’m not blind to people that are in my position who are getting paid. Am I concerned about it? I’m not concerned about it. But there’s a lot of discussion that we’ve had that we’re trying to move that [negotiation] into the right direction,” Tagovailoa said.

Tagovailoa admitted he doesn’t want to be involved in the negotiations. He prefers being updated, and not every detail.

“The market is the market. If we didn’t have a market then none of that would matter,” Tagovailoa said, referring to the six quarterbacks - Joe Burrow, Goff, Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert, Lamar Jackson and Jalen Hurts - who signed extensions or restructured their contract recently, who are all averaging $50-plus million a season. “The market is the market.”

When asked if he was confident that a deal will get done before training camp, Tagovailoa admitted he was, but wouldn’t put the timeline on training camp, which opens in the final week of July.

And if a deal doesn’t get done will Tagovailoa continue sitting out the Dolphins team periods, extending his hold-in to training camp, following in Christian Wilkins’ footsteps of sitting out training camp and the exhibition season last year while the former Dolphins defensive tackle lobbied for an extension that would prevent him from playing on his fifth-year option.

“I’m confident that a deal will get done, but it’s not in my control,” said Tagovailoa, who led the NFL in passer rating in 2022, and passing yards thrown for in 2023. “It’s really up to both sides meeting in the middle.”