Ryan Fitzpatrick eyes new team. And a leading candidate to back up Tua Tagovailoa

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Armando Salguero
·4 min read
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You know the scenario by now: Tua Tagovailoa is the Miami Dolphins starter but what if Deshaun Watson gets traded and what if Russell Wilson gets traded and what if...

It’s craziness.

But amid the hype and hypothetical trades it’s easy to lose sight of the fact the Dolphins actually do need to make a significant quarterback decision this offseason.

They need to find a backup quarterback.

Even if the team does nothing with Tagovailoa other than starting him, as general manager Chris Grier promised, there’s an issue about finding his backup.

So for the fifth consecutive year the Dolphins will be quarterback shopping this offseason.

The last couple of years the Dolphins had Ryan Fitzpatrick as both a starter and backup and it would be easy to simply re-sign the pending unrestricted free agent and let him continue to mentor Tagovailoa as he did in 2020.

Except it’s not quite that simple.

While the door on Fitzpatrick returning is not totally closed, both sides are going to look around this offseason, I’m told.

Fitzpatrick believes he’s played well enough the past couple of years to get a chance to at least compete for a starting job with some team. Obviously, that isn’t the Dolphins because of their Tagovailoa commitment.

So the agent for Fitzpatrick is already shopping, apparently, even though the NFL’s legal tampering period is not for another two weeks.

Because according to Woody Paige of the Denver Gazette, Fitzpatrick has spoken with the Broncos.

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This actually makes sense. The Broncos are not sold on starter Drew Lock and are wisely looking to upgrade this offseason. But if the Broncos cannot come up with a definite upgrade to outright take the starting job, they might welcome a veteran, such as Fitzpatrick, to come in and compete with Lock for the job.

And, dollars to doughnuts, Fitzpatrick would beat out Drew Lock for that job. Because that’s what he does: He is a silent young QB assassin.

Remember when he went to the New York Jets in 2015 to backup young Geno Smith -- and took his job?

Remember in 2017 and 2018 when he went to Tampa Bay to play back up young Jameis Winston -- and started 10 games, including 7 in 2018?

Remember in 2019 when everyone thought the Dolphins would play young Josh Rosen to see what he was about -- but that lasted only two starts as Fitzpatrick retook the job and never let go?

Look, Fitzpatrick knows his role. But he also knows how to compete and win starting jobs against unproven competition.

Last year Fitzpatrick started the first six games before coach Brian Flores ceded the job to Tagovailoa. And still Fitzpatrick played three games, with one start, after the switch -- with the one start coming because Tagovailoa had an injured throwing hand.

The reason leaving Miami might be good for Fitzpatrick is he’s thrown 33 touchdowns and 21 interceptions the past two years and he thinks he might get a chance to play some more this coming season.

The reason Fitzpatrick may not be the best fit for the Dolphins anymore is he casts a significant shadow. And while Flores has said that’s leadership and it’s nonetheless Tagovailoa’s team, the coach saying so doesn’t make it so in the locker room.

Tagovailoa needs to have the reins and shouldn’t have to worry about sharing if he’s going to develop as an NFL starter.

So the door isn’t necessarily shut for Fitzpatrick. But it isn’t necessarily wide open.

Both sides are free to browse for better options.

It makes sense that the Dolphins search in free agency for a veteran because if Tagovailoa is injured for any significant length of time, the club needs to have a quarterback capable of winning games.

That usually isn’t going to be a rookie picked late in the draft unless the season is totally lost.

So on the veteran QB free agency front the Dolphins can eye players such as Tyrod Taylor, Jacoby Brissett, C.J. Beathard, and Brian Hoyer, among others. Even Teddy Bridgewater might be a fit if something unorthodox happens in Carolina and the Panthers move on from the 2020 starter.

A reminder: The Dolphins have shown interest in Taylor and Bridgewater in the past.

And Dolphins offensive co-coordinator George Godsey (which the Dolphins may or may not announce has part of the job before the 2021 season) was familiar with Hoyer when both were in New England and worked directly with him when Godsey was the offensive coordinator in Houston.

That familiarity and the fact Hoyer isn’t going to be overshadowing Tagovailoa but has started 39 games during his career makes him a logical and perhaps a leading candidate to serve as Miami’s backup.

Assuming, of course, none of the Watson craziness happens.