Minkah Fitzpatrick trade: What exactly are Dolphins, Steelers doing?

By Sports Desk September 17, 2019

The Dolphins and Steelers find themselves in similar situations to start the 2019 season: in an 0-2 hole without a franchise quarterback.

In the wake of Ben Roethlisberger's season-ending elbow injury, which elevated second-year backup Mason Rudolph to the starting role, Pittsburgh acquired disgruntled defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick from Miami to pad its secondary. (The Steelers also got a fourth-round pick in 2020 and a seventh-round pick in 2021.)

The Dolphins received a first-round pick in next year's draft in addition to a 2020 fifth-rounder and a 2021 sixth-rounder in the deal to bolster their inevitable rebuild.

But what exactly is the plan for the Dolphins? And why would the Steelers be willing to trade a valuable draft selection to save a season that's seemingly gone down the drain already?

Let's start in Miami, where the Dolphins have been outscored by a whopping 92 points through their first two games this season. While there's got to be a light at the end of the tunnel, it's more a question of how long it will take to get there.

The Dolphins now have five first-round picks in the next two drafts, including three first-rounders in the 2020 draft, hardly dispelling the notion they are tanking to better their draft position. With this season seemingly already lost, the Dolphins may look to take further advantage of their downward spiral but still wait until 2021 to make a move under center.

Then again, there's only so much the team can take with journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick at the helm. He has a plausibly reliable backup in second-year quarterback Josh Rosen, the former 10th overall pick who saw limited action in Arizona before being replaced by rookie Kyler Murray.

Looking ahead, some sharp incoming prospects have NFL fans begging their teams to tank in order to snag talented quarterbacks like Oregon's Justin Herbert, Oklahoma's Jalen Hurts, Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa and Clemson's Trevor Lawrence.

But Miami's moves point beyond just high draft picks. By offloading left tackle Laremy Tunsil, receiver Kenny Stills and linebacker Kiko Alonso before they dealt Fitzpatrick this week, the Dolphins shed a lot of salary. Miami are on course to have over $100million in cap space for 2020, it's a significant play to a hopefully brighter future.

Which brings us to Pittsburgh, where Roethlisberger has vowed to "come back stronger than ever next season" after undergoing surgery.

The 37-year-old is unlikely to stay with the Steelers beyond the two-year contract extension he signed in the offseason, so the team will need a successor soon.

Rudolph may be up for the challenge and impressed in relief of Roethlisberger against the Seattle Seahawks. The Steelers now have the luxury of a season-long look at Rudolph in the starring role. Still, Roethlisberger's injury is evidence that situations can change in an instant, which could prompt Pittsburgh to also look closely at the 2021 draft for the next face of its franchise.

The Steelers contending with Rudolph under center is not out of the question if offensive weapons Vance McDonald, James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster can stay healthy.

However, if the offense is unable to produce to a satisfactory level, then adding a defensive back like 22-year-old Fitzpatrick, the 11th pick in the 2018 draft, can help the defense take ove the team narrative and carry the load.

It's too early in the season to tell whether the respective strategies of the Dolphins and Steelers will pay off, but we have a good idea of the direction each team is headed.

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    While no definitive decision has been made, veteran New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees told reporters he anticipates he will be ready to take the field against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday after missing the last six weeks with a thumb injury.

    Brees underwent surgery and sported a brace on his hand as he recovered but was seen throwing earlier this month. In his absence, Teddy Bridgewater has proven to be a reliable backup by winning five straight starts.

    Mahomes throws at practice after knee injury

    Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was not running, but he was active during the team's workout and has yet to be ruled out for Week 8 against the Green Bay Packers. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid confirmed Matt Moore will get the majority of reps at practice this week, though Mahomes will toss the ball and take part in individual drills.

    Reigning MVP Mahomes suffered a dislocated kneecap in last week's win over the Denver Broncos but reportedly could return in as soon as three weeks. The Chiefs are hopeful he could return in Week 11 against the Los Angeles Chargers, though they could choose to wait until after the team's Week 12 bye.

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    Another day, another odd setback for the New York Jets quarterback. Sam Darnold practiced on a limited basis Wednesday because he had a ripped toenail removed after Monday's loss to the New England Patriots. The good news is coach Adam Gase said Darnold will be able to participate in individual drills and is still expected to play Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

    "Sam will do individual drills, we'll evaluate him after," Gase told reporters. "Hoping to get seven-on-seven in, not sure if we're going to put him in team periods yet. Kind of that toe, we're just trying to make sure that he's good, feels good with the shoes that he's got.

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    Brady embracing career uncertainty

    Patriots star Tom Brady is in his 20th season with the Super Bowl champions and said he wants to keep playing into his mid-40s, but he could become a free agent after this campaign, leaving his future with the franchise in question.

    "That is the great part for me, I don't know," Brady said during his weekly appearance on WEEI's "The Greg Hill Show" in Boston. "I think that has been a unique situation that I have been in because I think when you commit to a team for a certain amount of years you kind feel like [there is] the responsibility to always fulfil the contract.

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    Reid motivated entering matchup with former team

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    "I just don't forget," Eric Reid told reporters.

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    Kansas City are ready to light up Green Bay.

    Wednesday's tweet of the day

    Too soon, Myles Garrett.

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    The quarterback, who has missed the last five games because of a thumb injury, told reporters on Wednesday that he "plans" to play in Week 8 - though a definitive decision has not been made yet.

    Brees went on to explain that he needs to make sure he continues to feel comfortable and like himself this week. He threw during Wednesday's practice and said he feels good so far.

    The veteran said taking snaps "was easier than expected" and he can now grip the ball comfortably.

    "The hardest part was just getting it to where I could grip the ball again and grip it with authority, grip it with strength and be able to guide the mall, manoeuvre the ball," Brees said. 

    The quarterback injured his thumb in a Week 2 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. He had surgery on September 18 after consulting with two doctors and speaking to other professional athletes who had a similar injury, including Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout and Oklahoma City Thunder guard Chris Paul.

    Brees, 40, had completed 72.9 percent of his passes for 408 yards and two touchdowns before he was injured.

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    The star quarterback's injury turned a few stomachs during last Thursday's victory over the Denver Broncos.

    Kansas City previously indicated there would be a potential Week 11 return for the reigning MVP, but Mahomes has somehow yet to be ruled out of their meeting with the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.

    Head coach Andy Reid told reporters on Wednesday that Matt Moore will get the majority of reps at practice, but Mahomes will throw and take part in individual drills.

    Mahomes suffered the injury on a quarterback sneak in the first half against the Broncos. He then appeared to have his kneecap popped back into place on the field.

    The cart was initially called out for Mahomes, but he was able to walk off the field on his own power.

    "His knee didn't even look like a knee," tight end Travis Kelce said afterwards. "It was all out of whack. I couldn't even describe it."

    Mahomes underwent an MRI exam the next day that revealed no significant ligament damage.

    Moore, a 12-year veteran, completed 10 of 19 passes for 117 yards and one touchdown against Denver after Mahomes left the game and led Kansas City to a 30-6 win.

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