On Sunday, the Miami Dolphins made a trade with the Houston Texans that swapped DE Shaq Lawson for 2018 Pro Bowler Benardrick McKinney, according to multiple reports. The deal also included a swap of late-round picks.
Lawson was one of Miami’s bigger free-agent signings last year, as he was brought in to help be a consistent run stopper and occasional pass rusher. Lawson’s first season in Miami was about on par with his early career when he played for the Buffalo Bills. He finished the season with 32 tackles, 4 sacks, 18 QB hits, 1 forced fumble, and 1 fumble recovery (stats courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com). He was a solid contributor for the team but was not a game-breaking talent on the defense.
In exchange for Lawson, Miami is getting McKinney, who was voted to the Pro Bowl in 2018. In that season, McKinney had 105 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 interception, and 7 passes defended. He had similar numbers in 2019 but didn’t get the same national recognition. In 2020, McKinney sustained a shoulder injury that caused him to miss the majority of the regular season. With this trade, the Dolphins are gambling that McKinney can recover from this shoulder injury and put in another dominant year at inside linebacker.
When it comes to the impact of this trade on the draft, Miami seems to have solved one of their problems on the defense by taking drafting a quality inside linebacker when healthy. Many mocks have Miami going with a defensive player with their second first-round pick and many had them targeting either an EDGE rusher, like Gregory Rousseau or Kwity Paye, or an inside linebacker like Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah.
With this move, and before any other free agent dominoes start to fall, I could see this pushing Miami to target one of the top edge rushers at 18 overall. If McKinney can recover from his shoulder injury, Miami would be getting a quality inside linebacker at his prime (he’s 28) who could really thrive with Jerome Baker as his running mate and Andrew Van Ginkel flying off one of the edges of this defense. If Miami were to then add to this with a Paye or Rousseau, their linebacking corps could be one of the more rounded out units in the league.
Miami should still try to target a developmental prospect at inside linebacker later in the draft, but this move does change the expected outlook for Miami’s draft plans on days one and two of the upcoming draft.