As the off-season begins, the Miami Dolphins have what looks like one of the more talented rosters in the NFL but they need a backup QB.
The roster has holes and they have limited flexibility under the salary cap to fill those holes. However, the one area where the Dolphins must get it right is the backup quarterback position.
If the last few seasons have made one thing clear, it’s that Tua Tagovailoa is not a quarterback who will be available for all 17 games and last year, the playoffs.
Below we will look at a few of the backup quarterback options that are available.
In 2022, the Dolphins signed Teddy Bridgewater to be the backup quarterback. Unfortunately, Teddy turned out to be every bit as fragile as Tua. The injuries at the QB position left the Dolphins with no choice but to start rookie Skylar Thompson in the playoffs. Despite a poor performance from Thompson, the Dolphins somehow managed to almost beat the Bills. With the right backup QB, the Phins could have beaten the Bills and moved on in the playoffs.
For 2023, it is critical that the Dolphins get the right backup QB. As much as I would love to see the Dolphins sign Derek Carr, and Lamar Jackson or get Tom Brady to “un-retire”, the presence of Tua on the roster and the realities of the salary cap make it extremely unlikely that those players will come to Miami this offseason.
The Dolphins need to find a backup QB who is affordable, durable, and yet has the ability to lead the team during those moments when Tua is injured. In other words, the Dolphins need to find the 2023 version of Geno Smith.
Jimmy Garoppolo is a name that could be considered. He certainly has the experience of winning with an offense very similar to the offense run by the Dolphins. There would be challenges with signing Garoppolo to be the Dolphins’ backup as he likely would want more money than the Dolphins are likely to be able to find given their salary cap situation. Perhaps the greater challenge with bringing Jimmy G to Miami is that he has never been a particularly durable QB. Over the last three seasons according to Pro Football Reference Garoppolo has played in 31 out of a possible 49 games-not the durability that I would like to see in the 2023 backup.
Other backup quarterback options include recent high-round draft picks who have seen their careers hit rocky times. Names in this group might include Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, and possibly others. Baker Mayfield has been durable and may have the ability to win some games in Tua’s absence. Unfortunately, he told ESPN’s Sarah Barshop, “I know I am a starting quarterback”.
Sam Darnold is another possibility. Like Mayfield, Darnold is young enough and likely durable. The concern with Darnold is that he just hasn’t played all that well. Personally, I am not really excited about the idea of the Dolphins’ season resting on the shoulders of Sam Darnold.
Another youngish QB who may be worth a look is Gardner Minshew. In his 4 years in the NFL, Minshew has proven to be a better player than his draft position. He was drafted in the 6th round of the 2019 NFL draft (178th overall). Minshew has swagger, clearly wants to play, and has been durable. Minshew has also been effective. Pro Football Reference shows that he has thrown 44 Touchdowns versus 15 interceptions in his NFL career. A player like Minshew could be just what the Dolphins need for those times when Tua can’t go.
Another backup quarterback option for the Dolphins to consider is Taylor Heinicke. Heinicke has actually been effective over the last two seasons while playing for the Washington Commanders. His record during the last two seasons has been a surprising 12 wins, 11 losses, and 1 tie. During that same time, he has thrown for nearly 5,300 yards and has 32 touchdown passes versus 15 interceptions. Heinicke seems to have the durability and skill set to be successful as the Dolphins’ backup. Additionally, he likely understands that he is not going to receive starter money so he should fit well financially in Miami.
There are many other free-agent backup quarterback options available this off-season. However, in my opinion, the Dolphins should be looking very carefully at Gardner Minshew and Taylor Heinicke. Both players possess the combination of on-field success, durability, and affordability that the Dolphins definitely need in their next backup quarterback.