Why Tua Tagovailoa's success could come with a downside for the Miami Dolphins

I think it’s safe to say the Miami Dolphins have found their franchise quarterback. Even though some in the media still try to discount Tua Tagovailoa. While every NFL team covets a long-term answer at the quarterback position, finding one does present issues.
Carolina Panthers v Miami Dolphins
Carolina Panthers v Miami Dolphins / Rich Storry/GettyImages

This offseason the Miami Dolphins picked up the fifth-year option on Tua’s contract. After six weeks of play, this looks like a good move. Tua’s 2024 cap number will come in at $23.17 million. A bargain for a top-level NFL quarterback these days. This number puts Tua as the 16th highest-paid quarterback in the NFL in 2024, in terms of cap hit. 

The elephant in the room this offseason will become, what kind of long-term contract will the Dolphins sign Tua to. If he continues to play the way he’s playing, there will be a strong argument that he will demand top 5 quarterback money. According to overthecap.com that number will be north of $50 million per season. 

The New England Patriots, much to my utter dismay, were able to put together a 20-year dynasty in the salary cap era. An extremely impressive accomplishment. A big reason they were able to do this was because of Tom Brady. I’m not talking about his play, although watching Belichick run this team into the ground is slowly settling the Brady vs Belichick question.

A big reason they were able to field good teams was because of Tom Brady’s contract. It was never a secret that Brady was never paid what he was worth. He repeatedly took less in an effort to leave more to spend in other areas of the team. The highest percentage of the Patriot’s team cap space that Brady ever accounted for was 13.6%. Most years he accounted for between 8% and 10%. That means the Patriots were able to spend more elsewhere. Did they? Sometimes yes, sometimes no, but the point is they were able to.

Now take Patrick Mahomes. In the next three years (2024-26), Mahomess will account for 22.2%, 21.6%, and 20.5% of the Kansas City Chiefs salary cap respectively (per overthecap.com) Mahomes will be paid $57, $60, and $63 million over those years. Mahomes is arguably the best quarterback in the league and has won 2 Super Bowls so to the Kansas City Chiefs it’s probably been a good investment. The problem is, eventually the Chiefs will not be able to invest in other areas of the team. 

By this point, you probably know where I’m going with this. Tua will be due a new contract for the 2025 season. The projected team salary cap, per overthecap.com, for that year is $272 million. For argument's sake, if Tua signed a contract with a $50 million cap hit, he would account for 18.4% of that year’s cap. Compare that to Tom Brady’s high of 13.6% (or $35 million) and that would leave nearly $15 million in extra funds the Dolphins could use to invest elsewhere in the team. 

I’m not saying Tua should take less. We’ve seen that a player’s career could end on the next hit,  so players should get what they can when they can when it comes to pay. 

Tua has been different, in a good way, during his first 4 years in the league. Mild-mannered, kind, and very humble are just some of the adjectives that have been used to describe Tua Tagovailoa. My question is, will Tua be “different” when it comes to signing his next contract? Will he give Miami a hometown discount in an effort to help keep the core of this team together longer?