National Sports

Greg Cote: The Miami Dolphins are disrespecting, insulting Tua with ongoing contract debacle

MIAMI — The Miami Dolphins have never had full faith and total belief in Tua Tagovailoa or anything close to it — not in four years and not now as his fifth season dawns.

It has been an embarrassment to the franchise and an insult to the quarterback. The whole NFL can see it and Tagovailoa can surely feel it as the disrespect continues with the ongoing contractual impasse.

The Dolphins’ vote of confidence in their 2020 No. 1 draft pick early in his career was to plumb the shadows in search of his replacement. Behind his back but open enough to be reported, first they angled to sign an available Deshaun Watson and later moved on to Tom Brady, the latter exploration costing Miami a first-round draft pick in a league penalty for tampering.

As Tagovailoa twisted in the wind.

For a time his concussion issues cast understandable doubt on his long-term future, but last season was a breakthrough year in all ways. No concussions. No injuries. Played every game for the first time. And, buoyed by a strong ground game and elite receiving corps if not a great offensive line, Tagovailoa excelled.

Led the NFL in passing yards, threw for a personal-best 29 touchdowns and was named a Pro Bowl starter.

It was his second season in a row with a passer rating over 100 but that fourth year is when he became the starting quarterback the team imagined and hoped he would be when drafting him fifth overall.


Now he’s up for the mega-money contract extension, but the Dolphins’ lack of faith and belief in Tagovailoaa has apparently returned.

This contract negotiation has been the club’s chance to finally and firmly demonstrate that faith and belief, and the club is blowing it. And the damage might already be done, as Tagovailoa has not not hidden his disappointment that a deal has not gotten done by now as he sees quarterbacks all over the league enriched with big contract extensions.

“I mean, I’m not blind to people that are in my position that are getting paid,” he said. “The market is the market.”

That was more than a month ago he said that.

Tagovailoa was asked if it is difficult to separate the football from the business side. “Yeah, 100 percent. 100 percent,” he admitted, with surprising candor. “I just want to get something done. I just want to get something done.”

Asked for a word to describe how he feels. “Probably antsy,” he said.

That too was more than a month ago.

Now training camp looms, with rookies reporting next week and veterans a week later on July 23. And, with no contract extension yet agreed upon because the team is low-balling its quarterback, the club has put Tagovailoa in a position where an ugly holdout from camp seems increasingly possible.

The other top quarterbacks fom his ‘20 draft — Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert and Jalen Hurts — all have already been rewarded, each signing contract extensions worth between $51 million and $55 million (Burrow) per year. Those deals typically include between 75 and 80 percent of the total in guaranteed money.

That is the going rate for a top young quarterback you believe in. It is what Tagovailoa means when he says, “The market is the market.”

Burrow, Trevor Lawrence, Jared Goff, Patrick Mahomes, Herbert, Lamar Jackson and Hurts comprise the $50-million-a-year QB club. Tagovailoa should be the eighth and next member, but the Dolphins are balking, instead including incentives he must meet because they obviously are still spooked by the chance concussions will reappear.

Tagovailoa’s 97.1 career passer rating dwarfs Lawrence’s 85.0, by the way. So does Tagovailoa’s 81-37 TD-interception ration vs. Lawrence’s 58-39. Yet Jacksonville lavished a new deal for Lawrence with the faith and belief in their guy that Miami has always and still lacks in Tua.

Miami general manager Chris Grier said after last season a contract extension for Tagovailoa was “a priority.”

Not good enough.

The priority needs to be an extension that meets fair market value, and a deal done before training camp.

The question is simple enough: Do the Miami Dolphins, after four years, finally have full faith and belief in this quarterback?

Embarrassingly, they are failing miserably to answer yes by their negotiations thus far.