Miami Dolphins Worried About Tua Tagovailoa's Durability But Still Want QB For 'A Long Time'

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Miami Dolphins will talk with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa's representatives soon and then hold a meeting of the team's brain trust this offseason to decide what next steps to take with Tagovailoa and his long-term contract situation.

But this much is already decided: The Dolphins say they are committed to Tagovailoa beyond his rookie contract despite being admittedly concerned about his durability.

So owner Stephen Ross, general manager Chris Grier, coach Mike McDaniel and senior vice president Brandon Shore will discuss the topic soon and emerge with a plan.

"I think all options, like I said, we'll go through it here," Grier said Wednesday. "We're going to spend a lot of time here. And then that's the good thing, we're not rushed to anything right now. We'll be in touch with Tua's representatives and Mike and I and Brandon will sit with Steve and we'll make a push for things and we'll talk and we'll see where they stand.

"But, like I said, we're very excited for him. The strides he made this year with Mike and the offense and you guys have been here and seen it. It was really exciting and to see the work he's put in that you guys don't see at the facility is really incredible."

Tua Tagovailoa Contract Situation

Let's be clear about what is at stake here: Tagovailoa is under contract through the 2023 season. But the Dolphins have until May 1 to exercise a fifth-year option on him that would eventually tie him to the team for the 2024 season and guarantee that year's salary for injury.

Tagovailoa, through his representatives, prefers to get an extension before the '23 season begins according to league sources. It's logical. Big money now is better than later.

And while no numbers have been exchanged between parties, the going rate for a quarterback has a floor of $32.4 million per season, which is the current franchise tag for a quarterback, and goes into the $50-million-per-year range on an extension.

Cincinnati's Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert of the Chargers will command an extension well above the $50 million per year range with Burrow possibly pushing $55-60 million per year.

The question for the Dolphins is where does Tagovailoa slot among those other quarterbacks picked atop the 2020 draft.

Tua Concussions A Concern For Dolphins

A significant factor there will be how confident the Dolphins are about Tagovailoa's durability. And, yes, that has been a problem Grier says the team must consider.

"I can't lie and say no," Grier said. "But it's not something that's going to make us afraid to do something long term with him.

"The one thing he's had is he's been banged up but always comes back and bounces back and plays hard and performs. So, excited for his future, excited for watching him doing all the work he's been doing in the offseason here right now to prepare for 2023. And he's very excited to get back on the field with his teammates."

Tagovailoa missed five games last season, including Miami's playoff loss at Buffalo to end their season.

He did indeed improve his level of play dramatically, but missed two games after suffering a concussion on national television against the Cincinnati Bengals. Then, he suffered a second concussion against the Green Bay Packers in a game in which he threw three interceptions. He never played again, missing the final three games of the season.

Addressing Best Case Scenario For Dolphins

Despite this, the Dolphins seem comfortable with the work Tagovailoa is doing to recover from the concussions -- he's since been cleared medically for physical activity -- as he's now learning jiu-jitsu.

“It’s something that we had various ideas, some of which I won’t repeat because they weren’t as good as that one," McDaniel said. "We were willing to go to any length. However, with him getting invested in it and really talking to him and hearing how the trainer is invested in him and how he was really into it and getting good residuals from it, we feel very comfortable in terms of this best preparing him for things that he hasn’t otherwise been able to prepare for."

The most likely -- and smartest -- approach for the Dolphins would be to indeed exercise their fifth-year option on Tagovailoa and wait for 2023 to play out without signing him to a long-term deal.

That way they can see how well his new martial arts training helps him avoid injuries, particularly head injuries. And if that is successful, Miami can still pay Tagovailoa after the season while he's still under contract for 2024.

Worst case, the Dolphins would have Tagovailoa for two more years -- the fifth-year option and a franchise tag year -- if they opt not to go the contract extension route.

That's a pay-as-they-go approach.

One problem with that approach for the team is - if Tagovailoa shows he is indeed durable and his play continues to improve - he's going to demand and deserve a huge contract in 2026.

That deal will dwarf the deal Burrow and Herbert get this year if the Bengals and Chargers do what is expected on a extending those two.

Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero