Josh Rosen Is a Perfect Acquisition for the Miami Dolphins
When your team is committed to rebuilding, it can afford to take some gambles. If you can take on an asset with upside at a depressed value, you are better positioned to roll the dice than teams scrambling to win in 2019.
The Miami Dolphins just executed on this philosophy to perfection.
Full terms, per source:
Dolphins trade: Pick 62
Cardinals trade: QB Josh Rosen, a 2020 fifth-rounder.
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) April 27, 2019
Just last year, Josh Rosen was the 10th overall pick in the NFL Draft. Now, the Dolphins have acquired four years of team control for a late second-round pick.
There will be questions around whether he'll start over Ryan Fitzpatrick, but the only true question around this trade should be this: What did the Dolphins have to lose?
The answer is very little.
Let's dive in deeper to this to explain why acquiring Rosen makes so much sense for a team in the Dolphins' position and then see what we should expect out of Rosen once he puts on his new uniform.
A Good Risk
A second-round pick is not a small cost to acquire anybody, even a quarterback. But here, it makes sense.
On the one hand, the Dolphins could have just used this second-round pick on one of the quarterbacks still on the board in the 2019 draft. There are reasons to like both Drew Lock and Will Grier, so why not gamble on the unknown there instead?
First off, those guys likely fell to the second round for a reason. And second-round picks don't work out all that often in the NFL.
Since 2000, only seven quarterbacks have entered the NFL as a non-first-round pick and gone on to record multiple top-10 seasons in Total Net Expected Points (NEP, numberFire's metric that tracks the expected points added on each drop back or rush attempt a quarterback records during a season). Only 17 non-first-rounders have managed to record even one top-10 season. So the odds that someone like Lock or Grier works out are now a bit lengthy.
Second, Rosen -- despite having a year of NFL experience already under his belt -- is actually younger than both Lock and Grier. He came out of college after his age-20 season and is three months younger than Lock and 22 months younger than Grier. It's still fully reasonable to expect progression out of such a young prospect.
Finally, from a team control perspective, the length of the deals is the same for all three. Because neither Lock nor Grier went in the first round, they will have four years on their contracts, and Rosen could be there four years, as well, if they were to eventually exercise his fifth-year option. There would be a big difference between Rosen's salary in 2022 and what they'd be paying the others, but we may never get there to begin with.
That's why it makes sense to bring Rosen in rather than spending that second-round pick on a different quarterback. But given that we've already seen Rosen flop on one NFL team, why would we expect something different in Miami?
We may not see anything different. He could wind up struggling again. And that's okay.
An Evaluation Period
In going to Miami, Rosen's about to get a one-year tryout to see what his NFL future looks like. If he succeeds, then the Dolphins just got themselves a starting quarterback on the cheap. If he fails, it almost works into their plans for 2020.
We've heard since January that the Dolphins plan to tank in 2019, setting themselves up to draft a quarterback early in the 2020 draft. The Rosen acquisition fits in well with that thought process.
Let's assume Rosen comes in and plays like he did with the Arizona Cardinals. Among 43 quarterbacks with at least 100 drop backs, Rosen ranked dead last in Passing NEP per drop back, which accounts for expected points lost on incompletions, interceptions, and sacks. The results were wretched.
If that happens again, then the Dolphins will be positioned perfectly to pounce on their pick of guys like Tua Tagovailoa, Jake Fromm, and Justin Herbert. Losing is not a bad thing here.
It's also far from a sure thing that Rosen duplicates his 2018 performance in his new town.
During his rookie campaign, Rosen played under two different offensive coordinators, lost his left tackle, D.J. Humphries, for the final seven games, and played without Christian Kirk for the final four games. The Cardinals started three guys at left tackle, four at left guard, five at right guard, and five at right tackle. It was the worst offensive line in football.
Even with Ja'Wuan James walking in free agency, the Dolphins do still have Laremy Tunsil at left tackle. It's not a great line by any means, but it's an upgrade over what Rosen had last year.
Rosen also has some intriguing players around him in DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills, Albert Wilson, Kenyan Drake, and Mike Gesicki. Although the team definitely needs to be re-tooled, it's not as if the cupboard is completely bare.
There's a real chance Rosen could come to this team and do well. He's young, he was decent in college, and there are some spots of talent around him. There's a world in which this works out.
If that does happen, it would take the Dolphins out of the running for 2020's top-end quarterbacks, but they also wouldn't need them. They'd still have three years left on Rosen's deal (two of which would be at a minuscule salary), and they could focus on beefing up other needs in the draft.
There is no such thing as a no-lose situation in the NFL. The nightmare scenario for Miami is where Rosen struggles in 2019 but cobbles together enough wins to keep the team out of the "Tank for Tua" race. But most other possible outcomes look positive for this franchise in 2020 and beyond.
It is fully within the range of outcomes that Rosen goes to Miami and duplicates the treachery that was 2018. That's a risk the Dolphins were smart to take.
As of right now, the Dolphins' win total at FanDuel Sportsbook is 4.5, the lowest of any team entering 2019. Expectations were already as low as they could possibly get; again, what did they have to lose?
The Kirk Cousins and Nick Foles contracts the past two years have shown us the cost of acquiring a competent quarterback in free agency, and as we saw earlier, the chances you snag a stud after the first round are slim. If you can get someone deemed worthy of being a top-10 pick for just a second-rounder, you should do it without hesitation.
If Rosen fails, the Dolphins can follow in the Cardinals' footsteps and move on a year later. But for them, the cost will be much lower because they did not trade up and use a first-round pick to get him. Additionally, if Rosen is truly awful, then their plan to tank will have still come through.
This was a smart move on the Dolphins' part. It may not pan out -- this is not a plea for you to hammer the over on their win total -- but the upsides of that happening are immense. This is one of those trades that seems to look solid for both sides.