Dolphins deliver two offensive stars and now we can fairly evaluate Tua | Schad

Joe Schad
Palm Beach Post

Chris Grier delivered the big fish. And then he delivered another.

As Pat Riley used to say, the whales.

Late Tuesday, it was Terron Armstead, a left tackle standing 6-foot-5, 304 pounds, a 3-time Pro Bowler, and that changed everything.

Notably, Armstead provides hope.

This offseason, it seemed every AFC playoff contender was adding a Lawrence Taylor or a Joe Montana and the Dolphins, well, were adding fullbacks and special teamers.

On Wednesday, it was a stunning trade for wide receiver Tyreek Hill, the fastest man in the NFL, a 6-time Pro Bowler who changes both the perception and reality of Miami's offense.

And now, the plan becomes clearer.

Grier has always said he'd prefer to add three good players as opposed to one really good player, but Armstead is a really, really good player.

And in Hill, he added another really, really, really good player.

The Dolphins suddenly have a chance to score. A lot.

And so Grier could have used $100 million of that cap space (reportedly $87.5 million) on Armstead and it would have been worth it.

And Grier reportedly will give Hill a contract worth up to $120 million over four years. And who could argue the risk is not worth it?

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The time to stress about cap space and draft capital is over.

The time to stop rebuilding and start launching forward has come.

Austin Jackson was drafted to play left tackle but he had not yet shown that he can be counted on to be a solid NFL left tackle and so the Armstead move was necessary.

It was necessary so that we can all get a totally fair evaluation of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in his third season, which is, undoubtedly, make-or-break.

Tagovailoa now has plenty of talent on offense

Tagovailoa now has a strong left tackle (Armstead) and left guard (Connor Williams) and a fullback (Alec Ingold) and two running backs (Raheem Mostert and Chase Edmonds) and a third receiver (Cedrick Wilson).

And yes, he has a receiver so talented (Hill) that Jaylen Waddle becomes one of the very best second receivers in the NFL. Everything has changed for Tua.

Tua even has Mike Gesicki back!

We haven't even mentioned DeVante Parker yet. 

Could the Dolphins turn around and trade Gesicki or Parker? Well, sure, if the price is right. But they don't necessarily have to.

Tua has an exciting new offensive scheme spearheaded by shrewd Mike McDaniel. There are plenty of reasons for players to want to live and work in Miami, but is it clear now that McDaniel's league-wide reputation as a smart, player-first coach is helping the franchise.

If anyone can find a way to win big with Tagovailoa, some NFL observers feel it's McDaniel.

Armstead changes everything. Because he's a stabilizing, veteran force.

Yes, he's an excellent pass protector and a dangerous run blocker, but more than anything, Armstead is a proven commodity.

He is an answer instead of an unknown. And, importantly, he is said to be a solid individual, which is important when making this type of ATM withdrawal.

Now the Dolphins can sort out the right side. Try Liam Eichenberg at right tackle and Robert Hunt at right guard and if Eichenberg struggles, give the assignment to Hunt.

The Dolphins can figure out how to best develop the young and athletic Jackson. Perhaps he becomes the backup left tackle. Perhaps he's the backup at left tackle and left and right guard. This greatly reduces pressure on everyone.

It also reduces the pressure on Grier, who needed to deliver. And he did.

Back in December, The Post identified Armstead as the  No. 1 target for the Dolphins in free agency. And Grier and the Dolphins didn't just land any free agent.

They landed Numero Uno.

Yes, it is true that Armstead comes with some injury concerns, notably a knee.

But when he is on the field, he is dominant. The Dolphins have not had a dominant left tackle since Laremy Tunsil, who they traded away at the start of this rebuild.

Draft picks are nice. Armstead is what one dreams a draft pick can become.

Saints left tackle Terron Armstead takes on Cardinals outside linebacker Markus Golden last season.

There are many fans who, understandably, want desperately for Tagovailoa to succeed. In a recent Post poll, 80 percent of fans said they're glad Deshaun Watson is not a Dolphin.

That has more to do with off-field concerns than anything, of course.

Tua's popularity and college excellence can never be doubted.

But countless league sources at the Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine cited Tua concerns.

Questions remain about Tua becoming an elite NFL quarterback

Will he demonstrate sufficient arm strength in 2022?

Will he take a step forward in diagnosing defenses?

Will he step forward as one of the Dolphins' top team leaders?

Tua is polarizing, and that's OK. At least it's not boring.

He's a good kid who wants to do well and who has a good chance to do so, now.

The problem for Tagovailoa is that without an improved offensive line and run game, there would have been too much room for excuses.

There are no excuses now. We can all evaluate what Tua has become together.

It's entirely possible the Dolphins add a center in free agency or the draft. But with the dynamic combination of Waddle and Hill, Tua should be able to stretch the field in ways he has not yet proven to be able to do in the NFL.

As for Hill, some will surely note a criminal investigation in 2019 that did not result in charges or an NFL suspension. The investigation inquired about the circumstances which led to his 3-year-old son breaking an arm.

Five years earlier, Hill had been dismissed by Oklahoma State after he was arrested and accused of punching and choking his pregnant girlfriend. He pled guilty and received three years probation.

The Dolphins will, at some point, need to address their level of concern about those incidents. They would have had to address concerns about Watson, who at one point they decided to stop pursuing.

Make no mistake, Miami is making the Hill move because they believe "Cheetah" can be a central contributor for a championship-caliber offense. 

Tua and the Dolphins now have a legitimate chance to contend for a postseason slot in the brutal American Football Conference. That could not have been said before Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon.

Miami has a chance to transform from one of the worst NFL offensive lines and running attacks in the NFL into one that is better than most.

And this will all benefit Tagovailoa. 

McDaniel has a plan to capitalize on Tua's strengths, which most notably is an accuracy that can't be taught. And he and the staff have a plan to minimize any weaknesses they confirm this spring and summer.

Few will dispute the notion that Tagovailoa is talented enough to lead an NFL team to the playoffs. It now simply cannot be suggested that if Tagovailoa fails it's because he did not have enough support around him.