Dolphins' plan to find a franchise QB: 2019 or 2020 NFL draft?

By signing Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Dolphins don't appear to be in full "tank for Tua" mode, but they need to address their long-term need at quarterback. AP Photo/Adam Hunger

Get ready for FitzMagic in Miami next season -- a high-risk, high-reward offense that could create excitement for a rebuilding team unlikely to contend for the playoffs or even reach .500.

Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Miami Dolphins know their recent pairing is just a mutually beneficial, shotgun marriage with a quick expiration date. They seem accepting of their roles in each other's lives and eager to maximize their time together.

Fitzpatrick's signing this week doesn't fill the gaping hole at quarterback. It has been an NFL-record 23 seasons since a Dolphins quarterback, Dan Marino in 1995, was selected to the Pro Bowl. Fitzpatrick is set to become the 20th starting quarterback in Miami since Marino retired in 1999.

Fitzpatrick is satisfied with the chance to start, and he isn't worried about the rest -- a good sign that Miami picked the right veteran to handle its fluid situation.

"I'm going to come in from day one and act like and be the starting quarterback for this organization until they tell me that I'm not," Fitzpatrick said. "I know that this is the NFL, which means that nothing is promised."

The Dolphins will almost certainly try to select their future franchise quarterback in the 2019 or 2020 draft. The lingering questions are which year and which player.

By the conclusion of next month's draft, in which Miami has the 13th overall pick and enough assets to trade up if needed, we should have clarity.

The "tank for Tua" train is already moving full-steam, with many fans expecting Miami to pursue a historically bad 2019 season in hopes of drafting Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa in 2020.

The idea of tanking seems shaky because the NFL isn't the NBA. But the Dolphins are doing things differently -- essentially buying draft picks by eating money on their players' deals before trading them. We saw this with quarterback Ryan Tannehill last week, and it will likely be the template if defensive end Robert Quinn is traded.

"We're not trying to tank or lose every game," general manager Chris Grier said at the NFL scouting combine. "We're trying to build it right and see how it plays out.

"I don't make any judgments on any [draft] classes until we really sit down and get to know the players first."


Russini: Dolphins' roster is 'nothing' after Tannehill trade

Dianna Russini reports on the Dolphins' trade of Ryan Tannehill to the Titans and adds that Miami won't draft a QB for the future this year.

Still, it would be foolish to believe that Grier and the Dolphins haven't paid attention to the talent of Tagovailoa, Oregon's Justin Herbert and Georgia's Jake Fromm, all of whom could be available in the 2020 draft.

Miami is undergoing a full-scale rebuild. The team largely avoided 2019 free agency, let talented veterans depart and seems set to fix a flawed roster -- particularly in the trenches -- primarily through the draft.

Patience is the message being sent throughout the organization. There's reason to be skeptical that the Dolphins will see it through, but we should give them time to try. This is an admirable route for a team stuck in mediocrity, and it will require excellent evaluation and drafting from Grier and his team.

And don't close the books on Miami selecting a quarterback this April just yet.

The connections between Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals at No. 1 are too loud to ignore, and Miami seems unlikely to get a shot at him. But Dwayne Haskins could be available at No. 13.

Haskins to Miami seemed like a pipe dream a month or two ago. But ESPN's Dianna Russini reported recently that the New York Giants, the next likely QB landing spot at No. 6, do not like Haskins and won't draft him. It's looking more possible that Haskins could fall into the double-digit pick range.

If he is available at No. 13, do the Dolphins pull the trigger, and is he good enough for them to get off the Tua train?

We don't know how the Dolphins feel about Haskins or Drew Lock (another potential first-round QB who could be available in Miami's range), but they could have a choice between either QB -- or waiting until next year.

The Fitzpatrick signing backs up Grier's insistence that the team isn't trying to lose in 2019. There were many better (or worse, depending on how you look at it) options as a temporary QB1 than Fitzpatrick if the goal was simply to get the No. 1 pick in the 2020 draft.

Fitzpatrick has started at least 10 games in seven seasons and has won the following totals of games in each of those years: four, four, six, six, 10, six, three. Some of those teams were bad -- the 2010 Buffalo Bills and 2016 New York Jets -- but none won fewer than four games and none had the No. 1 overall pick the following year. Besides, Fitzpatrick is the only QB in NFL history to throw for more than 400 yards in three consecutive games, and he did that for Tampa Bay in Weeks 1-3 last season.

It isn't out of the realm of possibility that Fitzpatrick and his gun-slinging style of play will lead the Dolphins to a better-than-expected range of four-to-six wins.

Also, the Fitzpatrick signing sends a message to the locker room that Miami will compete every Sunday, which helps first-year coach Brian Flores implement his culture. That might be more valuable than a few draft positions, especially if the goal is for Flores and Grier to run the ship for the long haul.

It would have been much harder to sell that with a straight face if either Jake Rudock or Luke Falk, the other two in-house options, had been named the starter. Building a foundation in the name of losing is a risk that could ruin a rebuild before it starts.

This isn't a simple decision or a clear path. But Grier and the Dolphins seem to have a plan.

Quarterback in 2019 or 2020? That's a question that will rage on for the next month.