Once Dolphins and Tua Tagovailoa agree on monster contract extension, what will Dolphins look like?

The Miami Dolphins are in a strange spot for a team that had Super Bowl aspirations just a season ago. Their roster still has strong talent at the top, but the Dolphins had to re-shuffle due to salary-cap space constraints. Star defensive tackle Christian Wilkins and steady offensive guard Robert Hunt are off to new teams, along with other starters like Andrew Van Ginkel and Brandon Jones. The 2024 season should still have high goals as long as Tua Tagovailoa and Tyreek Hill are healthy, but this season will also have major ramifications on the franchise's future.

Tagovailoa's eventual contract extension with the team is on the way and this season will go a long way toward identifying future supporting pieces who will stick around once the Dolphins adjust to life with Tagovailoa's contract on the books. Mike McDaniel faces arguably his toughest test as the Dolphins' head coach this season as they retool the roster with an increased cap hit for Tagovailoa. Wins are nice, but there are personnel questions the Dolphins need to answer for the long term this upcoming season.

How are Bradley Chubb and Jaelan Phillips progressing?

Miami didn’t have two of its best defensive players during the closing stretch of the season. Edge rushers Bradley Chubb (ACL) and Jaelan Phillips (Achilles) both suffered season-ending injuries in the late portion of the season. The Dolphins were able to field a good defense statistically when those two were on the field, Understandably, it was tough for them to be as consistent with Phillips and Chubb gone for major points of the season.

Chubb’s contract becomes fairly easy to move off of in the offseason. Phillips is due for an extension based on how he bounces back from injury.

It would be ideal for both to get back to form, but the Dolphins spent a first-round draft pick on edge rusher Chop Robinson for a reason. This situation is shaky enough to need insurance.

Will Dolphins' bets in Rounds 1 and 2 of NFL Draft pay off?

Speaking of Robinson, his selection, and offensive tackle Patrick Paul in the second round both followed the team of low-floor, high-upside picks. It’s the kind of risk that the Dolphins can take because they still have the overall talent to flirt with a playoff berth.

Robinson didn't have a ton of production at Penn State but he's a younger prospect at 21 years old and showed some incredible athleticism running in the 4.4s at the NFL scouting combine this year. He doesn't need to be the lead dog in the pass rush room yet showing positive flashes while Chubb and Phillips work their way back will be important.

Paul has the potential to be a 10-year starter. He’ll need time to get up to speed while he works on his technique. It might not be the prettiest rookie season for him, but the Dolphins need to stick him on the line and let him get reps so he can develop his game. Paul has the inside track to being the starting right tackle. His best football is ahead of him.

If Paul was a ready-made product, he would have been drafted higher than the end of the second round. Still, this is a pick, like Robinson, who can pay dividends in the future.

How will Dolphins' young running backs fare?

Even though Hill has been a near record-setting player in the Dolphins' offense, Miami is still reliant on a strong run game. The Dolphins do it in a different way than most teams, getting their running backs in space rather than being heavy between-the-tackle runners. It's a core part of their offense. They showed their belief in a strong run game when they traded a future third-round pick to move up in the fourth round to select Tennessee running back Jaylen Wright.

Wright joins star running back Devon Achane as the young guns in the Dolphins’ backfield with veteran Raheem Mostert being a steady presence to lean on for at least one more season. The long-term vision of this running back room is for Wright and Achane to be the speedy duo McDaniel needs to pick up chunks of yards at a time on the ground.

Wright probably landed in the perfect offense to make the most of his skills and it’ll be interesting to see how much he cuts into Achane’s carries given some of the injury issues Achane had as a rookie.

If Achane and Wright can be who the Dolphins project them to be, they’ll have a chance to still be an über-explosive offense in the post-Hill world that is going to happen in the future. Either way, it’s good for this team to be able to run the ball.

Can Tua be The Guy for them in crunch time?

This is really the last thing the Dolphins have to figure out for themselves in 2024. Everyone knows they can score, everyone knows they’ll be one of the best offenses in the league for the majority of the season. However, Tagovailoa needs to show that he can carry more of the load by himself. He’s still in one of the more advantageous setups in the NFL, even as the Dolphins go through a transition along the offensive line.

He’s going to get paid regardless. How he develops as a self-starter of offense and overall playmaker will go a long way toward giving people confidence in him as the Dolphins prepare for big-time cap hits to start hitting the books.

Everything else is manageable. Tagovailoa has some room to improve and a legacy to build if he can perform admirably during this transition year for the Dolphins.

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