Report: Dolphins Not 'Opposed' to Tua Tagovailoa Playing If He Earns Opportunity

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistMay 26, 2020

FILE - At left, in a Dec. 29, 2019, file photo, Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick rolls out to pass against the New England Patriots in the first half of an NFL football game in Foxborough, Mass. At right, in an Oct. 19, 2019, file photo, Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa looks to pass during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Tennessee in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Fitzpatrick is spending his coronavirus lockdown in Arizona with his wife and seven children, and hoping to get a chance soon to begin mentoring first-round draft pick Tua Tagovailoa. (AP Photo/File)
Uncredited/Associated Press

Ryan Fitzpatrick is "likely" to open the 2020 NFL season as the Miami Dolphins' starting quarterback, but the front office reportedly "isn't opposed" to rookie Tua Tagovailoa taking over the job during the campaign.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reported Monday the Dolphins are keeping their options open in case Tagovailoa "impresses coaches" after injuries cut short his final season with Alabama.

The 22-year-old Hawaii native suffered a high-ankle sprain in each of his final two years with the Crimson Tide. He then suffered a severe hip injury, broken nose and concussion during a November game against Mississippi State, which ended his 2019 season.

His health was one of the key talking points ahead of the draft, though the 2018 SEC Offensive Player of the Year said he was back to full strength.

"I'd say I'm 100 percent right now," Tagovailoa said on ESPN's SportsCenter in April. "I'm just ready to go."

Yet the main topic of conversation since the Dolphins selected him with the fifth pick has been whether 2020 might be a virtual redshirt year for the prized prospect.

"We have a long way to go before we can say who's doing what," head coach Brian Flores said last month. "... I think it's way too early to speculate on this year and how this is going to go. You guys know we like to take a one-day-at-a-time approach anyway. That's going to be the approach I'm going to have him take as well."

Fitzpatrick is heading into the second season of his two-year, $11 million contract. The 37-year-old journeyman posted solid, albeit unspectacular, numbers in 2019. He completed 62 percent of his throws for 3,529 yards with 20 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He added four rushing scores in 15 games.

It's going to serve as a transition year in Miami. The question is whether Tagovailoa's debut will wait until 2021.

A lot of factors figure to come into play, including how Tagovailoa looks in practice, Fitzpatrick's performance and how the Dolphins stack up in the AFC East, which is wide-open with Tom Brady's move from the New England Patriots to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Yet the rookie's health will be the most important facet of the decision because there's little doubt he's the most talented quarterback on Miami's roster.