Even before the offseason began, team owner Stephen Ross said the priority was to acquire a franchise quarterback. The Dolphins are well-positioned to do it in the draft with the No. 5 overall pick.
The likely choice will be either Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, if they’re inclined to gamble he’ll overcome his long injury history, or Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert, if they believe they can fix his issues with accuracy.
The decision will come after months of speculation that continues to build.
“I hear from people at the grocery store,” general manager Chris Grier said Thursday. “I had a pest control guy spraying for ants at the house, and he was asking me Dolphins questions. My wife and kids, every day they pop in my office: ‘Who are we taking?’ It’s a fun and exciting thing.”
The new QB will become the likely successor to 37-year-old Ryan Fitzpatrick and the centerpiece in the rebuilding effort under second-year coach Brian Flores.
The Dolphins haven’t used their top pick on a quarterback since 2012, when they drafted Ryan Tannehill. The other QBs they selected in the first round: Hall of Famers Marino and Bob Griese, and Rick Norton when they were an AFL expansion team in 1966.
The Dolphins were accused of tanking last year as they purged their payroll while stockpiling salary cap space and draft picks. Now comes the reward for enduring record roster turnaround and a 5-11 season.
The Dolphins spent $235 million to sign 10 free agents, and in the draft they have 14 picks, including five of the first 56.
“This is a chance for coach Flores to mold the team into his image,” newly acquired running back Jordan Howard said.
Molding requires material, and building a foundation for success will depend largely on wise decisions next week by Grier, who has the final say on picks, and Flores.
“These next two drafts, if do the job we expect to do — and we feel fully capable and are very excited to do it — we feel we could build a strong team here,” Grier said. “With smart picks, if we do it the right way, we have a chance to have a good team here for a long time.”
THE NEED TO SCORE
The Dolphins allowed a franchise-record 494 points last year, most in the NFL. They had the fewest sacks and surrendered the most touchdown passes.
And yet in the draft, they’ll likely focus on offense.
Along with a quarterback, they want to add a left tackle, a right guard or tackle, a running back, a tight end and a receiver. That’s all.
The Dolphins bolstered their defense in free agency but still need a tackle, cornerback and safety.
Grier joined the Dolphins as a scout in 2000 and has somehow survived the constant organizational upheaval since.
This will be his fourth year in charge of draft decisions, and he works well with Flores. They’ve enjoyed a long friendship, and each started his NFL career as a scout for the New England Patriots.
Looking over their shoulder — remotely — will be Ross, whose patience with unproductive drafts may be near an end. He turns 80 next month and is still waiting to celebrate a playoff victory as owner.
Miami has a top-five pick for only the fourth time since 1968, and hopes to do better with this opportunity.
The Dolphins selected running back Ronnie Brown with the No. 2 overall pick in 2005, when they could have had Aaron Rodgers. Tackle Jake Long was the overall No. 1 choice in 2008, when they could have taken Matt Ryan. In 2013 they traded up and used the No. 3 overall pick to select defensive end Dion Jordan, perhaps the biggest bust in franchise history.
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