Thursday, May 6, 2021

Miami Dolphins privately acknowledging Watson possibility

A six-pack of Miami Dolphins notes on a Friday:

From what we have been told, the Dolphins generally have been discreet in their comments with outsiders about Deshaun Watson, usually shrugging it off when asked about their interest in the disgruntled Houston Texans quarterback.

But according to a source with direct knowledge, a high-ranking team official has told at least one outsider that the Dolphins expect to be in the mix to acquire Watson if the Texans make him available (which they have not, to this point).

That person said the Dolphins did not indicate what they believe their chances were or what they were willing to offer, but instead merely acknowledged the possibility of Miami acquiring him.

That’s in line with colleague Armando Salguero noting that the Dolphins plan to inquire about Watson if he’s available.

And let’s be clear about this: Because this was said by a Dolphins official in a private conversation with someone who’s not a reporter, it’s not tampering. Let’s also make clear that Houston continues to tell teams that they’re not trading Watson, though some in the league expect that to change if he doesn’t report.

Dolphins general manager Chris Grier told reporters immediately after this past season that Tua Tagovailoa will be the team’s starter in 2021, but he said it before Watson requested a trade and before ESPN reported that the Dolphins are among the teams that interest him.

So their interest in exploring the Watson trade can easily be explained as an example of circumstances changing. It’s nothing against Tagovailoa, but merely what anyone would reasonably expect the Dolphins’ reaction to be when a Pro Bowl quarterback asks for a trade.

The Dolphins see considerable potential with Tagovailoa and very, very likely would stick with him as their 2021 starter if they do not land Watson.

ESPN has said Watson does not intend to play for the Texans again. Watson has five years remaining on his contract.

The Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos plan to make aggressive bids to acquire Watson if the Texans change their mind about dealing him, according to reports out of those markets.

It’s also important to keep in mind that Miami’s chances of acquiring Watson drop from realistic to unlikely if the Texans don’t acquiesce to his trade request before the draft. One Houston-based ESPN reporter has said the expectation is that the Texans will keep Watson into the summer, at the very least. Such a scenario would badly hurt Miami’s chances, because the Dolphins’ best chances of acquiring him would be sending Houston both of Miami’s 2021 first-round picks (and more assets) before April’s draft.

Some feedback on a couple of recent Dolphins signings…

The Dolphins beat out multiple teams for former Saints guard/center Cameron Tom, who signed a futures contract with Miami earlier this month. The Dolphins like his intelligence, athletic ability and versatility.

At 305 pounds, Tom ran a 4.8 in the 40 at the NFL Combine in 2017. Undrafted out of Southern Mississippi, Tom played in 11 games and started one for the Saints over four seasons, spending some time on the practice squad.

We hear the Dolphins are intrigued by the speed and skill set of new running back Jordan Scarlett, the former Florida Gator who was drafted by Carolina in the fifth round in 2019.

Scarlett, who signed with Miami on Jan. 13, began his rookie year in 2019 as the third running back on the Panthers’ depth chart behind Christian McCaffrey and Reggie Bonnafon. He had four carries for 9 yards in nine games, playing primarily on special teams, before suffering knee and ankle injuries in Week 12 and going on injured reserve.

Carolina waived him last August after training camp, and he sat out the season until joining Detroit’s practice squad for the final three weeks of the 2020 season.

Scarlett plans to work at a Davie facility with NFL running backs Dalvin Cook and JK Dobbins, among others.

The former Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas star — who is represented by Zach Hiller and South Florida-based Eric Dounn — chose to accept the Dolphins’ contract offer over one from Detroit and is thrilled to be back in his hometown.

Scarlett, who’s listed at 5-11 and 208 pounds, ran for 1,846 yards and 12 touchdowns, averaging 5.4 per carry, in three seasons for the Gators. He also caught 15 passes for 108 yards.

More running back talk: Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed continue to be inexorably linked. They were teammates and roommates at Washington — Gaskin was a year ahead — after playing high school football about less than 20 miles apart in the Seattle area.

They were reunited as Dolphins teammates last season, with Ahmed joining the team after being claimed off waivers from the 49ers in August.

They are now both working out — sometimes together — in the same Bellevue, Washington, training facility to stay in shape. They want to get units in the same apartment complex — but not live in the same apartment — when they return to South Florida in April.

They’re obviously buddies who talk frequently.

And now the latest step: Ahmed has changed agents, hiring Gaskin’s agent — Los Angeles-based Erik Schmella.

Both averaged more than four yards per carry last season (Gaskin at 4.1 on 142 carries, Ahmed at 4.3 on 75 carries) and both demonstrated that NFL evaluators greatly underestimated them before their respective drafts.

Gaskin has proven to be one the Dolphins’ better seventh-round picks in their history. Ahmed was one of last year’s best undrafted backs, behind Jacksonville’s James Robinson.

In his latest mock draft, ESPN’s Todd McShay suggests an idea we raised here recently: Miami trading the third pick to quarterback-craving Carolina in exchange for the Panthers’ pick at No. 8, a 2021 second-rounder and a first-round pick in 2022.

McShay has Carolina trading up for North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance at No. 3 and Miami picking Alabama receiver Jaylen Waddle at No. 8 and UM defensive end Jaelan Phillips at No. 18.

On the Waddle pick, McShay said: “Tua Tagovailoa was ranked 35th out of 35 qualified quarterbacks this season in yards per attempt when targeting wide receivers (6.2), and the WR group was No. 30 in the NFL in yards after the catch per reception (3.18). Waddle caught 48 passes from Tagovailoa during their Bama days together, and he’d be a dangerous option opposite DeVante Parker.”

On the Phillips pick, McShay said: “After getting Tagovailoa a receiver at No. 8, let’s turn our attention to the defense and keep a strength exactly that. Miami had 41 sacks in 2020, tied for 10th in the NFL, but the rich get richer with Phillips, who racked up eight of his own this season. The Dolphins will love his suddenness and length coming around the corner. And looking ahead to 2022, he’d ease a potential loss of Emmanuel Ogbah or Jerome Baker in free agency.”

The Dolphins haven’t conveyed whether they want to re-sign linebacker Vince Biegel, who missed last season with an injury. Biegel’s tweet expressing excitement about Watson being linked to Miami won’t be used against him in that decision. Biegel quickly deleted the tweet…. The Dolphins conveyed to cornerback Jamal Perry that they want him back; he’s an exclusive rights free agent.

We’ve had a Dolphins story every weekday this offseason. Please check my archives to catch up on others.

Here’s my Friday piece on the Marlins losing arguably their best prospect to injury and the ramifications.

Barry Jackson has written for the Miami Herald since 1986 and has written the Florida Sports Buzz column since 2002.

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