MIAMI — Laremy Tunsil walked into Chris Grier’s office on a late August 2019 afternoon to get final words from the Miami Dolphins general manager who had just traded him to the Houston Texans. The Dolphins’ 2016 first-round pick was surprised and upset with the move.
Then Tunsil looked up at Grier’s board that detailed what Miami’s haul would be in return for Tunsil’s move to the Houston Texans: a 2020 first-round pick and 2021 first- and second-round picks.
“I would trade me for that,” Grier recalled Tunsil saying that day.
The comment provided a little levity in a tough situation, but a year-and-a half later, those words couldn’t ring more true. A trade that was mocked and questioned by many then is now seen as the supreme chess move that expedited this Dolphins rebuild. Grier’s willingness to make the bold deal, most notably shipping away a franchise left tackle in Tunsil, has changed the direction of the franchise.
Following Friday’s blockbuster trades, the Dolphins have turned that Tunsil haul into an additional 2022 third-round pick and 2023 first-round pick via the San Francisco 49ers, along with essentially swapping their 2022 first-round pick for the Niners’ pick. The Dolphins turned that 2020 first-round pick via Houston into cornerback Noah Igbinoghene and guard Solomon Kindley after a trade back. In this year’s NFL draft, Miami will have the No. 6 and No. 36 picks to use via the Tunsil haul, with more of the Dolphins’ selections coming after that.
Miami got great value drafting Tunsil with the No. 13 pick in 2016 after his stock plummeted when a video of him smoking out of a gas mask was leaked hours before the draft. The Dolphins got even better value three years later by trading him away.
Grier has said multiple times he prefers three good players over one great player — a principle he has stuck to in his wheeling-and-dealing tenure leading the Dolphins’ front office. Miami has made the second most trades (26) of any NFL team since the start of 2019, per ESPN Stats & Information; only New England has more with 29.
With the Dolphins now picking at No. 6, the draft appears set to start with quarterbacks going off the board at Nos. 1-3 (Jacksonville, N.Y. Jets and San Francisco) and possibly with Atlanta at No. 4, which means Miami will have an excellent chance at selecting one of the elite non-QB offensive players who they were considering drafting at No. 3.
A Dolphins team that improved from 5-11 to 10-6 over the past two seasons has made it even more clear they are committed to quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in 2021 while using their war chest of draft assets to build around him. The next hurdle for Miami is overthrowing the Buffalo Bills atop the AFC East in what should be an exciting rivalry between teams for years to come.
Looking at Friday’s two deals separately, the Dolphins’ trade back with the 49ers to No. 12 amounted to excellent value, receiving two additional future first-round picks and a future third-round pick to move back just nine spots. It was a ransom deal that could have set Miami up to have multiple first-round picks for four consecutive seasons.
The Dolphins clearly weren’t comfortable being outside of the top 10 where they likely would have missed out on one of the draft’s elite playmakers, including LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase, Alabama’s DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle and Florida’s Kyle Pitts. Miami overpaid, at least the way I see it, by giving up a 2022 first-round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles to move back up six spots to No. 6.
Analytics back that viewpoint, too. The expected cumulative value of the picks the Dolphins received from the 49ers were worth more than double the value of the No. 3 overall pick. The picks the Eagles received from the Dolphins were worth 50% more than what they sent to Miami, assuming no discount for future picks and assuming the No. 17 overall pick for future firsts, according to ESPN’s draft pick valuations based on approximate value (AV).
But most folks will see the final result of getting two additional future picks to likely select the same player at No. 6 that you would have at No. 3 as a win. Between the two trades, Miami increased its expected AV by more than 50% relative to the No. 3 pick — the equivalent of about a mid-first-round pick.
It’s clear Grier isn’t afraid to gamble and deal for value or flexibility. So, get used to hearing the Miami Dolphins are on the clock, the Miami Dolphins are a team to watch and the Miami Dolphins are competing for the AFC East title.
The future is bright, and Tunsil deserves some thanks for it.