How Miami Dolphins fearlessly traded NFL draft picks to set up success

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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DAVIE, Fla. — This was March 25, a Thursday night around 10, exactly five weeks before round one of the NFL draft. Miami GM Chris Grier sat in his rental Chrysler outside the Residence Inn in Ann Arbor, Mich. Grier would attend the Michigan Pro Day in the morning, but now, here he was, finishing up one of two deals that would re-cast the 2021 NFL Draft.

Miami’s tradeapalooza actually began March 3, when San Francisco GM John Lynch called to gauge the Dolphins’ interest in trading the third overall pick. “We’re open,” Grier said. “We’ll listen.” In less than a month, that listening turned into Miami trading from third to 12th in the first round and picking up two additional first-round picks and a third-rounder. Then, with coach Brian Flores wanting to ensure getting an offensive weapon as the spur to move back up, with the driver’s seat of the rental car as his office, Grier phoned Eagles GM Howie Roseman from Ann Arbor, to work out final details on the deal they’d been discussing: Miami trading the 12th pick plus a first in 2022 to move up to six in this year’s first round.

Grier called owner Steven Ross—who has to sign off on deals of this magnitude—late on this Thursday night.

“Steve was very excited,” Grier recalled. “He likes trades.”

As does Grier. Since taking over as general manager with full personnel power in Miami 28 months ago, Grier has made 28 trades. If that seems like a lot of deals, it is. Trade-happy Baltimore GM Eric DeCosta has made 14 deals in that same 28-month span. Many Miami deals have been done on the clock during drafts. But Grier’s 25th and 26th trades left major imprints on three teams in this draft, and the impact of the deals will be felt for years. San Francisco went all-in to get its quarterback of the future (Trey Lance) at 3; Miami got the receiver/returner it craved (Jaylen Waddle) at 6; and Philadelphia got the third top receiver in this draft (Devonta Smith) at 10. And the Dolphins and Eagles got future high draft picks out of the two trades.

We all talk about how much the game has changed over the years. But if the passing game has revolutionized the game on the field, the trading game has been transformative too. A cadre of young, aggressive general managers, who learn from peers in all sports, don’t treat high picks like immovable objects anymore. In his 28 months as exclusive steward of the Miami roster, Grier has traded away seven first and second-round picks, and acquired 12 of them.

“I think we’re in a different age,” said Grier, an unassuming 51-year-old football lifer, sitting at a long table on the morning of day three of the draft, with Flores at the other end. “Football has evolved. A lot of general managers are willing to trade now—you’ve seen that over the past few years. Some of it probably goes back to the ‘Moneyball’ craze, when people started looking at how it’s done in other sports. You can never say, ‘No, we’d never do this.’ We just always talk about: How can we make our roster better?

A modern general manager in sports, not just football, should have four things going for him:

• He must know how to use leverage.

• He should have one eye on today and the other on tomorrow.

• He can’t be afraid.

• It’s optimal to work with a coach who understands when it’s smart to play for today and when it’s smart to stock up for tomorrow.

Grier is four for four. With Flores as his partner since February 2019—Flores worked in the Patriots’ scouting department for four years before becoming a coach—Grier is paired with a head coach who doesn’t just live for today. When I said that in our meeting, Flores said: “You mentioned that philosophically, coaches are about today and not about the future. I guess I’m more in tune with the future. When I get into my coaching short-term thought process, Chris pulls me out of that . . . We listen to one another and have good collaboration on everything, especially the roster. We have a similar vision for what we want the team to look like.”

Flores and Grier weren’t altogether open with me in how they viewed this draft, but we can infer a few things from it. And this is where the leverage part comes in. The Dolphins sat at three in March but didn’t necessarily need to be at three. They weren’t going to take a quarterback, and, as it turned out, they were keen on a receiver, Waddle, who was not the consensus top receiver available. (Ja’Marr Chase was.) Still, if they went down to 12 with San Francisco, they knew that to get an offensive threat like Waddle, they’d have to move back to the eighth pick, at the lowest, and they definitely wanted to be higher than that.

On March 4, Lynch offered San Francisco’s first-round picks in 2022 and 2023 to move from 12 to three. A very strong offer, two ones to move up nine spots in the draft. Now the Dolphins knew San Francisco wanted to get up that high to take a quarterback. That offer marinated for a couple of weeks. “We weren’t going to officially do the deal with that,” Grier said, “because we knew the importance of that third pick.” And with so many teams coveting quarterbacks in this draft, that’s where the leverage came in. Grier could wait for a more aggressive offer. And knowing he had a good offer in hand, Grier could ask around between four and eight—would any team want to go back to 12?

The Dolphins saw the top of the draft this way: Picks 1, 2, 3, quarterbacks. Pick 4 (Atlanta), a quarterback or tight end Kyle Pitts. Pick 5 (Cincinnati), likely Chase, or possibly tackle Penei Sewell.

“One player we knew, we felt very strongly, would be there at six,” said Flores. The intimation, to me, was that player was Waddle. I got the feeling Grier and Flores were all-in on Waddle, though they never said that specifically.

Grier probably wouldn’t move back to 12 unless he could move back up to get Waddle, or one of the offensive impact players. So when the initial 49er offer came in, Flores was clear what he wanted. “Right away,” said Grier, meaning right after the 49er offer, “Brian was like, ‘If we do this, go down to 12, we need to figure out a way to get back into the top 10.’ “

“We knew that [Alabama receiver] DeVonta Smith, if he was the other guy, who is a very good player, was not going to be there at 12,” Grier said. “We knew the players that we wanted would not be there at 12. We had very good intel, we’d done our work. We were 100 percent sure we were not going to get a targeted player, especially Jaylen, staying at 12. We felt we had to get to, eight was about where we said, but we wanted to get up higher. We weren’t real comfortable at eight . . . We felt six was the spot for us to get Waddle.”

The Eagles, at six, were the perfect target. GM Howie Roseman loved trading, and he had a reason to want to collect draft capital: If Jalen Hurts didn’t put a solid grip on the starting quarterback job this fall, Philly might need draft picks to target one of the top quarterbacks in next year’s draft—or maybe even Deshaun Watson. It was a heavy price, but Roseman wanted a 2022 first-round pick from the Dolphins.

Now Grier knew he could move back into range for Waddle, or a strong offensive threat. One afternoon in late March, Lynch was at his daughter’s school tennis match and his phone rang. It was Grier, telling him they were close to being ready to do the deal—if the 49ers added a third-round pick. That was tough for the Niners, who already were denuding the top of their next two drafts to get a quarterback. Lynch had to think about it. He knew, internally, that it would be a tough pill to swallow. But he had a third-round Compensatory Pick (likely to be about the 104th overall pick, very low in the third round) coming in 2022 from Robert Saleh’s hire by the New York Jets. “A total bonus,” coach Kyle Shanahan called it. So the Niners, after some thought, agreed to add the third-round/Saleh pick as the sweetener to push it over the top.

Lynch wasn’t angry about the late ask for the third-rounder. He’d done almost exactly the same thing in his first 49er draft in 2017, asking Chicago GM Ryan Pace for an extra third-round-pick to get a deal done for Chicago to move from three to two in the first round. Pace did it—and infamously picked Mitchell Trubisky. “I love dealing with Chris,” Lynch said Saturday. “He’s not emotional about it, and his word is everything. Chris is a rock.”

“To me,” Grier said, “It’s never about winning a trade. It’s about being open, honest and working toward getting a deal both sides feel good about.”

There was one other piece to this puzzle. In the first two years Grier and Flores worked together, so much of the draft prep and trading was about the future. This draft was more about the future is now. “The guys we got in ’19, the guys we got in ’20, the guys we got in ’21, that we get in this draft, that’s the team,” Flores said. “You know what I mean? That’s the team moving forward. As we move forward, that’s going to be the crux or the big chunk of our team. They’ll be the reason why we make noise or don’t make noise.” So in 2019, the Dolphins might have moved from three to 12 and kept all their future ones instead of trading a one to move back up to six.

If they’ve picked right, Miami could have six starters on offense from the last two drafts: Waddle, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, and four of the five starters up front: 2020 picks Austin Jackson (left tackle), Robert Hunt (right tackle), Solomon Kindley (right guard) and highly regarded 2021 second-rounder Liam Eichenberg from Notre Dame, who probably will get a shot at left guard. On defense, they’ll need more help from free agents in the last two crops. Byron Jones must play better at corner, pass-rusher Emmanuel Ogbah will have a bookend helper now in the 18th pick in this draft, Jaelan Phillips, and just-signed ex-Pat Jason McCourty comes off a very good 2020 season to buttress the corner.

On Friday, I asked one of NFL’s biggest wheeler-dealers of recent times, Jimmy Johnson, what he thought of the team Grier has produced. “I like his trades, I like his picks,” Johnson said. “I like his approach. I used to say, ‘Do you want to play it safe and be good, or do you want to take chances and try to be great?’

“But you gotta win. Time will tell.”

Flores won’t argue. He said: “Trades are great, picks are great. But we don’t want to be known as a great trading team. We’re here to win.”

The biggest variable for Miami now, of course, is Tagovailoa, the fifth pick in the 2020 draft, coming off a so-so rookie year in which he was benched twice in shaky second halfs. Miami picked him one slot ahead of Justin Herbert last April. Herbert finished his first season as a Charger with the Offensive Rookie of the Year. Tagovailoa finished his first season with questions surrounding his ability to be Miami’s long-term starter. That’s probably not fair. Most often, quarterbacks don’t play great as rookies; Herbert and 2020 top pick Joe Burrow, playing like vets from the start, spoiled it for Tagovailoa.

But there’s much riding on Tagovailoa for Grier. Miami built a warchest of picks to be able to draft a quarterback, and if Tagovailoa’s not the guy, it’ll set the rebuild back significantly—and force Miami to use more draft capital on a quarterback, likely in 2023.

“I never like to put it on one player,” Flores said. “I think we’ve got a lot of young players, and we’re looking for all of those players as well as really everyone on our team to improve in a variety of ways. If they’re putting all the work in, I expect them to improve, get better, and perform better. Tua is obviously at the top of that list. He’s been working. All signs point to—or I would say based on my experience—he’s doing everything necessary to make some improvements. That’s really all we can ask for. My thing is if you put the work in, the results will take care of themselves.

“Last year’s situation is . . . we’ve talked about this numerous times. If he had started the season, we wouldn’t have pulled him. We put him in. We’re in a playoff chase. At that point [second half in game 15, at Las Vegas, when Ryan Fitzpatrick entered in relief], it’s hey, we’ve got to do whatever we’ve got to do to try to win. But no, my confidence wasn’t shaken in him.”

Read more from Peter King’s Football Morning in America column.

What to know about Super Bowl 2023: Date, location, halftime performance info, and much more

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The NFL playoffs are in full swing and Super Bowl 2023 will be here before we know it! See below for answers to all of your questions about the big game. Be sure to tune to NBC and Peacock every week for Sunday Night Football games this season and extra content from Mike Florio, Matthew Berry, Chris Simms and more.

RELATED: When do the 2022 NFL Playoffs start: dates, schedule, playoff format, overtime rules, and more

Four teams are left heading into the Conference Championships and only two will make it to Super Bowl LVII. Ahead of this weekend, here’s everything you need to know about the biggest game of the NFL season.

RELATED: 2022 Sunday Night Football Schedule: TV channel, live stream info, NFL schedule

When is Super Bowl 2023?

Super Bowl 2023 takes place on Sunday, February 12 at 6:30 p.m. ET on Fox.

Where is Super Bowl 2023?

Super Bowl 2023 will be contested at State Farm Stadium–home of the Arizona Cardinals– in Glendale, Arizona.

Who is performing the halftime show at Super Bowl 2023?

It was announced in September, that international popstar, entrepreneur, and philanthropist Rihanna will headline the halftime show at Super Bowl 2023.

RELATED: How to watch Matthew Berry on NBC Sports

When was the last time Rihanna released an album?

Rihanna’s most recent album “Anti” came out in 2016. The Barbados native has spent the last few years venturing into various business industries including beauty, fashion, and makeup. Additionally, the superstar welcomed her first child, a boy, in May of 2022.

Why does the NFL use Roman numerals?

AFL and Chiefs founder Lamar Hunt proposed using Roman numerals for each Super Bowl to add pomp and gravitas to the game. Roman numerals were, unsurprisingly, used in ancient Rome as a number system. I stands for 1, V for 5, X for 10, L for 50 and C for 100. That’s right: In 2066, get ready for Super Bowl C.

Super Bowl V was the first to use Roman numerals. They were retroactively added to the Super Bowl II to IV logos and have been used each year since⁠ until 2016. For Super Bowl L, or 50, the NFL tried out 73 different logos before breaking down and using a plain old “50.”

The Roman numerals for this year’s big game, Super Bowl 57, are LVII.

Which NFL team has the most Super Bowl wins in NFL history?

The Patriots and Steelers are not only familiar with playing on the big stage, but they also know what it takes to come out on top. New England and Pittsburgh are tied for the most Super Bowl victories in the NFL with six each. The San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys have won five Lombardi Trophies each and the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants are tied with four Super Bowl championships.

  • New England Patriots: 6
  • Pittsburgh Steelers: 6
  • San Francisco 49ers: 5
  • Dallas Cowboys: 5
  • Green Bay Packers: 4
  • New York Giants: 4

RELATED: 2022 NFL Regular Season Schedule – How to Watch, Live Stream, Dates, Times, Matchups


How to watch Sunday Night Football on Peacock:

If you have access to NBC via your TV provider, you can watch Sunday Night Football on your TV or with a TV provider login on the NBC Sports app, NBC app, or via NBCSports.com. Check your local listings to find your NBC channel. If you can’t find NBC in your channel lineup, please contact your TV provider.

If you don’t have access to NBC via your TV provider, you can stream Sunday Night Football on Peacock with a $4.99/month Peacock Premium plan.  Sign up here or, if you already have a free Peacock account, go to your Account settings to upgrade or change your existing plan. 

Please note that selection of a Premium plan will result in a charge which will recur on a monthly or annual basis until you cancel, depending on your plan. You can cancel your Premium plan at any time in your Account.

What devices are compatible with Peacock?

Peacock is available on a variety of devices. See the full list here.

In addition to Sunday Night Football, what else can I watch with Peacock Premium?

Premium is your key to unlocking everything Peacock has to offer. You’ll get access to all the live sports and events we have, including Premier League and WWE Premium Live Events like WrestleMania. You’ll also get full seasons of exclusive Peacock Original series, next-day airings of current NBC and Telemundo hits, plus every movie and show available on Peacock. There is always something new to discover on Peacock Premium.

Follow along with ProFootballTalk for the latest news, storylines, and updates surrounding the 2022 NFL Season, and be sure to subscribe to NFLonNBC on YouTube!

2023 NFL Playoffs: What to know about SF QB Brock Purdy Ahead of NFC Championship game

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The NFC crown is up for grabs on Sunday, and it will be Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles squaring off with Brock Purdy and the San Francisco 49ers to secure a ticket to Super Bowl LVII in Glendale, Arizona. These two high-powered teams have both had seasons for the storybooks, but possibly no story this year has been greater than that of “Mr. Irrelevant’s” emergence.

From the 262nd pick in the draft to a third-string quarterbacking role, the odds of Purdy making a splash in the NFL seemed all but impossible at the start of the season. But just months later, the 23-year-old finds himself captaining one of the league’s most storied franchises on a playoff run in hopes of bringing a sixth Lombardi home to the Bay.

The 49ers will take on the Eagles in the NFC Championship game Sunday, Jan. 29 at 3 p.m. EST. Let’s take a closer look at Purdy’s emergence from “Mr. Irrelevant” to QB1.

RELATED: 49ers vs. Eagles NFC Championship matchup, series history

Where did Brock Purdy go to college?

Before Purdy was a Niner, he was first an Iowa State Cyclone.

In fact, Purdy rose to stardom in Ames much like he is now doing in San Francisco. Purdy entered the picture at Iowa State as the third-string quarterback, in line for field time behind quarterbacks Kyle Kempt and Zeb Nolan.

The season-opener, however, shook things up. Kempt suffered an MCL injury against Iowa, bumping up Nolan to the role of signal-caller. Nolan then saw a rough three-game stretch, forcing ISU coach Matt Campbell to give the freshman Purdy an opportunity.

Purdy would take this opportunity and run with it. He first entered the scene mid-game against Oklahoma State, leading the Cyclones to a thrilling victory over the Cowboys as they edged them out, 48-42. Purdy was now the man for Iowa State.

In his four-year career, Purdy was simply a winner. He finished his time in Ames as Iowa State’s career leader in passing yards (12,170), total offense (13,347), touchdown passes (81), completions (993), passing efficiency (151.1) and completion percentage (67.7). The wide-eyed freshman with an opportunity developed into the winningest quarterback in Cyclones history (30-17).

RELATED: Eagles DC warned 49ers of ‘electric’ atmosphere at the Linc

Jalen Hurts vs Brock Purdy collegiate record

Sunday’s Conference Championship will not be the first time that Jalen Hurts and Brock Purdy have gone head-to-head. The Cyclones faced off with the Oklahoma Sooners in November of 2019.

While the senior Hurts and his offense diced up Iowa State’s defense early, Purdy would charge his team to a comeback from the 35-14 halftime deficit. Purdy led an epic resurgence coming out of the locker room, outscoring the Sooners 27-7. A savvy drive from the sophomore late in the fourth resulted in a 33-yard touchdown to Sean Shaw Jr., cutting the deficit to 42-35 with three minutes remaining.

On the ensuing drive, Hurts made a disastrous mistake, throwing a pass into traffic that was picked off by Lawrence White. With the ball at the Oklahoma 35, Purdy could not be stopped, pulling off a few impressive plays before connecting with Charlie Kolar in the end zone.

The scoreboard now read 42-41, and the Cyclones wanted to end the game right then and there. Purdy dropped back for the two-point conversion, throwing a dart to La’Michael Pettway. The pass hit Pettway’s hands, but was then knocked away by Oklahoma defenders. While the epic comeback could not be completed, it was a game to be remembered.

RELATED: Brock Purdy views time at Iowa State as ‘blessing in disguise’

When was Brock Purdy drafted?

Brock Purdy found a home in San Francisco on Saturday, April 30 when he was selected by the 49ers as the 262nd pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. As Melanie Salata held up the “Mr. Irrelevant” jersey on the NFL Draft stage, no one knew that the name on the back of it would rise to relevance so quickly.

The seventh-round pick was passed over by nearly every NFL team, except for one. Not even the 49ers knew that this selection would hold so much magnitude, as Purdy was merely expected to be a third-string rookie sitting behind starter Trey Lance and backup Nate Sudfeld.

RELATED: CMC vows to be ready for NFC title game despite calf discomfort

How has Brock Purdy fared as an NFL starter?

San Francisco’s blueprint at the beginning of the season would be thrown out the door very quickly. The 49ers made the decision in late August to retain veteran quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and release Sudfeld, allowing Purdy to remain in his third-string role.

When Lance suffered a crushing injury against the Seahawks in just the second game of the season, it seemed clear that Garoppolo was destined to lead the team to its third playoff appearance in four years. Garoppolo would go 6-3 in his next nine starts, making Super Bowl aspirations once again very real for the team that lost the big game just three years prior.

In a critical battle against the Miami Dolphins in Week 12, however, that vision faded. Garoppolo suffered a broken foot on the final play of the team’s opening drive, and “Mr. Irrelevant” was now QB1.

Purdy’s first drive of the game ended in a 3-yard touchdown pass to fullback Kyle Juszczyk to give San Francisco a 10-7 lead. As with his starting role in Iowa State, Purdy has yet to look back.

RELATED: Brock Purdy’s PFF grades show how well he operates under pressure

He drove the team to a 33-17 victory over Miami, finishing the day 25 for 37 for 210 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. His starting debut came the next week, against none other than the great Tom Brady.

The rookie tore through Tampa Bay, becoming the first quarterback to ever defeat Brady in his first start. The game ended with an emotional hug from his father, who had witnessed his son take down a quarterback who has been playing pro football longer than Brock has been alive.

Purdy remains undefeated as an NFL starter. Since taking over in Week 13, “Mr. Irrelevant” has gone 7-0, with an overtime victory and two playoff triumphs. While many thought the rookie would crumble under postseason pressure, he has yet to let his team down. In the 49ers wild card battle against their division foe Seattle Seahawks, he became the first NFL rookie to score four touchdowns in a playoff game. While the divisional round success over Dallas wasn’t the prettiest victory, Purdy got the job done, advancing his team to the NFC Championship for the second consecutive year.

Will Brock Purdy play in NFC Championship game?

Now, the seventh rounder will clash with a daunting Philadelphia defense for the conference crown, with aspirations of becoming the first rookie quarterback to ever hoist a Lombardi. On Monday ahead of the Conference Championships, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan told media that he’d be “very surprised” if quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was able to play in Sunday’s game, meaning that Purdy is still QB1, with Josh Johnson as the backup.

RELATED: When was the last time the 49ers made it to, won the Super Bowl?

Has a rookie QB ever started in a Super Bowl?

Should the 49ers advance to the Super Bowl, Purdy has a shot to cap an unbelievable season with a particularly remarkable accomplishment: No rookie quarterback has won a Super Bowl, and in fact, no rookie quarterback has ever started in a Super Bowl.

RELATED: Ranking potential Super Bowl LVII matchups

How to watch the Super Bowl 2023

Check out ProFootballTalk for more on the 2023 NFL Playoffs as well as game previews, picks, recaps, news, rumors and more.