On April 23, the Miami Dolphins got their hopeful quarterback of the future; selecting Alabama standout Tua Tagovailoa with the fifth pick in the NFL Draft. On Monday…they paid him.
The Dolphins and Tagovailoa agreed to a four year deal worth $30.28 million, with a team option for a fifth season. The contract comes with a signing bonus of $19,578,500, with the final nearly $11 million guaranteed in the deal.
The total guarantee on the contract could prove costly; as Tagovailoa is coming off of a brutal hip injury that presented questions about his long term durability.
The lone exception in the agreement’s guarantees comes if the team elects to trigger his option to lead the team for another season. If they do trigger his option however his salary is slated to jump substantially to around $25 million.
Tagovailoa had one of the more interesting paths from high school to professional football.
Coming to Tuscaloosa as a freshman from Hawai’i most expected him to play sparingly behind Jalen Hurts; who led Alabama to a 14-1 record as a freshman himself but lost to Clemson in the 2016 College Football Playoff championship.
Hurts led the way for the Crimson Tide once again in 2017, taking them back to the national title game as a sophomore. But after starting the contest 3-8 with just 21 passing yards in the first half; head coach Nick Saban decided to try his luck with Tagovailoa while trailing 13-0.
The gamble paid off in a major way as he dominated, throwing for 166 yards and three touchdowns in the second half and overtime to complete the Alabama comeback; including a game winning dime to Devontae Smith to win the title over SEC rival Georgia.
Tagovailoa won the starting job over Hurts at the beginning of the following season, prompting Hurts’ transfer to Oklahoma. In his first full season running the offense he shined, throwing for 3,966 yards and 43 touchdowns. He added another 190 yards and five scores on the ground; and Alabama found itself in its third straight title game aiming for back-to-back championships.
Once again however Dabo Swinney got the better of Saban, as Clemson demolished the Crimson Tide 44-16 behind their own quarterback sensation in Trevor Lawrence.
Tua made it nine games into the 2020 campaign before a hip injury in the fourth quarter of a blowout against Mississippi State required surgery and ended his college career. He left Alabama with 87 touchdown passes to just 11 interceptions, along with 7,442 passing yards and a draft stock now in questions.
A Cloudy Future
Heading into the 2019-20 NFL season the Miami Dolphins were expected to tank hard in the hopes of landing the first overall pick; which everyone at the time expected to be Tagovailoa.
With the combination of Joe Burrow’s historic offensive output and Tagovailoa’s injury put together, most teams preferred Burrow as a prospect after the season. But Miami failed in its epic quest for the cellar of the NFL, with the dubious honor going to the Cincinatti Bengals.
The Bengals took Burrow with the top-overall pick; leaving Miami to end up choosing Tagovailoa with perhaps less enthusiasm than they would a year ago. But this is the NFL: a league where “can’t miss” prospects do just that and “underdogs” become legends.
Despite all the physical, intellectual and psychological evaluations players undergo; on the field and under the lights is where greatness is truly decided.