The Miami Dolphins began negotiating a trade out of the No. 3 pick at least three weeks before executing the deal, but held off until they found a path back into the top 10, where they targeted a number of offensive players including the one they ultimately took, wide receiver Jaylen Waddle.
That’s according to NBC Sports’ Peter King, who recently spent time with Dolphins general manager Chris Grier and coach Brian Flores.
In King’s latest “Football Morning in America” column, he revealed that San Francisco 49ers exec John Lynch called Grier way back on March 3 about moving from the 12th pick up to 3, a selection the Dolphins acquired from the Houston Texans in the Laremy Tunsil trade.
“We’re open,” Grier said to Lynch, according to King. “We’ll listen.”
But Flores was determined to land one of the best offensive players, and didn’t believe one would be there at 12. So Grier got the Eagles and Howie Roseman involved, resulting in the final deal: The Dolphins would move from 3 to 6 and land future draft capital, including the Niners’ first-round pick in 2023, the Eagles would slide from 6 to 12 but pick up an additional first-rounder in 2022 and the 49ers would get their quarterback in Trey Lance.
While the Dolphins knew the move might take them out of contention for Florida tight end Kyle Pitts and LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, owner Stephen Ross not only signed off on the deal but “was very excited” about it, Grier told King.
That speaks to how much they think of Waddle, who was the Dolphins’ pick at 6 over teammate DeVonta Smith.
“Right away, 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,’ “ Grier told King.
“We knew that DeVonta Smith, if he was the other guy, who is a very good player, was not going to be there at 12,” he continued. “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.”
More Dolphins revelations from King’s extensive interview with team brass:
▪ The 49ers’ original offer was three first-rounders for the third pick, but Grier, knowing he had leverage, asked for an additional third-rounder late in the process. Lynch agreed — and wasn’t even upset.
“I love dealing with Chris,” Lynch told King. “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.”
▪ Grier always manages a team with one eye on the future — which might rub some win-now coaches the wrong way. But that’s not the case with Flores.
“There’s a balance there, a place we’re trying to get to, somewhere in the middle,” Flores said, before adding the players the team selected from 2019-2021 will be the core of the team and will determine whether their joint experiment is a success.
▪ Flores also touched on the decision to bench rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa twice last season and his expectations for Tagovailoa in Year 2:
“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.”