As the Miami Dolphins embark on maybe the most obvious "tanking" strategy in recent NFL history, and as their players before things get worse, the team has apparently granted former first-round draft pick Minkah Fitzpatrick .
First reported by ESPN's Chris Mortensen this week, the news comes as somewhat of a surprise considering Fitzpatrick is exactly the type of player Miami would conceivably want to build around rather than swap for future picks. But the Dolphins haven't exactly been shy about stripping down their roster in recent weeks, saying goodbye to even younger starters like Laremy Tunsil and Kenny Stills.
Miami reportedly opened trade talks for Fitzpatrick, who's unhappy playing multiple positions in the Dolphins' secondary, with an asking price that includes a first-round pick. While that cost could prove too steep for some, Fitzpatrick's agent is reportedly already in touch with a number of inquiring teams.
So who makes the most sense as a destination for the former Alabama star? Here are five logical landing spots, as well as a couple of honorable mentions:
Eagles personnel chief Howie Roseman is notoriously active on the trade market, and he admitted recently he checked in on LeSean McCoy, Melvin Gordon and Jadeveon Clowney in just the last few weeks. Fitzpatrick would've been a coveted first-round target for the team had Philly not moved back in the 2018 draft, and if there's one area on the Eagles roster that's proven to need depth, it's the secondary. Jim Schwartz's guys have enough flexibility to allow Fitzpatrick to man either slot corner or a roaming third-safety role. And Fitzpatrick would be a shoe-in at long-term CB or S alongside Avonte Maddox, not to mention an immediate upgrade for a Super Bowl contender that wants to win now. Bonus: Roseman has a notable recent history dealing with Miami.
Much like the Eagles, the Chiefs are in win-now mode, and if there's one part of their roster they could stand to improve, it's the defensive backfield. Kansas City already spent big on a rangy DB in free agency, adding Tyrann Mathieu, but he can only play one role at a time. Morris Claiborne will be back from suspension after the Chiefs' fourth game, but his presence would hardly remove a spot for Fitzpatrick. If anything, it might create one, allowing the Dolphins youngster to stick to his preferred slot position. The Chiefs have the firepower to make a serious Super Bowl run, but plugging someone of Fitzpatrick's caliber into their defense would throw some incredible insurance onto the weaker side of the ball.
Green Bay might seem like an odd candidate considering they're less than a year removed from trading their own young safety, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, and are fresh off a promising performance from their young defense -- with up-and-comer Jaire Alexander headlining the CB room. But Mike Pettine is about the best coordinator you could find for Fitzpatrick, specializing in nickel and dime packages that could position the Dolphins standout as either a slot CB or third safety, the same kind of roles he'd find somewhere like Philly. Couple that with the fact the Packers may very well have drafted Fitzpatrick if not for Miami swiping him in 2018, and this is another example of a feasible match between a rising star and a team with big eyes for a playoff run.
The Giants present an excellent fit because they can give him exactly what he wants -- the slot CB role in a versatile defensive system that asks the slot CB to do a whole lot. Defensive coordinator James Bettcher has been looking for a prospect like Fitzpatrick since he last had Tyrann Mathieu with the Arizona Cardinals. The Giants currently have former 2018 UDFA Grant Haley in the slot, and although he has held his own, his size prevents Bettcher from utilizing the position to its fullest within his system. The Giants are not in win-now mode, but Fitzpatrick's contract is a massive bargain (considering Miami has paid most of the guarantees), and he would be another young cornerstone for a rebuilding defense to rally around.
The Steelers aren't necessarily quick to utilize the trade market with big names, but this is about landing spots that make sense, and you could argue the one missing piece on Pittsburgh's high-upside "D" is a chess piece for the secondary. This group isn't going to get shredded every week like it did against Tom Brady, but the Steelers entered the year with persisting questions about their CB and S depth -- a year after swinging and missing on Morgan Burnett. Sean Davis has been banged up in the back end, current slot man Mike Hilton is an impending free agent, and 2017 third-rounder Cam Sutton has yet to prove his long-term value. Both instantly and for the long haul, Fitzpatrick would help open up a ton for this contending defense.
Dallas Cowboys: Friday, the Cowboys will have interest in Fitzpatrick for the right price (and could even offer former first-rounder Taco Charlton as part of a package deal). But they're also not hurting at safety. Per Walker, Dallas will certainly have interest in his versatility, "but they're not going to bend over for him" -- nor do they need to.
Denver Broncos: Denver has a lot more problems than in the secondary, but this, remember, is a team that could be in full-tilt rebuild mode by mid-season, if not sooner. They've prioritized defensive prospects before, and Vic Fangio could use a DB of his caliber to plug in alongside or behind Chris Harris.
Los Angeles Chargers: The Chargers aren't strapped for top prospects on the defensive side of the ball, but they're also very impaired by injuries, including at defensive back. If L.A. is serious about maintaining its postseason hopes for 2019 and beyond, there might not be a better plug-and-play CB/S than Fitzpatrick, who could team up with Derwin James down the road.