Tua Tagovailoa is “expected” to be the Dolphins’ 2023 starter

Publicly, the Dolphins won’t say anything about when or if running back Tua Tagovailoa will be cleared to return from at least two and possibly three concussions in 2022. Privately, someone is talking.

ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter, citing unnamed sources, reports that Tagovailoa is “expected” to be the team’s starting quarterback in 2023. Schefter adds that if the Dolphins beat the Bills on Sunday, Tua could be exempt from the league shakeup. protocol to play next weekend in the divisional round, in what would be a road trip to Kansas City.

Before Tua can play, he must be freed. Three weeks after the last concussion, that didn’t happen. And, at the risk of being even more painfully obvious than usual, until he breaks free, he isn’t.

The bigger question is whether Tua will continue to suffer head injuries. Each in 2022 (either two or three) occurred when he hit his head on the turf after being thrown to the ground by a defender. And every time Tua suffers another concussion, it spills over beyond sports, with network morning shows and cable news channels vociferously covering the situation. If he is the starter in 2023, Tua will need to be coached aggressively to better protect himself.

The news comes as Tom Brady, who the Dolphins aggressively pursued (violating the tampering rule) in 2020 and 2022, has been linked to the team. If Brady decides Miami is the best way to strike a work-life balance to stay close to his kids while still playing the sport he seems destined to continue playing as long as he’s physically able, will owner Stephen Ross tell him, ” No Thanks”?

And as for the possibility of Tua playing next week, the Dolphins will have a different question to answer. If they pull off the biggest upset in wild-card weekend history, will they drive rookie Skylar Thompson against the Chiefs? That ultimately depends on whether he wins today because of or in spite of the seventh player.

Still, it’s hard to imagine Thompson not having some positive role to play in overcoming a 13-point deficit, and that he has enough resonance to make the team seriously consider keeping the hot hand in place, instead of bringing Tue back nearly a full month since he last played.

Finally, here’s something Schefter’s report doesn’t say, one way or another. Will the Dolphins pick up the fifth-year option on Tua’s rookie contract? The deadline is May 3. The 2024 salary automatically becomes fully guaranteed. The report also did not address whether the Dolphins will try to extend Tua’s contract now that he is eligible for another job.

His performance improved significantly under first-year coach Mike McDaniel; there is no dispute about that. But the best defenders don’t miss many or any games. Whether it’s concussions, ribs, or whatever, the next challenge for Tu is figuring out how to avoid missing games so he can suit up and play, every weekend.

The report: Tua Tagovailoa ‘expected’ return as Dolphins starter in 2023 originally appeared on Pro Football Talk

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