DAVIE, Fla. -- It has never been more clear that the Miami Dolphins have pushed aside hopes of competing in 2019 in favor of an all-in plan for the future, centered on amassing draft picks, salary-cap space and assets to trade.
Amid the large-scale veteran exodus and blowout losses, the biggest Dolphins surprises came when they decided to trade young, key players -- left tackle Laremy Tunsil, defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick and wide receiver Kenny Stills -- over the last three weeks for a war chest of draft picks.
It appeared the plan took somewhat of a detour. Dolphins general manager Chris Grier spoke publicly Tuesday morning for the first time since the 2019 NFL draft, expressing as much but giving hope to fans that the rebuild is on track -- there are plans to be aggressive soon and the ultimate goal is long-term winning.
"I would say very unexpected as far as the Laremy and Minkah situations. You can't prepare for that," Grier said. "The opportunities as well were kind of unique with a little bit of a historic haul for [Tunsil] and Kenny, what we're getting. ... We know as the team was built right now, it wasn't going to win a Super Bowl, much less [to] compete for a playoff spot. Again, we're trying to build a team that's going to win right now and do it, a long-term winner and bring a championship here hopefully to South Florida."
The historic haul Grier referred to includes first-round picks in 2020 and 2021 and a 2021 second-round pick from the Houston Texans for Tunsil and Stills. The Dolphins granted Fitzpatrick's trade request by sending him to the Pittsburgh Steelers for a package headlined by a 2020 first-round pick.
"With Minkah, it's just one of those things the player expressed that it may be time for him to change," said Grier, who noted no other players or agents have approached him requesting a trade. "We tried to make it work -- myself, [coach] Brian [Flores], [owner] Steve [Ross] had multiple conversations with him about saying we wanted him to be here, he was as a core piece. The kid felt it was time for him to move. We told teams what the value was, we had multiple offers. We felt the Pittsburgh one was best for the organization.
"When we got to a point where we felt like it wasn't going to work, we said if we get the value that we deem worth moving him, we'd do it."
Fitzpatrick, Miami's 2018 first-round pick, had a solid rookie season. He excelled particularly playing slot cornerback. He appeared to be one of the top foundation pieces for the team to build on going forward. But he was unhappy being used in up to six different positions -- most notably in the box, a place he did not like or feel comfortable playing -- without having a true home.
The situation with Tunsil was different, Grier said. Tunsil wanted to be in Miami, and the team wanted to keep him, but the Texans wanted him enough to give up a quarterback-type ransom to acquire him.
"With Laremy, when we got a phone call they kept pursuing him. Multiple, multiple times we talked and kept telling them no and what it would take and they came and offered it," Grier said. "Funny story, I was saying the other day -- called Laremy about the trade and Laremy walked in my office and saw it on the board and said, 'I would trade me for that.' We were not trying to do it."
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Miami now has three first-round picks in the 2020 draft, seven picks in the first three rounds of the 2020 draft, and nine picks in the first two rounds of the next two drafts. They are also projected to have over $100 million in cap space next spring.
"We can do anything we want, whether it's free agency or draft," Grier said, clearly pleased with the bounty of assets. "We've positioned ourselves, we think, to do anything or get whatever player we feel that will help us as soon as possible."
Grier didn't want to pencil in a timeline for the rebuild to start paying dividends, but he used the word "aggressive" multiple times in his seven-minute talk with the media. He doesn't anticipate waiting much longer to start making win-now moves.
"We've talked about building this long term, with sustained success right away. We'll be very aggressive. We're not going to sit here on a bunch of money or anything," Grier said. "The plan is to build a winner here. No one likes losing. We've talked about building a team that's going to win and compete for championships for a long time rather than being this one year then you fall back for two or three [years]. It's long-term vision but we will be aggressive."
One key part of the plan is obtaining a franchise quarterback, and that could come as soon as the 2020 draft; the Dolphins appear to be favorites to land the No.1 overall pick. There are loud calls for Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa, who may be the top quarterback available next spring. For many fans, he would be worth the wait, but others are struggling to deal with the embarrassing losses and talent departures.
"I would say to fans, I appreciate their support. They deserve a winner. We're trying to build them a winner," Grier said. "I would think the fans would also say the cycle we've been in for the last 10-plus years isn't good enough. We're trying to right that as fast as we can. They deserve a winner and we're trying to do that for them."