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Combine Notebook: Dolphins Roster Assembly for 2024 on the Horizon

Business is booming in the NFL. The salary cap jumps to $255.4 million per team for the 2024 season. The $30.6 million increase is the largest in league history. A capped league produces several consequences – few more impactful than the parity it creates, and the ebbs and flows of roster-building cycles.

For the Dolphins, this March could provide a graduation from one cycle to the next.

"We're always looking short term and long term," General Manager Chris Grier said. "Every year, you can't go and make those moves that people get excited for. At some point, you have to reel it back a little bit and add some youth and influx, and then cherry pick here and there."

This is a good problem to have – a problem only the contending teams will face on an annual basis. The best of those problems: a blossoming franchise quarterback.

Tua Tagovailoa checked several boxes in the first two years of his football marriage to Head Coach Mike McDaniel. The passing leaderboard is littered, yet again, with the Miami QB's name, including his league-leading 4,624 yards in 2023. One reason Tagovailoa was able to add NFL leading passer to his resume a year after he was the NFL's leader in passer rating? He started every game last season.

"He had more reps than he's ever had in his career because he played the full season," McDaniel said. "I think one of the best examples of taking control of your career is what Tua was able to do through training and being able to experience all the different things. Like most things Tua has done in his career, he's recognized that and proved doubters wrong."

All four years of Tagovailoa's career in Miami showed marked improvement, and with an enhanced mastery of McDaniel's offense, there's reason to believe another jump beckons in year three of the McDaniel/Tagovailoa pairing.

"It's such an advantage," NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah said on the Drive Time Podcast with Travis Wingfield. "Some teams come into a game with a quarter-inch playbook, and the other teams get to come in with a three-inch playbook. It's not fair. Now, Miami is getting a chance, going into year three, to continue to do the same things."

Tagovailoa's ownership of the offense supplemented his ability to not only post gaudy statistics and win 11 games, but it also anointed him as the unquestioned leader of the Miami locker room.

"We all feel there's still another level he can take it," Grier said of his quarterback. "His growth on and off the field, being voted captain last year and then seeing how he is behind the scenes with guys and holding people accountable, it's huge."

Tagovailoa is currently set to enter the 2024 season on the fifth-year option that comes with being a successful first-round draft choice. But as Miami's brass stated in Indianapolis this week, the goal is to keep him here longer than that.

"We're going to talk to his agent here this week," Grier said. "Our goal is to try and get (an extension) done."

As the quarterback market flourishes in more robust fashion than ever before, the strategy of building the roster shifts. Miami was able to push the limits with high-octane trades for superstars recently because of effective drafting dating back to Grier's appointment as general manager. Tyreek Hill, Bradley Chubb and Jalen Ramsey arrive on the back of 2020 and 2021 classes that set the foundation of the Dolphins roster.

The focus could shift to the same draft-and-develop formula that put Miami in this position to begin with – a position of trying to re-sign homegrown free agents who've proven to be draft hits.

"For us moving forward, we've had a lot of good young players come up too like Jaylen Waddle and (Jaelan) Phillips. We have five or six guys that we're talking to that are going to be candidates for possible extensions."

It's that core that keeps the Dolphins having sustained success. Miami has posted four straight winning seasons and two consecutive playoff berths, things the franchise hasn't experienced in many years.

It's that core that has many believing Miami figures right back in the mix when they line up again in September.

"I just think a lot of their key players are in key spots, and they're and they're in that age where they're ready to win right now. You look at where Tua is. Tyreek obviously being in the right smack in the middle the prime of his career. Waddle has been established as a very, very good player … I just think man Miami's situated right now this is kind of go time."

For more analysis on the Dolphins and coverage of offseason moves, download the Drive Time Podcast with Travis Wingfield – available wherever you get your podcasts.