Almost two years before his name was entered into the NFL Draft, former Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa had NFL scouts drooling. And why wouldn’t they? The record-setting Hawaiian showcased arm talent that few prospects have had in the last several years. Tagovailoa transformed the Alabama Crimson Tide offense into one of college football’s highest scoring units, and he did it with a poise and calmness you rarely see in a young kid.
The problem? Injuries, and Tagovailoa had several. He left the 2018 SEC Championship Game with an ankle injury, which required minor surgery. A hamstring injury last summer slowed him prior to fall camp. A high ankle sprain early in the 2019 season required another “tightrope” procedure, similar to his injury the prior year, only this was his other ankle. Then, of course, the infamous hip injury against Mississippi State that ultimately ended his collegiate career.
Despite all that, only two NFL teams seem prepared to pass on him in the 2020 NFL Draft. The first, obviously, is the Cincinnati Bengals, who await the arrival of Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow with the No. 1 overall pick. The other is the Washington Redskins — a team with former Ohio State star Dwayne Haskins as its franchise quarterback — who seem poised to select the best player in the draft No. 2 overall, defensive end Chase Young.
After that? Tua is the name to watch.
But as teams scrambling for quarterback help prepare their draft boards, where does Tagovailoa even prefer to play? Well, according to him, he’d love the challenge of leading America’s Team.
Tua Tagovailoa to the Dallas Cowboys?
“We’ve looked at teams,” Tagovailoa told NFL Network in an interview (via Pro Football Talk). “We’ve talked about teams. We’ve talked to teams. Somebody might trade up and you could possibly drop or you could possibly go higher. We’ve been talking about all those scenarios.
“If you’re saying to me, if I can choose what team I want to play on, as far as my favorite team growing up, then I probably tell you the Cowboys.”
Let the speculation run wild.
Contract negotiations with current Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott are ongoing. It’s rumored that he’s seeking in the ballpark of $30-35 million per year, which many think is highly overpaid, especially considering the $90 million contract Jerry Jones gifted to the team’s workhorse, running back Ezekiel Elliott.
But slap Prescott with the franchise tag in 2020, give Tagovailoa’s hip a full season to heal and learn the offense, then insert him under center in 2021 on a rookie deal? Not a bad idea if you ask me.
“I’m not trying to bump [Dak]. I’ll learn under him. I’d handle it the way that the coaches there want to handle it. Honestly, I just want to be able play again. I wouldn’t mind learning under whatever guy that’s the starter. Give me a whole year to rest up and then go back out and compete, but I just want to go back out and play.”
— Tua Tagovailoa, via Pro Football Talk
This move makes a lot of sense, albeit a tall task for the Cowboys to trade up from the 17th pick of the first round to get him. Dallas could use help in their defensive secondary, and a name like LSU safety Grant Delpit has been thrown around.
Tagovailoa’s posturing for Dallas isn’t his first public statement, as it was recently reported the family does not want him to play for the Detroit Lions, who are seeking a successor to Matthew Stafford. So, what NFL teams really need a quarterback the most, and who makes the most sense for the prized Alabama star?
NFL Teams Who Need Tua Tagovailoa Most
5. Los Angeles Chargers
For starters, keeping Tagovailoa in a warm climate seems obvious. From St. Louis High School in Hawaii to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, he’s never played in a cold climate, and he doesn’t seem willing to do so. The problem for the Chargers, who recently sent 38-year-old Philip Rivers into free agency, is that the team needs a quarterback right now. L.A. seems like a perfect fit for former Oregon Ducks quarterback Justin Herbert, who was a top-five pick last year before returning for his senior season.
If the Chargers were to get Tagovailoa, they’d need a band-aid while he gets healthy, which basically presses pause on their roster for an entire year.
4. Indianapolis Colts
Sitting at No. 13 overall means the Colts are in “No Man’s Land” when it comes to quarterbacks. Names like Utah State’s Jordan Love and Washington’s Jacob Eason are trendy, but neither jump off the page like the trifecta of Burrow, Herbert and Tagovailoa. Confidence in incumbent starter Jacoby Brissett seems shaky, and going quarterback for the Colts seems like a power play for the future.
Put Tagovailoa in a dome and give head coach Frank Reich a smart, decisive quarterback? This isn’t as crazy as it seems.
3. New England Patriots
Every year, the narrative is the same: When will Tom Brady retire? Speculation is he could head west and join either the Chargers or San Francisco 49ers (laugh), but it’s likely he remains in Foxborough to finish his career alongside Bill Belichick. That means if the Patriots — famous for moving around on draft day — slide up from 23rd overall to draft a signal caller, he’ll likely battle Jarrett Stidham as the heir to greatness.
The Tagovailoa family doesn’t seem keen on their son playing in cold weather, but a franchise like New England could change all that for the better.
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jameis Winston isn’t the guy. Sure, he led the NFL in passing yards and finished second in touchdowns in 2019, but that’ll happen when you play in Bruce Arians pass-happy offense. The Buccaneers have Pro Bowl wide receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin in their prime, but they need a quarterback who isn’t going to throw 30 interceptions a season. The rumor is Winston could receive a two-year contract offer from Tampa Bay, which means it’s “prove your worth or we’re moving on.”
Warm weather. A year or two to grow. Quick-hitting offense. Sounds like the perfect storm for Tampa Bay to trade up from 13th overall to land Tagovailoa.
1. Miami Dolphins
For two years, it’s been nothing but “Tank for Tua” in Miami. The most likely landing spot for Alabama’s quarterback has been South Beach since he threw that game-winning touchdown in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game, which means there is no excuse for Miami to miss out on getting him.
The problem is that Miami won five games last year. (Crazy thought, I know.) That slots them in at fifth overall, giving the Detroit Lions at No. 3 all the power in the world. It seems like the team is targeting Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah, but there’s a real chance he’s available a few picks later. If Miami isn’t careful, the Los Angeles Chargers, Carolina Panthers, or another suitor could undercut them and steal Tua at No. 3 on draft day.
The clock is ticking. Tagovailoa made it clear that his childhood team is on his radar, which means just about any NFL team could be in play. The chase is on, and the speculation is only going to get more incredulous as we get closer to April’s NFL Draft.