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Tua Tagovailoa remains the NFL Draft’s wildcard

Is Joe Burrow to the Bengals really a foregone conclusion? Even if he is, what happens after may get downright nutty.

<p zoompage-fontsize="15" style="">COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 01 Citrus Bowl - Michigan v Alabama

Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The NFL Draft is notorious for misdirection and subterfuge from front offices across the league. Many hold their cards close to the vest, others make wildly varying statements from one day to the next, and still others appear to buy-in to a player before trading down or going a different direction.

The conventional wisdom entering the 2020 NFL Draft is that Cincinnati Bengals will select local product Joe Burrow with the first overall selection. Burrow himself has been operating under that assumption as well, though often appearing lukewarm about the notion. He even made demands of the Bengals during the combine about keeping A.J. Green.

Combined with his fecklessness and his self-confessed limited physical skills, the Bengals could just decide that he’s simply not worth the risk. Cincy has been very tight-lipped (both about Burrow and Green), and is sending scouts to LSU’s Pro Day, Alabama’s Pro Day, and Justin Herbert’s Pro Day. In fact, it may just be Herbert who wins the QB lottery. He had a fantastic combine and may have the best pure physical skill set at the position — he undoubtedly has the biggest arm.

While Burrow is still likely to go with the first overall pick, it is what happens in the picks below that has the potential to create draft-day chaos; the wildcard of Tua Tagovailoa.

For the better part of two years, the assumption has been that Tua will be a Dolphin — the Fish tanked for that express purpose; the roster was cleared out to accumulate draft picks and begin a rebuild with Tua as its centerpiece (and fan incentive to come watch a bad team). But Miami wound up accidentally winning a few games, dropping them to the fifth overall selection. Fortunately for the Dolphins, Tua’s injury and Burrow’s freak season meant that most have suspected for months that Tagovailoa would still be available at the 5th pick.

Following his medical reports and captivating Combine interviews, that’s not necessarily the case any more. If the Dolphins want him, they may have to pay a price.

Safid Deen of the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported Sunday that:

New coach Ron Rivera told Tagovailoa he wants to bring him [Tua] to Washington to compete with second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins during their meeting at the NFL combine.”

In such a scenario, Washington could also trade Haskins. Or Washington could simply be posturing, hoping to engage with quarterback-needy teams eager to draft Tagovailoa in an effort to extract a large bounty of assets in a trade.

This isn’t the most implausible scenario either. There has been much smoke around the Tua-to-the-Redskins since Rivera came on board. Many report that Rivera doesn’t necessarily think that Dwayne Haskins is “his guy” for the long haul.

Then there is the ample speculation around the rebuilding Detroit Lions and Matt Stafford. Stafford has been rumored to have demanded a trade. And, if the Lions are serious about making an on-the-fly rebuild, it would make sense to take Tagovailoa at No. 3. Of course, the speculation that they just might do that is one reason why the Lions haven’t said much on Stafford — besides to strongly deny the rumors. If someone wants to take Tua at 3, or if the Dolphins get antsy, Detroit can extort a pretty nice price out of swapping picks. And, by any calculus, swapping the 5 for the 2 or 3, is a trade that the charts say you make.

Then, you have the many teams below these three that are absolutely thirsty for quarterbacks, and none of them are out of the realm of possibility — the Chargers at No. 6, the Panthers at No. 7, the Jaguars at No. 11 all need a QB. Might the young, explosive staff in Carolina — led by new OC Joe Brady — bring in a new gunslinger to run a Drew Brees-friendly offense? After all, there is one player that is most compared him to — Tua.

So too are quarterbacks in demand in Tampa (14), where Bruce Arians has let Jameis Winston and his three-dozen interceptions test the free agent market. The Raiders (12) need a quarterback, and have been shopping for Brady. But that simply may not happen. Even so, it’s clear that Derek Carr and Chucky don’t mix. Some even see the Raiders’ aggressive GM, Mike Mayock, trading up. It has even been bandied about that Jacoby Brissett is strictly a role player and that Frank Reich would prefer a stronger signal caller for the Colts. Like the teams ahead of the Colts, he would trade up from Indy’s No. 13 pick to get Tua.

This says nothing of the veteran playoff teams with QBs on the bench, where Tua has said he is more than willing to sit and learn — teams in the running for, but that may lose the Brady sweepstakes, the Titans (29) and 49ers (31). Then, of course, there is the dream team where his heart truly lies — the Dallas Cowboys sitting there with the 17th pick and at a salary impasse with Dak Prescott, who is demanding in the neighborhood of $40 million. And, of course, all of these cards fall for half the league after one decision is made: Tom Brady’s next home. Not only is he holding nearly every free agency signing hostage, he is holding draft planning and management captive.

And, if Brady does leave, what do the Patriots do? Bill Belichik has almost certainly had this conversation with best friend, Nick Saban. The Pats don’t ordinarily trade up, but if they lose Brady could it happen? Could a sign-and-trade happen with other Pats’ assets?

But, one thing is certain: For the first time in a long time, the NFL Draft may be compelling viewing. And. as usual, we have Tua to thank for the must-see tv.