It was late on Thursday night when news first broke that Miami Dolphins defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick had been given permission to speak with other teams about a trade, and the ensuing #MinkahWatch has taken over football Twitter. Fitzpatrick was growing frustrated with his uncertain role in the defense and Miami’s 59-10 loss on Sunday was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Dolphins have given 2018 1st round pick Minkah Fitzpatrick permission to seek a trade, but they are not actively shopping him. They want a significant return to trade him. Fitzpatrick has been unhappy with his role with defense for months. Story with @mortreport coming shortly.— Cameron Wolfe (@CameronWolfe) September 13, 2019
Minkah Fitzpatrick is coming off his worst NFL game. He believes that's partly b/c of position uncertainty. He played 3-4 positions Sunday, and was told his role would continue to change. He's become increasingly frustrated.— Cameron Wolfe (@CameronWolfe) September 13, 2019
Trade not a guarantee right now but permission given.
It was just a year ago when Fitzpatrick was taken with the 11th overall pick in the draft, which was considered to be a fall for the talented prospect from Alabama. He started 11 games for Miami as a rookie, splitting time between cornerback and safety, and finished with 80 tackles, nine passes defensed, two interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), and didn’t give up a single touchdown in coverage. He showcased some impressive coverage skills through midseason.
So it’s not a real surprise that Fitzpatrick’s sudden availability has virtually every team’s fanbase interested in his services. Jim Nagy, executive director of the Reese’s Senior Bowl, had nothing but glowing reviews about the player:
Minkah Fitzpatrick is one of the cleanest prospects in past decade. If he’s available, this trade should get done today.— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) September 13, 2019
Aside from the great attributes that made Fitzpatrick a can’t-miss prospect in last year’s draft, he is also a tempting trade piece because of his age and price. He’ll turn 23 before the end of the season, and is in the second year of his rookie contract, which includes a fifth-year option. And because of the way his contract is set up, it gives whichever team acquires him a lot of financial flexibility:
The weirdest part of this Minkah Fitzpatrick thing:— Justis Mosqueda (@JuMosq) September 13, 2019
Miami's on the hook for more dead cap in his bonus money than he's owed in new game checks over the next three years.
So they would basically be trading Fitzpatrick on a three-year, $6M contract for the team that lands him.
With that kind of long-term security, it’s no wonder that a lot of teams are interested. As it turns out, the Cowboys are one of those teams that’s at least interested. Stephen Jones confirmed on Friday that they’ve been in contact with Miami, although he didn’t say much else.
The Dolphins are open to trading safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, the 11th overall pick in 2018. Cowboys VP Stephen Jones was just asked on @1053thefan if they have had any communication with the Dolphins in the last 24 hours. Jones said “yeah,” but he wouldn’t comment on specifics— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) September 13, 2019
It’s worth noting that the Cowboys and Dolphins have already made a trade earlier this year when Dallas acquired Robert Quinn. Now, it’s possible the two sides could strike another deal. Since Miami is in the first year of a pretty thorough rebuild, they’re looking to acquire draft picks. While their asking price for Fitzpatrick is reportedly high, Dallas might be able to bring the price tag down a bit by offering a player at a position of desperate need for the Dolphins: edge rusher.
Source says Phins asking for a 1st for M Fitzpatrick but will likely settle for a 2nd.— Benjamin Allbright (@AllbrightNFL) September 13, 2019
A Taco Charlton for Minkah Fitzpatrick-based trade makes sense (DAL would need to add more obviously). MIA needs edge help bad and DAL should be aggressive in the safety market.— Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) September 13, 2019
It was reported on Wednesday that the Cowboys were talking to an unnamed team about potentially trading Taco Charlton for another player. After having an impressive preseason, Charlton made the final 53-man roster but was suspiciously inactive for the season opener against the Giants. It seems as if his limited playing time in Dallas has more to do with his fit with the coaching staff than his actual on-field talent.
That could be enough for Miami to take the bait; similar to Fitzpatrick, Charlton is a former first-round pick with financial flexibility courtesy of his fifth-year option. They’d have the opportunity to try out a promising edge rusher without committing a lot of money on a long term basis.
Of course, Dallas would likely have to pair Taco with either a third- or even second-round pick to sweeten the deal. The option also exists to simply offer up their 2020 first-round pick for Fitzpatrick in a similar transaction to Amari Cooper’s trade last year.
While Fitzpatrick has nowhere near the proven success that Cooper had, there are other similarities. Both were young and talented prospects who were once high draft picks and also happened to both be Alabama alums. While Cooper was billed as the final piece of the Cowboys offense last year, and his addition helped them go on a run to the playoffs, Fitzpatrick could be the guy that completes this defense.
While it’s not exactly clear where Fitzpatrick would fit in Kris Richard’s secondary, his versatility would be ideal. The idea would be to primarily play him at safety next to Xavier Woods, giving the Cowboys two incredibly rangy safeties who are sure tacklers. Fitzpatrick would also have the ability to move into a nickel cornerback role, and could see Dallas pivot towards a higher use of the Big Nickel package, which places three safeties on the field at once.
If the fit is right, and it almost definitely would be given his player profile, then Fitzpatrick could help a defense that gave up 300+ yards to Eli Manning a week ago make the jump into truly elite status. That, combined with Kellen Moore’s exciting offense, would solidify the Cowboys as a heavy Super Bowl favorite.
And if it means giving up what will likely (hopefully) be a very late first-round pick, isn’t that worth it? It was certainly worth it for Cooper a year ago. Whether it’s a first-round pick or a middle-round pick and Taco Charlton, or some other combination we haven’t thought of yet, the Cowboys should exhaust all avenues in an effort to land Fitzpatrick.