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GM Chris Grier constantly sets up Dolphins for future

Chris Grier owns the future.

He is the king of tomorrow.

The Miami Dolphins general manager occasionally might be criticized for his handling of free agency or the draft, but he he keeps everyone interested in what is on the horizon better than anyone.

Some people live in the moment.

Grier so far during his tenure as the Dolphins GM has been living in moments a year or two in the future.

We saw that before this draft. We saw that during this draft. We’ve seen it for years now.

During the 2021 NFL draft that concluded Saturday afternoon, Grier traded out of his fifth-round pick — Miami’s highest pick of the day — to get a fourth-round pick in 2022.

And, frankly, that’s a pretty cool move on its face because a fourth-round pick is typically more valuable than a fifth-rounder — even if you have to wait a year for it.

During this draft Grier also selected players that suddenly have us looking at the future.

The addition of tight end Hunter Long in the third round feels like a good pick because the Boston College favorite of coach Brian Flores is almost immediately the most complete tight end on the roster.

He’s not a dynamic leaper with an amazing catch radius like Mike Gesicki.

He’s not an outstanding blocker like Durham Smythe.

But with a little development, Long has the potential to catch the ball and block in combination better than either of the other two.

And you know what that does? It raises questions about the future of those other two.

Because Gesicki and Smythe — Grier’s second- and third-round picks in 2018 — are coming up on contract years. And this Grier pick makes it all but certain the Dolphins won’t be keeping both his past picks because there simply isn’t enough room to play, much less pay, everybody.

Now look at second-round pick Jevon Holland. He is also a Flores favorite because of the many versatile things the coach and defensive coordinator Josh Boyer are going to dream up for how to use Holland.

Years ago, Minkah Fitzpatrick called himself a “Swiss army knife” for all the various various jobs he could do with his many tools. Holland might be similar in that regard and do that fairly soon.

But Grier once again has us looking to tomorrow with this pick because it means somebody else is probably out of here. The Dolphins already had a significant investment at the safety position with Bobby McCain, Eric Rowe and Brandon Jones.

Holland’s presence makes that investment unsustainable for very much longer. So Grier’s got us looking to the future to see who stays and who goes.

Before this draft, I remind you, Grier decided the future was more important to him than the present.

Because he traded out of the No. 3 overall pick and to the No. 6 overall pick in order to net himself a third-round pick in 2022 and a first-round pick in 2023.

So Grier knowingly decided Jaylen Waddle, a third-round pick next year, and a first-rounder in two years was better than having Florida tight end Kyle Pitts or LSU receiver Ja’Marr Chase.

Grier effectively chose a good but nonetheless inferior prospect now in order to have the extra premium picks a year or two from now.

Choosing tomorrow over today.

Ever since Dolphins owner Stephen Ross handed him the keys to the football side of the organization, Grier has had his eyes on the prize of making the Dolphins great again.

But the prize and that greatness have always been off in the horizon.

Grier tore down a mediocre team — that he helped build, by the way — in 2019. That was done with the future in mind.

Part of that demolition included trading away good, young players such as Laremy Tunsil and Fitzpatrick already on the Dolphins roster for the promise of future draft picks.

To be clear: That is rarely done because most general managers decline to trade certainty now for the promise of something good in the future.

But Grier embraced the future and made the moves within days of each other in 2019.

I thought the Dolphins were beyond the foundation building stage in 2020 because Grier spent more free agency money than any other team to bring in established, accomplished veterans to South Florida.

But half of those 2020 free agents the Dolphins signed are gone one year later.

So we’re left thinking about the future again.

Because maybe first-round pick Jaelan Phillips develops into a good replacement to do what established players Kyle Van Noy and Shaq Lawson were supposed to do.

Because maybe the Dolphins eventually find a running back to do what Jordan Howard and Matt Brieda, who came in a trade, were supposed to do.

Because maybe Matt Skura can be the answer at center Ted Karras apparently wasn’t. And if Skura isn’t the answer, he’ll also get replaced in the future because the contract commitment to him is only for one year.

So the Dolphins might be looking to find a starting center again when?

In the future.

And now consider today’s Dolphins roster:

The Dolphins are hoping Tua Tagovailoa can become their quarterback of the future.

They’re hoping Austin Jackson can become their left tackle of the future.

They’re hoping Robert Hunt and Solomon Kindley can become their guards of the future.

They’re hoping linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel develops into an accomplished full-time defender.

They’re hoping former first-round pick Christian Wilkins finally develops into an impact defensive lineman.

This team has the market cornered on hope for the future. But it also dominates in uncertainty for the future.

A glass-half-full view of the situation would argue the Dolphins could have a great future ahead.

Because Grier has placed a huge bet on that future.

But a realist understands that at some point it cannot be about the future any more.

At some point, a team that has not made the playoffs in five years and not at all under Grier and Flores, has to produce excitement about what is happening now instead of what might happen in the years ahead.

At some point the Dolphins have to stop selling their fans a promise of a great future and make their fans want the tangible results before their eyes.

That would be a great present.

Armando Salguero has covered the Miami Dolphins and the NFL since 1990, so longer than many players on the current roster have been alive and since many coaches on the team were in middle school. He was a 2016 APSE Top 3 columnist nationwide. He is one of 48 Pro Football Hall of Fame voters. He is an Associated Press All-Pro and awards voter. He’s covered Dolphins games in London, Berlin, Mexico City and Tokyo. He has covered 25 Super Bowls, the NBA Finals, and the Olympics.

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