Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is heading into the fifth and final season of his rookie contract and will make $23.1 million this coming season. That’s a big raise from last year’s $4.7 million salary but still a far cry from the $50 million or more his newly-signed Class of 2020 counterparts like Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert are now making. So, what’s up with Tua’s new extension? That is still up in the air.

“Our sense is that it truly could go either way,” Mike Florio writes on Pro Football Talk about whether Tagovailoa will get an extension before the 2024 NFL season. “The Dolphins will likely put a last, best offer on the table at some point before the start of camp or the regular season, and Tua will have to decide whether to take it or play for his fifth-year option.”

It seems as though the two sides are at odds about Tagovailoa getting a “market deal,” which would put him in the $50 million or so per season range that Burrow, Herbert, Jared Goff, Trevor Lawrence, Lamar Jackson, and Jalen Hurts are all now in.

Florio believes the Dolphins will put one more $40-something million offer on the table before the season starts and it will be up to the QB whether he takes it or not.

The NFL insider also says, “The wildcard in all of this is whether Tua would refuse to show up unless and until he gets what he wants or close to it.”

For a team with championship aspirations and big veteran contracts on the book, having the starting signal-caller holdout in camp could be disastrous to the upcoming campaign. That said, locking in a quarterback who the front office doesn’t seem to believe is elite to $50 million a season for the next three to five seasons could be just as big a calamity.

As we hit the dog days of the NFL season, pretty much every other AFC contender has their QB situation locked down. So, now the question becomes are the Dolphins willing to play Russian roulette with the most important position in all of sports?

Does Tua Tagovailoa deserve a market-level contract?

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) throws the football during mandatory minicamp at Baptist Health Training Complex.
Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The Tua Tagovailoa contract situation comes down to this: Is the 2020 No. 5 overall pick worth a top-of-the-market deal, and if not, are the Dolphins willing to go to Plan B to avoid paying that kind of money?

Of course, with NFL contracts, it’s never that simple.

The team could let him play on his fifth-year option and then franchise him next year (and the year after that) to save a little money and keep their flexibility from offseason to offseason.

Tagovailoa doesn’t have much leverage unless he’s willing to hold out, which for a player with the injury and concussion history of Tua, does make sense. Playing on one-year deals for the next three seasons is not ideal for a QB who may be one big hit away from retirement.

Now, there is a solid argument to be made that Tagovailoa is not at the level of any of those QBs mentioned above. However, he is coming off his best season in 2023. Last year, he led the league in passing yards (4,624) with a 69.3% completion rate, 29 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions. How much of that is Tua and how much of that is his wildly talented (and fast!) supporting cast? That’s an argument the Dolphins and Tagovailoa’s agents are likely having right now.

More importantly for the Dolphins, what is the Plan B if they draw a hard line on Tua?

It’s hard to imagine currently-rostered quarterbacks Mike White, Skylar Thompson, or Gavin Hardison leading Miami to the same heights Tua could this season.

After that, what do they do next year?

If things go well in 2024, they won’t have a chance to draft a top QB in 2025. Is giving Dak Prescott $50-plus million next offseason any better than Tua? Could Mike McDaniel have the same success with a veteran free-agent journeyman (Sam Darnold, Marcus Mariota, Taylor Heinicke) or a youngster who washed out elsewhere (Justin Fields, Mac Jones, Zach Wilson)?

This is a tough call, but the truth is, this is the going rate to lock up a top 15 (or so) QB (see Daniel Jones).

Not paying a QB because he isn’t quite elite has backfired before. It cost the Dallas Cowboys millions on the last Dak Prescott extension and will again if it doesn’t cost the team the player like it did for the Washington Commanders when the team messed around franchising Kirk Cousins.

Ideally, Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins will come to a compromise in the high 40s and take care of this contract issue before the season starts. If not, the franchise risks tanking the upcoming season based on money.