A few people have asked for some thoughts on a possible Minkah Fitzpatrick trade, following reports that he’s been given permission to seek a move.
Personally I think a deal is unlikely.
For starters, Fitzpatrick has always been a player without a specific position. At Alabama he moved around. He’d play in the slot, at safety. He was a hybrid defensive back best suited to match-up scenarios. He was probably closer to a big nickel than a free safety or full-time nickel corner.
In Miami it’s been no different. According to the ESPN story which broke the news, he’s not happy about that:
Fitzpatrick, who was projected as a cornerback/safety out of Alabama, played three or four different positions against Baltimore. He has been uncomfortable with his constantly fluctuating role on the Dolphins’ defense throughout the offseason.
Given the way Alabama and now the Dolphins have used him as a movable chess piece, perhaps that’s the best way to utilise him?
In Lance Zierlein’s NFL draft profile of Fitzpatrick, he was described as such:
Fitzpatrick has experience as a slot cornerback, but will likely be targeted as a “do-everything” safety who can be deployed as a sub-package linebacker, a blitzer or in the slot against big receivers and move tight ends.
While an anonymous AFC team executive offered the following take:
“He’s not quite on the same level of Jamal Adams when it comes to changing the entire culture of a locker room, but he is just as talented and probably more versatile.”
There’s a constant theme here — ‘versatility’, ‘multiple positions’, ‘do everything’, ‘sub-packages’. Everyone speaks well of his attitude, talent and leadership abilities. Yet sometimes you can be too flexible. A jack of all trades and master of none. Alabama and Miami have both used him in a multitude of ways.
Is a third team going to do things differently? He has decent speed (4.46) but not elite speed or range, short-area quickness is arguably his greatest asset and he lacks the size (6-0, 204lbs) to be a strong safety or handle regular duties if asked to play up at the line.
Going into the draft nearly every conversation about Fitzpatrick was week-to-week you want his role to be flexible. Covering in the slot or playing in a two-safety look or as a big nickel. Match him up with a specific tight end or slot receiver.
The Seahawks need more talent in their secondary and clearly Fitzpatrick is talented. How much are you willing to pay for this type of player though? The Dolphins reportedly want a first round pick. You’re not acquiring an Earl Thomas type here. You’re not even getting Keanu Neal. You’d be getting a plus version of Ugo Amadi. Someone who’s a better athlete but ultimately is a nickel/safety hybrid.
I always thought Fitzpatrick was a bit overrated going into the 2018 draft. In the days leading up to the draft I wrote a piece listing the top six players at every position. I had Derwin James as the #1 safety with Fitzpatrick second and Jessie Bates third. I didn’t think there was much of a gap at all between the three.
If anyone thinks he can be a long term answer for Seattle as a rangy, single-high safety — I’d say that is unlikely. There’s very little evidence of that.
The Seahawks do need an answer at nickel corner. Losing Justin Coleman looks like it could be a bigger deal than many thought at the time. Yet they also seem set to play a lot more orthodox base with Mychal Kendricks playing SAM linebacker. If you trade for Fitzpatrick you’re basically taking Kendricks off the field. If you trade a high pick for a player, they need to be playing a high percentage of snaps.
At the very least they’ll want Kendricks on the field half of the time. Spending a first rounder (or even if it ended up being a second rounder) for a player to play around 50% of the snaps at best just seems like a poor use of resources — even if the Seahawks have a need at nickel corner.
It’s also unclear if Fitzpatrick would even work as a full-time nickel corner. That’s an unknown. It’d be wrong to assume this would solve a problem. When they acquired Jadeveon Clowney we had a good idea on his skill-set and fit due to years of tape. Fitzpatrick has buzzed around different spots at Alabama and Miami. We don’t know what his best position is.
It’s also important to remember they just spent a decent second round pick on Marquise Blair. He’s the tone-setting hitter they want and he also runs in the 4.4’s. If you trade for Fitzpatrick with the intention of using him as a safety you’re just putting a roadblock up for Blair. Not unless you intend to bench Bradley McDougald — which would be silly given he’s one of the best players on the defense.
Fitzpatrick is a name and the perception that he’s an Earl-type free safety will get fans salivating about the prospect of adding him. The reality is somewhat different. Ask yourself this — how much are you willing to pay for a player without a fixed position who might be best at nickel corner at a time when Seattle prefers to use three linebackers?
And what kind of a trade are Miami willing to consider? They’re not desperate to move Fitzpatrick for any specific reason. He’s not holding out like Clowney in Houston. They just dealt Laremy Tunsil for a kings ransom.
The chances are you’d need to pay a top price to acquire a player with a suspicious looking full-time fit in this defense.
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