The Dolphins traded Minkah Fitzpatrick to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night, fulfilling the second-year defensive back’s trade request and giving Miami a third first-round pick in April’s NFL Draft.
In return for Fitzpatrick, the Steelers relinquished their first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Other picks also were involved, according to a league source. Miami traded a fourth-rounder in 2020 and a seventh-rounder in 2021, while the Steelers traded a fifth-rounder in 2020 and a sixth-rounder in 2021.
That Steelers first-round pick could end up being a good one, because Pittsburgh (0-2) learned on Monday that it will be without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for the remainder of the season because of an elbow injury. Mason Rudolph will replace him.
That means the Dolphins will have three first-round picks, two second-round picks, two third-round picks, no fourth-round pick and two fifth-round picks in April’s draft, as well as two sixth-round picks and a seventh-round pick.
The second of those third-round picks is expected to be a compensatory pick for losing right tackle Ja’Wuan James to Denver in free agency.
Besides the Steelers’ No. 1 pick, the Dolphins also own their own first round pick in April’s draft, as well as Houston’s first-rounder via the Laremy Tunsil trade, which also delivered additional first- and second-round picks to Miami in 2021.
After the Fitzpatrick trade, Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard tweeted a GIF of actor Will Smith looking around an empty room, prompting teammate Davon Godchaux to tweet “You OK?”
But Howard has not asked for a trade. Miami gave Howard a five-year, $75 million extension in May, and management has told him he’s valued.
The Dolphins tried to convince Fitzpatrick to withdraw his trade request, but could not persuade him to change his mind, according to a club source. And Miami ultimately did not want to keep a player who did not want to be here.
Fitzpatrick, selected 11th overall in the 2018 draft, was unhappy about his role since the start of training camp, according to multiple sources. Fitzpatrick said Miami asked him to learn six positions - both safety spots, both cornerback positions and two linebacker spots.
Fitzpatrick said he needed to be at different weights to thrive at certain positions and would have preferred focusing on a couple of positions instead of having his role change significantly each week.
He led the league in passer rating against among all slot cornerbacks as a rookie last season, but the new coaching staff decided not to have him focus on that role specifically.
With Fitzpatrick traded, Reshad Jones - once he returns from an ankle injury - could end up starting opposite Bobby McCain at safety, with Walt Aikens and former Rams practice squad player Stephen Parker also in the mix for playing time on defense.
Fitzpatrick started at safety in Jones’ absence on Sunday against the Patriots.
Jomal Wiltz likely will become the full-time slot cornerback, at least for now, with Howard and Eric Rowe playing on the boundary.
Young cornerbacks Chris Lammons and Ken Webster also got playing time on Sunday.
More than a half dozen teams expressed serious interest in Fitzpatrick, and Miami wanted at least a first-round pick in return.
Dolphins coach Brian Flores was asked directly Monday afternoon if he would like to find a way to keep Fitzpatrick on the Dolphins’ roster. He noticeably did not say “yes.”
“Well, he’s here,” Flores said. “He played well yesterday and we’ll go through the Cowboys tape and find a role how we feel is best for him and the group. I thought he played well and hopefully he continues to play well…. He’s a heck of a player.”
According to ESPN’s Football Power Index, the Steelers’ first-round pick has a 29 percent chance to be in the top five and a 62 percent chance to be in the top 10.
The Steelers’ schedule includes an Oct. 28 Monday night home game against the Dolphins, and a handful of particularly difficult games - including at Cleveland, at Baltimore, at the Chargers and home against the Rams.