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Evaluating the 3 best Malik Willis trade landing spots, including the Miami Dolphins

The Tennessee Titans received significant praise when they selected quarterback Malik Willis with the 86th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. A year later, the general manager that picked Willis is gone and his future in Tennessee is uncertain.

Willis, the 2021 Bobby Bowden Award winner, showed tantalizing potential at Liberty. Despite his smaller frame and a lack of refinement as a passer, he was viewed as one of the top quarterback prospects in the 2022 draft class. After sliding into the third round, the Titans moved up for him.

Related: Tennessee Titans no longer confident in Malik Willis

Tennessee knew that Willis would be a project quarterback, leading to their plan to develop him behind Ryan Tannehill. When Tannehill was injured, the Titans were forced to push Willis into the starting lineup.

The Titans had to completely alter their offense because of the change. Willis completed just 11-of-26 attempts for 135 passing yards in his first two starts, with Tennessee scoring 17 points in each contest.

After Willis struggled in his third start – completing just 14-of-23 attempts for 99 yards – Tennessee signed free-agent quarterback Josh Dobbs. In the mix for a playoff spot, Tennessee immediately threw Dobbs into the starting lineup.

It became clear that the Titans’ coaching staff lacked faith in Willis as a starter. Once Tennessee hired a new general manager, Willis’ future with the organization became bleak. After the Titans selected Will Levis in the second round of the 2023 NFL Draft, even Willis’s private quarterback coach admitted the move didn’t bode well for him.

“I think it’s like getting news that you didn’t want. I think that’s the best way to look at it. You knew there was a possibility they were going to take a quarterback, either in the first round or the first three rounds. … If you’re basing on when you last saw Malik in December, that was a guy the coaches perceived wasn’t ready to play.

Sean McEvoy, Malik Willis’ private coach, on Tennessee Titans drafting Will Levis (H/T The Tennesseean)

Willis is poised to enter training camp third on the depth chart behind Tannehill and Levis. With no long-term future in Tennessee, a trade becomes the best move for both sides.

Evaluating 3 NFL teams that should pursue a Malik Willis trade

Syndication: The Tennessean
Andrew Nelles / Tennessean.com / USA TODAY NETWORK

NFL teams like buying low on young talent, especially when it plays a premium position. Willis remains a long-term project who shouldn’t see the field in 2023, but he still offers a high ceiling. In the right environment, with a patient coaching staff, he could have a brighter future.

Given it won’t cost anything more than a conditional Day 3 pick to acquire Willis, there’s no reason why a wide variety of teams shouldn’t call Tennessee about his availability.

Miami Dolphins

There are few NFL head coaches we’d rather see working with a young quarterback than Mike McDaniel. He played an instrumental role in turning around Tua Tagovailoa and his offense is extremely quarterback-friendly.

Miami could afford to keep Willis as its third-string quarterback, too. If Tagovailoa suffers a long-term injury, Mike White is a proven fill-in starter and that means the Dolphins avoid any scenario where Willis is rushed into action. Instead, he uses the 2023 season to learn from one of the best coaches in the NFL and he can receive some additional guidance from Tagovailoa.

Seattle Seahawks

Many thought the Seattle Seahawks would use the fifth overall pick on a quarterback. Instead, the front office further demonstrated its short-term commitment to Geno Smith by not using any of its 10 picks on a signal-caller. That immediately opens the door for the franchise to pursue a young quarterback via trade.

Related: 2024 NFL Draft picks by team

It’s another ideal landing spot for Willis. He could learn from Geno Smith, the perfect example of a highly-touted quarterback prospect who struggled early in his NFL career before turning things around. In addition to Smith’s veteran leadership and instruction on passing mechanics, Willis could be coached by offensive coordinator Shane Waldron and quarterbacks coach Greg Olson. In a best-case scenario, Willis becomes the long-term starter in Seattle with his speed and arm strength fitting perfectly into their scheme and young core.

Dallas Cowboys

If the Dallas Cowboys are interested in reclamation projects, this would be an excellent opportunity. Dak Prescott is established as the long-term starter, but the Cowboys’ coaching staff clearly has confidence in Cooper Rush to serve as the emergency starter if injury strikes. Once again, that means we have a team that can allow Willis to simply focus on development in 2023.

While Mike McCarthy doesn’t have the best reputation as a head coach, his work with quarterbacks is undeniable. Willis needs to be around a staff that knows how to make young quarterbacks comfortable and excels at teaching. Put Willis in a room with Prescott, McCarthy, Brian Schottenheimer and Scott Tolzien, that’s better than the situation in Tennessee.

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