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Dolphins GM Chris Grier on Christian Wilkins, other tough free agency decisions

As the deadline to use the franchise tag on pending unrestricted free agents gets closer, Dolphins general manager Chris Grier said all options are under consideration involving defensive lineman Christian Wilkins.

Wilkins, 28, is set to hit free agency at the start of the new league year on March 13. Miami and Wilkins had discussions on an extension before the start of the 2023 season but could not close the gap. There is a March 5 deadline to use the nonexclusive franchise tag, a one-year deal that would cost a fully guaranteed $22.1 million to keep Wilkins in Miami for the 2024 season. It would also give Miami additional time to work on a new deal, with a mid-July deadline to finalize one.

Grier, speaking at the NFL Scouting Combine on Wednesday, said he will meet with Wilkins’ agent in Indianapolis to continue discussions. Grier did not indicate that the team would use the tag on Wilkins but said they have the cap flexibility if they choose to do so. The Dolphins are currently about $30 million over the cap and will need to become compliant before the start of the new league year.

“I think all options are on the table for us,” he said.

He added: “For us, we know what Christian is, the type of person and player, what he brings to the organization.”

Wilkins played the final year of his rookie deal on the fifth-year option in 2023 and recorded a career-high nine sacks, continuing to establish himself as one of the league’s best defensive tackles. Last offseason, five defensive tackles signed deals averaging $20 million.

Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Christian Wilkins (94) reacts after sacking Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) in the first quarter at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens on Sunday, January 7, 2024.
Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Christian Wilkins (94) reacts after sacking Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) in the first quarter at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens on Sunday, January 7, 2024.

Wilkins is arguably the Dolphins’ top free agent, one of several key contributors who will be eligible to field offers and sign elsewhere starting March 13. For Miami, a franchise that has made big swings to acquire top talent in recent years, this offseason is a critical one for the team to get over the hump of two straight first-round playoff exits.

The offensive line is also expected to be a point of focus, as three starting offensive linemen — right guard Robert Hunt, center Connor Williams and left guard Isaiah Wynn — are all pending unrestricted free agents.

Grier said it’s “definitely a possibility” the Dolphins re-sign all three but suggested that Hunt will test free agency.

“We had some discussions with Robert’s representation in the middle of the season and completely respected his willingness to go to free agency,” Grier said.

On Wynn, who started the season at the starting left guard but sustained a season-ending quad injury in Week 7, Grier said: “Isaiah has been in every day rehabbing in the facility. He said he loved it here. We’ll see if we can get something down there.

Grier also said the team is giving Williams “space and time” to rehab from the season-ending ACL tear he sustained in Week 14. Last week, Williams’ agent suggested that Williams could wait to sign with a team as he focuses on his health.

Miami Dolphins guard Connor Williams (58) is treated after being treated during the game against the Tennessee Titans in the first half at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida on Monday, December 11, 2023.
Miami Dolphins guard Connor Williams (58) is treated after being treated during the game against the Tennessee Titans in the first half at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida on Monday, December 11, 2023.

“We’ll definitely end up having to add some players there at that position,” Grier said of the offensive line.

Grier also said the team has been in touch with outside linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel, another pending unrestricted free agent. Van Ginkel’s agent said last week that there is a mutual interest in a return but that Van Ginkel will have multiple suitors after a career-high six sacks in 2023.

The rise in the NFL’s salary cap, which was set at $255.4 million per team last week, will give the Dolphins more room to work with this offseason. The team has already made cap-saving moves by releasing defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah and informing cornerback Xavien Howard that he will be cut at the start of the new league year. Miami will restructure contracts and make additional cuts to get compliant in the coming weeks. Grier said the bump in the cap was greater than the team projected but it won’t change the overall free agency process.

“At the end of the day, you can’t let that drive your decision still,” Grier said. “It helps but still it’s a player-driven market and stuff. So, you still work through that as you go through it.”