Ex-executives say what Dolphins should do with Tagovailoa. And Fins free agent rankings

Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins are expected to try to work out a multiyear contract this offseason; both sides are interested in achieving that. Tagovailoa has said he expects it to happen. If it doesn’t, he would play next season on his $23.1 million fifth-year option.

Commentators who say it’s a bad idea to extend Tagovailoa usually look at from the Dolphins perspective, pointing out that going year-to-year with Tagovailoa - at least for another season or two - offers Miami some protection if he regresses or is injured next season.

But ESPN’s Mike Tannenbaum, the former Dolphins’ executive vice president, said delaying a new contract by a year makes sense in his view for both sides, not just the Dolphins.

“This is a rare situation where both sides may benefit from doing nothing,” Tannenbaum said. “From Miami’s perspective, you get another year to make sure he can get through 17 games, which to his credit, he was able to do.

“From Tua’s perspective, if I had to take a B, B plus deal, $35 to $40 million on average per year, I would rather bet on myself, get through 17 more games, then go to the top of the market, which is $60 million. This is a rare situation where both sides can look at each other and say, ‘Let’s come back to this in a year.’”

▪ ESPN analyst and former Washington and Philadelphia personnel executive Louis Riddick, on ‘Get Up’ on Tuesday: “I think they should pay him. And it doesn’t have to be top of the market money. Obviously in the $40 million per year range is what it should and will come in at...

“There are a lot of things you can pick on Tua about. We know what his deficiencies are. We know what his strengths are... They are going to be just fine with Tua. I think they should commit to him long-term.”

ESPN commentator and former NFL linebacker Bart Scott then asked: “Why should Tua take less than Dak Prescott? You could make the argument Tua is just as good as Dak Prescott.”

Prescott currently averages $40 million per season and reporter Jordan Schultz said this week that his new deal could approach $60 million annually.

Responded Riddick: “I’m saying $40 million per year is probably the floor for Tua, where it starts. I’m not saying where that ultimately ends up. Mike McDaniel is exactly what Tua needed.”


Pro Football Focus rated the top 200 free agents in this 2024 class, and six Dolphins cracked the top 150.

Their ranking and a snippet of PFF’s comment about each:

▪ Christian Wilkins (seventh overall):

“Wilkins hoped to get an extension done before the 2023 season but hasn’t let the lack of one amid many at the position slow him down. Wilkins is as good a run defender as any interior defensive lineman in the NFL, setting career highs in every pass-rushing category — including pass-rush win rate, pressure rate, sacks, quarterback hits and pressures.”

The Dolphins have a March 5 deadline if they want to place the $19 million franchise tag on Wilkins. But doing so would require the Dolphins to go from $51 million over the cap to $20 million under.

▪ Guard Robert Hunt (27th overall):

“It came as a bit of a surprise that Hunt was not the young Dolphins offensive lineman agreeing to terms on an extension before the season concluded, but it could also be a signal that Hunt knows he can command a strong contract on the open market with a large sample size of good play.

“At 6-foot-6 and 335 pounds, Hunt got his NFL start at tackle, lining up on either side in his rookie season and holding up admirably. He has found a home for the past three seasons at right guard and has been a great fit in the team’s zone rushing attack under head coach Mike McDaniel.”

▪ Center Connor Williams (37th overall):

Williams started his career with the Cowboys at left guard and has blossomed in Miami at center, thriving as a run-blocker in Mike McDaniel’s zone-blocking scheme where he’s able to quickly get to the second level and lead the way.

“While he doesn’t have the world’s strongest anchor in a phone booth, his fast first step off the line enables him to seal off defenders on the backside of runs by getting in position.

Williams unfortunately suffered a torn ACL in Week 14, which will negatively impact his free agent market as his recovery process coincides with the beginning of free agency in March.”

▪ Linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel (59th overall):

“Van Ginkel has been a productive player in a rotational capacity but is now looking to take advantage of a larger opportunity to close out the 2023 season following the Jaelan Phillips loss. Van Ginkel makes up for a slender frame and shorter arms with good burst off the line and plus movement ability in space, but he can get swallowed up by blockers. When he does get a free release upfield, he’ll make the play more often than not in the backfield.”

▪ Defensive tackle Raekwon Davis (120th): “The big nose tackle can have a delayed get-off and tends to cede ground in the run game more often than you’d like to see, often standing up too upright — which is understandable at 6-foot-7 — and not having a low enough pad level to anchor and drive. Nonetheless, there are still flashes here and there of what made Davis a second-round selection.”

▪ Safety DeShon Elliott (135th): “Elliott has solid range as a free safety and is a reliable last line of defense as a sound tackler in the run game, even if he may not always come up to make defensive stops consistently. Elliott played some nickel and more down in the box in past seasons, as well. He is a master of none but solid at everything.

Here’s the full PFF top 200 list.

Meanwhile, the 33rd Team - a football think-tank web site - rated Wilkins the No. 5 free agent in football, with this comment:

“Christian Wilkins is one of the most disruptive players on the interior. He was a run vacuum in 2022 with a league-leading 78 positive tackles and a tackle on 22 percent of his run defense snaps. Wilkins added pass rush to that in 2023 when he ranked 13th in pass rush win rate. He can play anywhere from nose tackle to the edge, where he had 27 percent of his snaps in 2023. Few players can change the structure of a defensive line like Wilkins.”

Williams was rated 31st, Hunt 34th and Van Ginkel 50th.

Here’s my Tuesday piece with news on Xavien Howard and Dolphins cornerback options.

Here’s my Tuesday media column with Mike Tannenbaum’s Jaylen Waddle trade suggestion.