Dolphins Offered Christian Wilkins Top-10 DT AAV, Still Trying To Strike Deal

Christian Wilkins‘ bet on himself is close to producing a big payoff. The Ravens taking Justin Madubuike off the free agency board will benefit the Dolphins defensive tackle, who already saw a host of his 2019 DT draft classmates steer clear of the market via 2023 extensions.

The Dolphins’ exclusive negotiating rights with Wilkins expire in less than a week, and while it will be hard for the team to keep the five-year veteran off the market at this juncture, the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson indicates it is still trying. Though, the parties have been negotiating off and on for more than eight months. Sorting through cap issues, the Dolphins declined to use their franchise tag on Wilkins before today’s deadline.

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During the talks last year, the Dolphins offered Wilkins a deal that would have paid him a top-10 D-tackle salary, Jackson adds. The team’s proposal included more than $40MM guaranteed. It is likely that $40MM sum represents the money guaranteed in total, rather than at signing, as only six DTs are tied to deals with that much locked in at signing. Jackson adds the Dolphins’ Wilkins offer came in significantly higher than Zach Sieler‘s $10MM-AAV extension. If the AAV came in within the top 10 at the position, Miami’s offer would have been north of Kenny Clark‘s $17.5MM-per-year accord.

Considering the deals that set the non-Aaron Donald market last year, it is understandable why Wilkins balked at an offer that may not have been in line with those 2019 draft classmates Quinnen Williams, Dexter Lawrence and Jeffery Simmons received. The issue of Wilkins’ sack production hovered during these negotiations.

Although the Clemson alum had been regarded as one of the NFL’s best run-defending DTs in prior years, he had totaled just 11.5 sacks through four seasons. He posted nine last season. The Dolphins may well have used the Bills’ extension for fellow 2019 first-rounder Ed Oliver — $17MM per year, $45MM guaranteed in total, $24.5MM fully guaranteed — as a closer comp than the Williams-Lawrence-Simmons-Daron Payne group. That foursome each received between $22.5MM and $24MM per year and between $46MM and $47.8MM fully guaranteed. Wilkins may soon strike a similar deal.

Miami has been creating cap space in recent days, cutting Baker and Emmanuel Ogbah. The team also is set to designate Xavien Howard as a post-June 1 release. Prior to the Howard cut, the Dolphins are more than $18MM over the cap. That will make affording Wilkins’ second contract difficult. If the Chiefs can pull off a Chris Jones re-signing before the legal tampering period begins March 11, the runway will be clear for Wilkins as DT-needy teams prepare their offers.

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