Miami Dolphins will have to find money to pay rising stars and contributors

Christian Wilkins Miami Dolphins
Christian Wilkins Miami Dolphins /

The Miami Dolphins don’t have a money problem yet but they will soon enough and it could hit them this off-season when free agency arrives.

As Dolphins fans enter the bye week toking on a cigar with their feet propped up cheering a 7-3 division lead and a glass of champagne toasting the still only undefeated team in NFL history, the future of the Dolphins success could come down to who they can and can’t retain.

Miami spent big in 2022 and that spending didn’t stop until the trade deadline. All things must eventually come to a head and while the NFL salary cap is rather, shall we say, fluid and nearly non-existent, they still have to get more creative to keep players that are either building blocks of the team or players that are rising stars.

Before we jump into the players that Miami may have a hard time re-signing, we have to remember why money is tight. These are deals made this past off-season and the Chubb trade.

Emmanuel Ogbah – re-signed ahead of free agency

  • 2023: Cap – $17.3 million
  • 2024: Cap – $17.8 million

Tyreek Hill -Trade

  • 2023: Cap – $31.2 million
  • 2024: Cap – $24.8 million

Terron Armstead – Free agent

  • 2023 Cap – $20.4 million
  • 2024 Cap – $16.5 million

Bradley Chubb – Trade

  • 2023 Cap – $22.1 million
  • 2024 Cap – $23.2 million

The salary cap will go up and should see some significant change from next year to 2024 but the Dolphins also have money invested in Xavien Howard ($25 million in 2024) and Byron Jones ($18.7 million in 2024) as well as $14 million in 2024 with Jerome Baker. Miami will need to find a way to fit several players into their cap and they won’t be cheap.

Miami Dolphins
Christian Wilkins Miami Dolphins (Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images) /

The Miami Dolphins picked up the 5th year option on Christian Wilkins. That alone will be expensive but Wilkins is proving to be a leader on and off the field and his value to the team is incredible. He continues to get better and is the cheerleader of both the offense and defense.

Wilkins is one of the best players on defense and his presence is noticeable. He can collapse the pocket, sack the quarterback, and is excellent against the run. Wilkins is a player you build your team around and a cornerstone that you have to retain. He is going to be expensive but that is the price you have to pay when players develop the way you expect.

Zach Sieler
Dec 22, 2019; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Miami Dolphins defensive end Zach Sieler (92) celebrates after sacking Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) during the first half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /

Wilkins’ future salary is going to be big and that could create a problem with retaining another must re-sign, Zach Sieler. Sieler is one of the best depth players in the NFL at the defensive line  and in Miami he continues to impress by making big stops when the team needs them. He may not be on the Wilkins level in terms of monetary compensation, but he should get paid well on his next contract, a contract that the Dolphins should make sure is from them.

The good news with Sieler is that he under contract for the 2023 season and Wilkins will be playing on his 5th year option. Miami doesn’t have to sign both this year but getting an extension for one of them will free up time and money to get the other one the following year.

To me, both of these players are absolute must re-sign guys. They play perfectly together and as the Dolphins shift to a more four man front, Wilkins, Sieler, and Raekwon Davis are three of the best and a core that the Dolphins need to keep together.

2024 will be the biggest off-season for the Miami Dolphins in more than a decade in terms of internal retention and it could lead to an expensive off-season and some critical losses.

Jerome Baker, Connor Williams, Christian Wilkins, Zach Sieler, Durham Smythe, Austin Jackson, Robert Hunt, Raekwon Davis, Brandon Jones, Blake Ferguson, and Robert Jones lead the Dolphins 2024 free agent list.

Miami could restructure Baker and extend him between now and the start of the 2023 season. That would give Miami more breathing room cap-wise and keep Baker for another season or two. Miami finally appears to have a developing offensive line so a lot of film study will need to take place between now and then on Hunt, Williams, and Jones. Jones and Hunt shouldn’t be major expenses and Williams is probably going to be reasonable as well.

The money this year, as we said earlier will be on the Dline where all three starters will be free agents.

Miami Dolphins
Nik Needham (40) Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /

In 2023, the Dolphins top players will be Mike Gesicki who is better than 50/50 likely gone in free agency, Nik Needham who will be coming off a season ending injury and likely will play under another one-year deal, and Andrew Van Ginkel shouldn’t be expensive.

Miami’s other 2023 free agents are either replaceable or should be relatively cheap to re-sign. These are guys like Raheem Mostert and newly acquired Jeff Wilson, Melvin Ingram, Brandon Shell, Trent Sherfield, and River Cracraft.

The Dolphins will have options and should be able to retain quite a few of their 2023 players or replace them in free agency.

The next two years for the Dolphins will be critical, especially if they plan to be even moderately active in free agency but the top guys right now are without question, the trio along the defensive front.