After an elite quarterback, there may not be a more valuable commodity in the NFL than an elite pass rusher to wreak havoc on opposing offenses. Two years after drafting him 18th overall, the Miami Dolphins may have found one with outside linebacker Jaelan Phillips.
Phillips, the second-year player from the University of Miami, has established himself as one of the best up-and-coming edge rushers in the league. He finished with 61 tackles, 48 quarterback hurries, 19 quarterback hits, seven sacks, and a forced fumble.
According to Pro Football Focus, Phillips’ overall grade of 88.8 overall and pass rush grade of 90.1 are both team highs. Those grades rank him seventh in the league among edge defenders, above other elite pass rushers like Buffalo’s Von Miller, Philadelphia’s Hasson Reddick, and Jacksonville’s Josh Allen.
What makes Phillips even more valuable is his minimal effect on the salary cap. The Dolphins just signed outside linebacker Bradley Chubb to a five-year, $110 million contract after acquiring him from the Denver Broncos at the trade deadline, and defensive tackle Christian Wilkins is also eligible for an extension. In contrast, Phillips is entering year three of his rookie deal and his cap number in 2023 is only around $3.8 million, which is only 1.7 percent of the total cap. With so much money invested in the front seven, Phillips being on his rookie deal gives the Dolphins a little more flexibility.
Phillips’ next step will be to put up the elite counting stats to back up comparisons to the elite pass rushers. The Dolphins haven’t had a defender record double-digit sacks since Cameron Wake had 10.5 in 2017. With a front seven poised to be one of the best in the AFC at pressuring the quarterback, Phillips could be in line for a big 2023.