The Miami Dolphins have options when it comes to Christian Wilkins in free agency

Wilkins will more than likely get the franchise player tag placed on him between now and March 5, when teams lose the right to use the tag. Miami has several key players set to hit free agency, but none are more important to retain than Wilkins.

Christian Wilkins has not played his last down for the Miami Dolphins. Look for Miami to issue the franchise tag on one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL.
Christian Wilkins has not played his last down for the Miami Dolphins. Look for Miami to issue the franchise tag on one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL. / Brandon Sloter/GettyImages
facebooktwitterreddit

The Miami Dolphins tried their hardest to sign Christian Wilkins to an extension last summer, but things just did not work out. The two sides agreed to postpone talks until the end of the season, but they never materialized.

Why you ask? Because Wilkins has played superbly in the 2023 season and amassed a career high nine sacks which was fifth among fellow defensive tackles. He played on a fifth-year club option and bet that he would have a dominant season, which he did, and will now reap the rewards for his efforts.

"“He bet on himself and it paid off for him,” general manager Chris Grier said at the team’s end-of-season news conference in January. “I’m very happy for him. So we’ll stay in communication and see where this ends up, but he earned the right to be a free agent. Again, I’m happy for him. We drafted him here, developed him here, and he’s the type of person we’re looking for. So we’ll see what happens.”"

Chris Grier, Dolphins General Manager

There are two different types of tags. To understand them, it is very simple. One will cost the Dolphins a lot more money in salary and they would get no compensation if they can't sign him to a long-term contract before the period is over.

This is an exclusive franchise tag, where the Dolphins would pay Wilkins the average of the top five salaries for all defensive lineman, as determined when the free agency period closes.

The other, the transition tag, would pay Wilkins less money, an approximate salary of $20.9 million for one season, with another team being able to beat that and have to compensate Miami with two first-round picks. Miami would also have the right of first refusal and be able to match any team's offer.

By placing the exclusive tag designation on Wilkins, it would give the Dolphins a few months, until mid-July, to sign him to a longer term-deal. That takes away Wilkins' right to negotiate with any other team as if he was truly unrestricted.

If they do not sign him before the period ends, Wilkins would become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2024 season and there is nothing the Dolphins could do to prevent it.

It is assumed that Wilkins would be worth in excess of $20 million per season, based upon the contracts that were signed last season. He would get a modest raise from the contracts signed last season, and while the cap is going up, a bulk of the money will go to quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who is expected to sign a massive extension this summer.