Christian Wilkins is a franchise player. The Miami Dolphins may not realize it but if they let him walk, they will regret it.
Chris Grier has sent messages to his players over the years with contracts. Some of them have been really good messages. Play at your best, be a team player, give 100% and you will get your money. We saw that with Jerome Baker, Xavien Howard, and Emmanuel Ogbah.
Baker didn't always play up to the contract but he was consistent. Ogbah never came close to the season that got him his contract, and while you can love Howard, his production has gone downhill since his big contract.
I will say it, Christian Wilkins is the best and safest player the Miami Dolphins can invest a big contract in.
Wilkins may not lead the league in sacks or pressures and he may never hit double-digit sack totals. He may not be the best pure defender on the defense over the course of another four or five years but no one will give more effort.
Wilkins isn't playing for money, he plays for the love of football. He plays because he loves his teammates. Wilkins is a vocal leader on the roster, both on offense and defense. You could say he is more of a leader than Tua Tagovailoa. When the Dolphins score, 94 will be there cheering them on.
At no time in his career has Wilkins played for himself. Not a single play. He bet on himself last year when he felt the offer the Miami Dolphins gave him wasn't what he felt he deserved. The Dolphins said they wanted to see more from him and he delivered in 2023. Chris Grier said as much when he told the media that "Wilkins bet on himself and earned the right to hit free agency."
Grier can't come out and say that Wilkins is a priority, it would only serve to drive up the stakes on Wilkins' end. Make no mistake though, Wilkins has to be a priority for this team and Miami needs to pay the salary. They will not get a better player who will never quit on this team than Wilkins.
No matter who pays Wilkins they will get a player who gives 100% every single play he is on the field. He is consistently disruptive and healthy.
Miami has a lot of holes to fill and it will not be easy to get them all filled especially when money gets tied up in a DT but this is a need for Miami and Wilkins' attitude and level of play isn't something you simply plug someone else into and get the same results.
Miami could spend money elsewhere but you don't draft a guy in the first round, who then plays to the level you hoped for, and then let that player walk in free agency because you don't want to pay him. That is the message you do not want to send.
What should Grier do? While I think he should re-sign him, letting test the market under one of the "tags" would allow Miami to match whatever offer Wilkins would receive and as such not have to do the leg work on a new deal.