The Miami Dolphins are fashioning a very successful 2023 NFL season, but it’s never too early to look ahead to the future, and they may have to face possibly losing Christian Wilkins and Robert Hunt.
The linemen could be among the most coveted players on the market in the upcoming offseason.
Wilkins, a 27-year-old defensive tackle, is ranked as the No. 4 free agent for 2024 by ESPN.
“Enough teams love Wilkins’ versatile game that he will be paid handsomely,” wrote Jeremy Fowler. “Several respected executives consider him a top-10 defensive tackle. Miami and Wilkins’ agent, David Mulugheta, negotiated diligently over the summer but couldn’t agree on a structure. Lack of sack production (11.5 through his first four seasons) loomed large over talks, but he’s pacing for a career-high 8.5 sacks this year, which only strengthens his position. The franchise tag for defensive tackles is around $20.8 million.”
Hunt, a 27-year-old guard, is ranked No. 10 on the ESPN list.
“Hunt’s name has been buzzing in league circles dating back to Week 3,” wrote Fowler. “He has upped his play in Mike McDaniel’s system, emerging as one of the top guards in free agency. McDaniel’s style of offense suits him, using his mobility to block downfield in the running game. To that point, the [San Francisco] 49ers could use guard help.”
This past offseason, it looked like the Dolphins and Wilkins were headed toward a contract extension, but that did not come to pass. To his credit, the Clemson University product did not hold out, and his preparation for the season seems to be paying off. He has 4.5 sacks and 38 combined tackles playing in all nine of Miami’s games.
Hunt has played in eight games this season. The University of Louisiana at Lafayette product sat out Miami’s most recent game on Nov. 5 in Germany against the Kansas City Chiefs because of a hamstring injury.
The Dolphins have had almost two weeks to get over that 21-14 loss, their latest to a team with a winning record. Miami at 6-3 leads the AFC East, but all of its victories have come against teams with losing records. Four of those wins are against some of the worst teams in the NFL this season (two against the New England Patriots and one each against the New York Giants and Carolina Panthers).
Coming off their bye week, the Dolphins are preparing to face the upstart Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday. The Raiders are 5-5 after winning two in a row under interim head coach Antonio Pierce.
Miami still has much to accomplish this season before the organization gets around to addressing the possibility of new contracts for Wilkins and Hunt.
The Dolphins have to make sure they make the most of having the two standout linemen while they are still with them.