Analyzing Dolphins player value rankings this offseason
The business of football never truly has an offseason, and March is the time for the NFL combine as well as a countdown to the upcoming storm of transactional activity, league-wide.
While several factors are used for teams to determine who to re-sign, recruit and/or restructure, one potential barometer could be a metric like Spotrac.com’s “Value Ranking” or “TVS.”
As Spotrac explains, TVS is based on a mathematical comparison of a player’s current average salary against their cumulative “production points.” These points are made up of major statistical categories relevant to that player’s position. From there, a z-score is generated for each player within their position groups and ranked with a “true value” score.
Of course, this outside party breakdown is nearly an independent formula, and who knows if Dolphins salary cap guru Brandon Shore is scrolling through the data in his Miami Gardens office, perhaps translating the comparative data to general manager Chris Grier.
The administrative pair work well together at their jobs, similarly to other Dolphins duos, such as the Marks Brothers (Clayton and Duper), Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams and Christian Wilkins and Zach Sieler.
We transition to talking about the Dolphins tag team in the trenches, Sieler and Wilkins.
The Dolphins happen to have a number of players within the top 10 of their respective positions in TVS, and most come to little surprise, as they’re on rookie deals while clearly performing well on the field. They are Jaelan Phillips, Jaylen Waddle, Robert Hunt, and Tua Tagovailoa.
Let’s get back to Wilkins for a moment, as his rookie deal had its fifth-year option picked up last April. Wilkins was Miami’s 13th pick in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft. His performance in his fourth NFL season earned him a TVS of 92.26,
Let’s put this into perspective in raw stats. Wilkins totaled 98 tackles this season, which was the most by any NFL defensive lineman in a season since at least 1994.
Needless to say, the fifth-year option pick-up isn’t just looking like a success, yet Wilkins was miles ahead of any of his peers who were on the field for more than 75% of their defensive end snaps. Starting all 17 games, Wilkins was on the field for 83.26% of Miami’s defensive plays, fourth highest in the league behind Maxx Crosby, Brian Burns and rookie Aiden Hutchinson at the position.
Wilkins earned $3.8 million last season while Crosby pulled in $23.5 million, Burns $3.38 million and Hutchinson $8.92 million. The remarkable aspect of this is Wilkins’ TVS of 92.26, as Crosby’s was 52.05, Burns’ was 63.52 and the young Lion’s was 64.39.
This proves his dominance as well as value, so even the fact he will earn a guaranteed base salary of $10.75 million in 2023, his fifth year, it’s a bargain. He’s clearly in line for a massive extension, and if this metric proves, would be worth every single penny if Miami happens to be counting them.
When it comes to Sieler, he was famously a waiver-wire addition back in 2019, the same year as Wilkins was drafted, ironically. And early offseason rumors have his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, talking potential extension with Miami.
Sieler had a contract extension back in 2020, but in 2023 is when a “payday” is expected. In terms of his 2022 snap count, Sieler finished ninth among defensive tackles at 76.54%. Sieler’s contract last season was for $3.8 million, and his TVS was 80.68 also ninth.
When looking deeper, the average salary last year of those other top eight defensive tackles in snap count was a whopping $13.8 million, including players like Jonathan Allen ($18 million), Dexter Lawrence ($3.3 million), Da’Ron Payne ($3.6 million), and Chris Jones ($20 million).
Among his peers at the position who played over 75% of the snaps, only two defensive tackles had a TVS higher than Sieler’s 80.68. They are New York Giant Dexter Lawrence (98.59) who was a first-round, 17th-overall pick in 2019, and Washington Commander, Da’Ron Payne (88.95) who was the 13th overall pick, and Washington’s first-rounder in 2018.
The proof is in the pounding, and Miami would be wise to plan to pay these men and keep this duo together for the next half-decade.
Another Dolphin TVS to note would be Tua Tagovailoa’s seventh ranking for quarterbacks at 81.60. His “value” was higher in 2022 than Daniel Jones (75.24), Justin Fields (74.47), Justin Herbert (72.45), Trevor Lawrence (72.12) and Tom Brady (63.88.).
Diamond-in-the-rough find undrafted rookie cornerback, Kader Kohou was basically like buying Netflix stock in 2002. His on-field play ranked him 14th in the NFL among all cornerbacks with a TVS of 83.98. His salary is south of $900,000, and he’s signed through the 2024 season, becoming a restricted free agent in 2025.
Wide receivers Waddle and Tyreek Hill are ranked fifth and 14th, respectively. Hill has a TVS of 86.31, and Waddle’s was 95.48, behind only Justin Jefferson, Amon-Ra St. Brown, CeeDee Lamb and Ja’Marr Chase.
Heading into his third season, Jaelan Phillips ($3.5 mllion in 2022) is looking every bit the first-round pick he was from 2021, and has an outside linebacker TVS ranking of sixth, at 87.20.
Of the outside linebackers who played more than 70% of 2022 snaps, just four have higher TVSs than Phillips. Philadelphia Eagle Haason Reddick (87.46 TVS – 73.85% snaps – $15 million), Green Bay Packer Rashan Gary (95.19 TVS – 70.39% snaps – $3.9 million), Pittsburgh Steeler Alex Highsmith (91.73 TVS – 88.46% snaps – $1.1 million), and Dallas Cowboy Micah Parsons (98.11 TVS – 81.12% snaps – $4.2 million).
Helpful in analyzing potential free agents, 32-year-old, and available inside linebacker Bobby Wagner played 99% of the defensive snaps in 2022 for the Los Angeles Rams. He was ranked fifth at inside linebacker in snaps, and ninth in TVS at 86.87. Of all the inside linebackers (17) with over 90% of snaps in 2022, only three had a higher TVS than Wagner.
The ages of those three players are 25, 26 and 27, so Wagner not only is playing as he drank from the fountain of youth recently, he may be worth an expensive flier for Miami to throw his way, and pair with the Dolphins’ new defensive coordinator, Vic Fangio.
It may very well take a lot of work, number-crunching, and living in an Excel spreadsheet, or several, but Shore and Grier could cook the books (in a good way) to ensure this core defensive front will not break up for the foreseeable future.
Mike McDaniel explains why Dolphins fired OL coach Matt Applebaum
Here are all the available free agent cornerbacks in 2023
Sean Payton explains why he wanted Vic Fangio in Denver