Kelly: Holland’s waiting his turn for new Dolphins deal

There is usually a defining moment in an NFL player’s career where [insert name here] learns the game they’ve grown up playing is more of a business than it is a sport.

Maybe it’s a specific player’s release or shakedown, a troublesome injury that cost a veteran his livelihood, or a close teammate, or their own personal experience negotiating a contract that triggers this epiphany.

And this awakening typically occur after a professional’s first two seasons, maybe heading into his fourth season, which coincides with their own push for the coin.

For Jevon Holland it could be watching close friend Christian Wilkins struggle to get a contract extension from the Miami Dolphins last season, and then be thrown into the arms of the Las Vegas Raiders, which provided three-year team captain a four-year, $110 million deal this offseason.

Or, seeing Tua Tagovailoa and his camp struggle to land a multi-year contract extension this summer, which would keep the the quarterback from playing on his fifth-year option, which is worth $23.2 million.

But it might just be Holland’s own negotiations considering he has an expiring contract that will pay him $3.36 million, and negotiations between his camp and General Manager Chris Grier haven’t even begun, according to Holland.

“Jevon (Holland) is a big piece here, and we’ll spend some time talking with him. Excited for him to just get healthy and have a good year here,” Grier said in April. “He’s an important piece and we’ll be talking with him here in the future.”

As much as the focus has been on locking up Tagovailoa, Holland’s extension might be more pressing because his rookie deal expires after this season, and the 24-year-old hasn’t played well enough yet to deserve the franchise tag, which would commit $18.7 million to the former Oregon standout to keep him from reaching the free agent market.

Exposing Holland, a 42-game starter, to the market for open bidding could lead to Wilkins-like exodus, and that’s something the Dolphins can’t afford considering Miami has a long-standing reputation of paying outsiders [other team’s free agents] instead of than taking care of their own.

“Man, [if] Tua ain’t getting it done, I’m not getting it done,” Holland joked when discussing his push for an extension on Tuesdays, after he was one of the team’s few veteran starters participating in the voluntary practice.

Oftentimes, veterans pushing for extensions sit out the voluntary work in the summer because the offseason is the time to do business, and deals typically don’t get done without a little arm twisting. But Holland’s been a full fledged participant all offseason, and he doesn’t plan to change his approach at this moment.

“I’m on the back burner. I don’t know much,” said Holland, who contributed 74 tackles, one interception and forced three fumbles last season. “I just work here. I just work here.”

Unlike Tagovailoa’s potential extension, which would create cap space, a possible deal for Holland’s would likely reduce Miami’s already minuscule cap space. That means the Dolphins must wait till June 1 when $18.5 million becomes available as a result of Xavien Howard’s previous release.

The Dolphins will need a decent portion of that cap space to sign the team’s seven draft picks, but Grier’s priority should be to lock up some of the team’s young talent, before they become too extensive.

Typically, the longer teams wait to take care of a young player who is trending up the more expensive they become, and that could be the case for Holland, whose league wide reputation exceeds his on-field contributions.

“It’s implied that obviously I’m trying to get paid,” said Holland, who missing five games because of the MCL knee sprains he suffered in Miami-s 34-13 win over the New York Jets back in late November.

Holland rehabbed for months, but struggled coming back from that injury.

“I told [my agents] let me know when negotiations start and then [we’ll] go from there, but I’m not gonna let it affect the day to day. Man, I’m just trying to focus on ball. That’s why I got agents so that they can handle that,” Holland said. “I’m not gonna, you know, go up there and negotiate whatnot. It’s really no point [stressing] because nothing I say is gonna end up getting them to pay me faster. I mean, I would hope they want to pay me as fast as possible, but you know, [they have] their process. I’m gonna just keep on doing my thing and focusing on golf and fishing.”

Problem is, Holland can’t ignore what’s happened to the safety market this offseason.

Even though Antonio Winfield Jr. recently got paid, landing a pace-setting, four-year, $84.1 million deal from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a number of NFL starting safeties - talents like Justin Simmons, Jamal Adams, Quandre Diggs, Jordan Poyer, and Rayshawn Jenkins got released this offseason.

And many of them have struggled to find employers. For example, Poyer signed a one-year deal worth $2 million with the Dolphins after Buffalo released the former Pro Bowl safety.

That means Holland has no idea what the safety market will look like in a year.

But for at least one more season Holland knows who his employer is, and his focus is on making the most of this season with the hope it will provide a harvest that soon nourishes his bank account.