Ranking the 10 most important Dolphins free agents they should re-sign

The Miami Dolphins have 29 players on their current roster who are going to be free agents in 2024. Many of the pending free agents played major roles in the regular season and wild-card game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

With the season ending in major disappointment, general manager Chris Grier and head coach Mike McDaniel must look ahead to what the near future holds for the aqua and orange. The team has already been in the news with the departure of defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.

The new NFL calendar begins with free agency opening on March 13. This is a free agency that will contain massive decisions for the Dolphins on offense, defense and special teams.

Here are the top 10 most important pending free agents that the Dolphins should consider re-signing.

DL Christian Wilkins

Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Wilkins is, without a doubt, the biggest name amongst the Dolphins pending free agents. Wilkins had his best season by far in the final year of his rookie deal. He recorded career bests nine sacks and 23 QB hits. He started in all 17 games and was a consistent force both against the quarterback and running game.

The Dolphins have a tough decision about what to do with Wilkins. He is a player who is in position to earn a big contract offer following another standout season. There is a possibility that the Dolphins franchise tag Wilkins on a one-year deal, which would indicate the Dolphins are considering trading him.

Either way, Wilkins is going to cost a lot of salary cap space if he is to be brought back. It is without a doubt the biggest immediate decision for Grier this offseason. It will be hard to see a former first-round pick, who has gotten better each year of his career, play for another team.

The Dolphins defense ranked third in the NFL with 56 sacks. If Wilkins is not retained, this ranking will almost certainly not be duplicated. The duo of Wilkins and Zach Sieler on the defensive line was dominant. If there is a defensive tackle duo who both deserve big contracts, it’s easily Wilkins and Sieler. Hopefully, the Dolphins are able to strike a deal with one of their best defensive players.

C Connor Williams

Mandatory Credit: Jim Rassol/The Palm Beach Post/USA Today Network
Mandatory Credit: Jim Rassol/The Palm Beach Post/USA Today Network

Williams was arguably the most valuable player on the Dolphins offensive line before suffering a torn ACL against the Titans in Week 14. Pro Football Focus ranked Williams as the second-best center in the NFL only behind Detroit’s Frank Ragnow.

The Dolphins’ numbers were drastically worse without Williams in the lineup. In the nine games Williams played, the Dolphins posted a 7-2 record while the offensive line allowed just eight sacks. The nine games without Williams consisted of a 4-5 record while the offensive line allowed 25 sacks. The Dolphins averaged 34.2 points with Williams active, and 22.9 with him inactive.

The way Miami’s season played out indicates Williams is an imperative piece for maintaining the Dolphins’ success offensively. The team has been building an offense loaded with superstar skill players for too long to allow Williams to walk.

The ACL injury could not have come at a worse time for Williams because it came in a contact year. Hopefully the Dolphins can find a deal which benefits both the team and Williams moving forward. If Williams is not brought back, Liam Eichenberg will likely assume the starting center position ahead of OTAs.

LB Andrew Van Ginkel

(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Van Ginkel had unquestionably his best season in 2023 for the Dolphins. He totaled a career-high six sacks. He stepped up big after the Jaelan Phillips injury. Van Ginkel proved to be effective both in the pass rush and stopping the run.

The question now is what will the Dolphins do with Van Ginkel? His agent Drew Rosenhaus has made it known the linebacker wants to stay with the Dolphins. He will cost significantly more than his last contract of $2.65 million. But he is an immediate fit who appears to have his best football ahead of him.

Linebackers Jaelan Phillips and Bradley Chubb suffered serious injuries late in the season. It is possible that they will not be ready for the start of next season, making Van Ginkel’s role on the defense more important heading into next season. Van Ginkel showed a willingness to embrace any role he needed to play, and he exceeded all expectations.

Cap space will play a huge factor on the type of contract Van Ginkel will be offered. The decision on Wilkins will likely impact how much the Dolphins will be able to pay Van Ginkel.

RG Robert Hunt

Mandatory Credit: Andres Leiva/Palm Beach Post/USA Today Network
Mandatory Credit: Andres Leiva/Palm Beach Post/USA Today Network

Hunt enters a favorable free agency. He was one of the Dolphins’ best offensive linemen last season, especially in the running game. The offensive line is a major question for the Dolphins at all three positions.

This is not a good position to be in for an offensive-minded team. If Hunt is not brought back, the Dolphins will have a clear need at guard ahead of free agency and the draft.

The most enticing factor about re-signing Hunt is his durability. Aside from this past season, Hunt has been successful in staying healthy in his young career. A hamstring injury forced Hunt to miss six games late in the season but was able to return to the lineup for the final regular season game against Buffalo, and wild card loss to Kansas City.

It is going to be tough for Miami to re-sign Hunt amid all the other decisions that need to be made. Hunt, at 27 years old and entering his fifth season, is in position to have some offers coming his way.

Pro Football Focus ranked Hunt as the second-best free agent guard when there are about 7-8 teams who need guards for next season. The Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans are three teams in the AFC who could try to target Hunt due to need at guard.

OT Kendall Lamm

(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

In his ninth NFL season and second with the Dolphins, Lamm was active in every game for the first time. Lamm started eight games for the Dolphins in 2023 as starting tackle Terron Armstead battled injuries.

Tackle is a position the Dolphins have some work to do with. They successfully reached an extension with Austin Jackson during the season, and now face the decision on what to do with Lamm.

Terron Armstead’s injury history makes it more important for the Dolphins to keep Lamm around. Lamm is a good depth piece for the Dolphins considering the injury history of Armstead, who even hinted at a potential retirement. If Lamm is brought back, he will again play a significant role in the rotation.

Lamm might be an easier player to bring back than Hunt since many of the teams who need tackles will be looking for them in the upcoming draft which is deep at tackle. In the event Lamm is not brought back, the Dolphins should definitely be scouting tackles for the upcoming draft.

S DeShon Elliott

(Photo by Rich Storry/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rich Storry/Getty Images)

Elliott is coming off a one-year deal worth $1.77 million. The question now stands what the market is for Elliott and will the Dolphins agree to his asking price?

Elliott ranked second on the Dolphins in total tackles with 82. He fit well with fellow safety Jevon Holland in the lineup. Elliott did have some coverage issues in 2023, but the entire secondary struggled with injuries the entire season. He also might fare better in a different defensive scheme following the departure of defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.

Pro Football Focus ranks Elliott as the 10th-best safety to enter free agency. Safeties such as Antoine Winfield Jr and Xavier McKinney will likely get signed before Elliott which hopefully gives the Dolphins time to make decisions about Wilkins and the offensive line before worrying about Elliott.

The Dolphins unfortunately did not get to see a fully healthy secondary during the season, which might have contributed to Elliott’s struggles in coverage. Cornerback Jalen Ramsey missed time to start the season. The beat-up secondary remained constant as cornerback Xavien Howard and safety Jevon Holland missed time late in the season.

If Elliott is to be brought back, it will hopefully be on a team-friendly deal. There is a potential market for a player like Elliott that could force his asking price to exceed what the Dolphins are willing to pay. It will be interesting to see if a second year in the aqua and orange is plausible for the former sixth-round pick.

DL Raekwon Davis

(Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images)
(Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images)

Davis enters free agency after suiting up for all 17 games for the Dolphins, starting in seven of them. Davis is likely not high on the priority list for Grier and the front office, but he is a good option in case Wilkins ends up elsewhere.

Davis has been a good player for the Miami defense, but certainly not a star. It will be tough for the Dolphins to retain all of their defensive linemen from a year ago due to all the other needs on the offensive line and defensive secondary. With Sieler already set to make $10 million in 2024, it is unlikely Davis will be brought back if Wilkins is given a new contact or the franchise tag.

The decision about Wilkins will likely happen before the decision on Davis. If Wilkins is indeed brought back, there probably wouldn’t be much of a point to keeping Davis unless it’s on a team-friendly deal.

Davis would be a solid fallback option in the event Miami is unable to strike a deal or franchise tag Wilkins. However, losing Wilkins will almost certainly be a downgrade at defensive line no matter who replaces him in the lineup.

OL Isaiah Wynn

(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Wynn enters free agency after a one-year, $2.3 million deal with the Dolphins in 2023. Wynn, a former first-round pick, played his first four seasons in New England.

Wynn started the first seven games for the Dolphins before suffering a quad injury that ended his season. The Miami offensive line at full strength with Wynn in the offense helped quarterback Tua Tagovailoa play at an MVP level to start the season.

The Dolphins will have difficulty bringing back Robert Hunt, which makes the re-signing of Wynn more imperative. The offensive line is not a group any team wants to have heavy turnover. Unfortunately for the Dolphins, turnover at the offensive line seems inevitable unless alternative sacrifices are made.

If Hunt finds himself a new home, it would be in the Dolphins’ best interest to secure Wynn and look for help at the guard position during free agency and the draft.

WR Braxton Berrios

(Photo by Rich Storry/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rich Storry/Getty Images)

Berrios has finished a one-year, $3.5 million contract with the Dolphins after spending his first four seasons with the New York Jets. The situation with Berrios is interesting due to him being a multi-skilled player.

The Dolphins currently have five wide receivers set to hit free agency. Berrios, Cedrick Wilson Jr., River Cracraft, Robbie Chosen and Chase Claypool are all set for potential new destinations in 2024. With wideouts Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle already on the roster, the Dolphins are in search of a consistent third target for Tagovailoa. If they were to bring one of the five back, Berrios would be the best choice.

Berrios’ receiving numbers last season do not jump off the page with 27 catches for 238 yards and just one touchdown. However, the important stat to take note of is Berrios caught 81.8% of his targets in 2023 which was best among the Miami receivers. A third receiver should be as sure-handed as possible.

Berrios is also a capable kickoff and punt returner. It is obvious running back De’Von Achane’s talent is far too valuable to be a full-time return man. Berrios is more than capable of shouldering the load as a former first-team all-pro kick returner.

If Berrios is given a second season with the Dolphins, he could potentially make a bigger impact on the offense, especially if none of the other free-agent wideouts are brought back.

S Brandon Jones

(Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images)
(Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images)

Jones was a solid rotational piece for the Miami defense while fellow safeties Holland and Elliott battled injuries. Jones looked good when his name was called upon, recording two interceptions in a season for the first time in his career.

While his production was limited, he showed signs of being an effective playmaker. A new defensive scheme might assist Jones’ performance if he is brought back.

Jones could see an increased role on the defense if Elliott is not re-signed. Jones will likely be an inexpensive keep at a position Miami is a tad light on heading into free agency.

Story originally appeared on Dolphins Wire