Dolphins’ Christian Wilkins Linked to AFC Rival Ahead of Free Agency

Christian Wilkins

Getty Christian Wilkins could bolt for rival New England in free agency.

Amid Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Christian Wilkins’ uncertain future, an AFC East rival could snatch him in free agency.

ESPN’s Matt Bowen suggested the New England Patriots as the “best team fit” for Wilkins, who will become a free agent in March unless the Dolphins trade him or give him the franchise tag.

“I expect the Patriots to be active in free agency, and Wilkins has the position versatility to align all over the defensive front,” Bowen wrote. “In 2023, Wilkins had 9 sacks, 35 pressures and 68 tackles in Miami. He would pair nicely with Christian Barmore to give first-year head coach Jerod Mayo two difference-makers on the defensive interior.”

Barmore posted 8.6 sacks and 64 tackles in 2023, but the Patriots lacked an equally dangerous sack threat on the defensive line. The next closest was defensive end Deatrich Wise Jr. amid his 4.5 sacks and 32 tackles last season.

The Patriots are quite familiar with Wilkins, who has 20.5 sacks and 355 tackles plus an interception in his career. Wilkins has played in all 17 games each of the past three years and tallied 3.5 or more sacks along the way. His lone missed games came in 2020 because he tested positive for COVID-19 that year.

Dolphins Could Need to Compete With the Patriots, Others for Christian Wilkins

It will cost a lot for the Dolphins to compete with the Patriots for Wilkins — a projected $20.2 million annually or a 4-year, $80.98 million deal per Spotrac. Wilkins earned $10.75 million on his fifth-year option in 2023 after his initial 4-year, $15.4 million rookie deal.

New England has a whopping $73.9 million in salary cap space, and Mayo claims his team will “burn cash” to rebuild this year. Miami enters the offseason at $51.24 million over the salary cap amid numerous free agent needs.

The Patriots also would bring back Wilkins to his roots. A Massachusetts native, Wilkins became a 5-star recruit for Clemson amid his successful prep career at Framingham and Suffield Academy in Connecticut.

Wilkins caught the Dolphins’ eyes during his time at Clemson where he garnered 16 sacks and 192 tackles in four seasons between 2015 and 2018. The Dolphins drafted Wilkins with the No. 13 pick in 2018 after his two All-American awards and two national titles with Clemson.

Dolphins GM Chris Grier Addressed Christian Wilkins’ Future

Despite the investment in Wilkins, the Dolphins didn’t extend him beyond the 2023 season, which has left his future in question. Dolphins general manager Chris Grier acknowledged his interest in Wilkins but left it open-ended during a January 15 press conference.

“Like we’ve always talked here in the past, our goal is to keep as many good players here as we can. … Christian and I actually had a really good conversation,” Grier told reporters. “I was very happy for him. He bet on himself after a summer of negotiations where we made a couple offers and one we felt very good about, was fair, and he and his representation said as much, but we couldn’t close that gap at the end.”

“So he bet on himself and it paid off for him. I’m very happy for him. So we’ll stay in communication and see where this ends up, but he earned the right to be a free agent. Again, I’m happy for him. We drafted him here, developed him here, and he’s the type of person we’re looking for. So we’ll see what happens,” Grier added.

Read More