It’s time for round two of everyone’s favorite annual offseason series here at The Phinsider!
Until NFL free agency opens on March 18th, myself and the esteemed Phinsider staff will be reviewing impending free agents on the Miami Dolphins roster and will evaluate whether or not the team should retain them, tag them, or let them walk. When front offices decide how to handle their list of free agents, they take a variety of factors into account, including age, production, and value, so we will be doing the same. Today, we continue with longtime special teams standout Walt Aikens.
Do you have a suggestion for our next “Retain, Tag, or Let Walk?” Let me know on Twitter @HierJustin!
Experience: 6th season
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 200 lbs
Expiring Contract: 2-year, $2.7 million ($1.35 million avg.)
As one of the most experienced players on a historically young team last season, Aikens served as the sole special teams captain. Despite Miami’s injury trouble and constant roster turnover, especially in the secondary, Aikens rarely took snaps on defense (he’s listed as a safety on the team’s official roster). On the year, Aikens played in 15 of 16 games and recorded 21 tackles and one pass defense.
Aikens appeared on defense in just seven games and played more than 40% of defensive snaps just twice. That being said, his contributions on special teams have been vital to the team’s success in that phase of the game for several years. His ability as a leader has been palpable as well.
Special teams are an oft-overlooked area of football given that kickoffs and punts are generally the moments when fans get up from the couch to get another beer. That doesn’t mean those plays are any less important than your average 1st-and-10. Aikens is one of the most sure-tacklers on the team, and his position as captain is evidence of both his fellow teammates’ and head coach Brian Flores’ confidence in the six-year vet.
I firmly believe the Dolphins will attempt to re-sign Aikens this offseason. As Flores attempts to further establish his culture in the locker room and on the field, he’ll need players like Aikens to lead the way. The second-year head coach will be relying on his established veterans to bring rookies and free agent acquisitions into the fold.
As a career special teamer, Aikens contract probably won’t need to be all that hefty to keep him in South Florida. His most recent-two year deal was his richest to date.
The most well-known special teams ace in the league is New England Patriots wide receiver Matthew Slater. Slater is a regular Pro Bowler based solely on his ability to track down punts and kick returners. His current contract is a two-year, $5.2 million pact. That’s likely the ceiling for any deal Aikens could receive in free agency.
With general manager Chris Grier set to bring in a plethora of new talent this offseason, Aikens’ spot on the roster isn’t cemented by any measure, but I believe Flores will choose to retain several leaders to establish the foundation upon which he wants to build a perennial contender. Not every player to be retained needs to be a star, and I think Aikens is the type of leader and contributor the Dolphins should keep around for at least another year or two.
My vote: Retain
Note: The “Tag” option is not included for Aikens because he will not be in consideration for the franchise tag.
Should the Dolphins retain Walt Aikens, or let him walk?
This poll is closed