The Miami Dolphins made a couple of trade deadline moves this week, with linebacker Bradley Chubb from the Denver Broncos taking center stage in the deals. The other move, however, could prove to be a key addition to continue to add to an already explosive offense. Miami has found their number one running back in Raheem Mostert but, despite adding Chase Edmonds in the offseason, they have struggled to succeed when Mostert needs a break on the sideline. Edmonds was traded to the Broncos in the Chubb deal, with Miami trading for San Francisco 49ers running back Jeff Wilson, Jr., shortly after that.
How did Wilson to Miami, reuniting him with his former backfield mate in Mostert and his former offensive coordinator in Dolphins’ head coach Mike McDaniel, come together? Earlier this week, 49ers general manager John Lynch discussed the trade and gave some insight into the behind-the-scenes work that went into making the trade.
“Yeah, so Miami, they reached out probably the first time, I don’t know, a week ago. And just kind of conceptually talked about having interest in Jeff,” Lynch explained. “Everything kind of went quiet and we really, as [49ers head coach] Kyle [Shanahan] has communicated with you guys, we were really not looking to move him.”
Lynch explained that he had discussion with Wilson, explaining to him that he was important to the team and that they valued having him on the roster, but that, after the team acquired running back Christian McCaffrey and with running back Elijah Mitchell getting close to returning for a knee injury, they might be able to move him to a team that would have a bigger role for him. Things remained quiet until just before the deadline.
“Miami came hard probably [Monday], but then all the way down to this morning and a fifth is kind of where Kyle and I had it set, and they ended up giving it,” Lynch continued.
Lynch had to call Wilson to inform him of the trade, with Wilson on a plane preparing to fly home to Texas as the 49ers headed into their bye week. “[W]hen I talked to Jeff to tell him he was on the plane going back to Texas, pilot talking and all of that,” Lynch said. “You like doing these things in person, but that was the flow of the of the timing.”
He then turned to Wilson’s reaction to the news, stating, “And at first Jeff was excited. He felt like Miami was a great spot, obviously knows [Dolphis head coach] Mike [McDaniel] and the crew, and then the emotions hit him. I was able to share with him that like, look you’re not only one of my favorite players that I’ve ever had the opportunity to be around, you’re one of my favorite people and I think Jeff feels the same way. Undrafted free agent, who really has been a tremendous story here. His perseverance, coming off countless injuries and playing the way he’s played, and always got a smile on his face. He’s a special player, so tough to do, but we felt like the value, especially in light of what we gave to get Christian was something that that we couldn’t pass up on, so we made the deal.”
Lynch added that, in the course of trade discussions between himself and Dolphins general manager Chris Grier, he did also have a chance to speak with Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel, who left the 49ers’s offensive coordinator position this offseason to assume his role with the Dolphins. Lynch explained, “On one of the last calls I had with Chris Grier, Mike happened to be in the room and [49ers head coach] Kyle [Shanahan] was downstairs, so I said, ‘You guys are ganging up on me.’ One of the things Mike wanted to assure [us] was he knows how special Jeff is to us. He wanted to assure us that he’d take good care of him. Mike’s a great dude and part of this, you have to make decisions that are great for your team, but you also try to take care of guys that have taken care of you. And I think, not saying that Jeff demanded to be traded or anything, but I think given the situation, if we could find the right situation for him, I don’t know if begrudgingly is the right word, but he wanted that opportunity and we found a, I think a really good situation for him, and good for us as well.”
Miami faces the 49ers in Week 13 this year, giving Wilson, and McDaniel, a chance to face off against their former team. Lynch admitted he is happy that Wilson had a chance to continue his career with McDaniel and an offense that should be well suited for the running back’s skills, but he is not always going to be happy about it. “Yeah, except when we play him,” Lynch answered when asked if Wilson going to McDaniel makes him feel a little better of having to trade away a well-liked player. “I don’t feel great about [having to make the trade], but that was part of the deal, but I do, yes. I care greatly about Jeff Wilson. Believe me, that kid’s smile, he lifts me. How many times throughout our years here, he’s a warrior and through some really hard times, that kid, he’s just got a smile that makes everyone feel good and he’s got a fight to him, so I can’t say enough great things about him. I’m proud of him, I’m happy for him and I’m grateful for everything he brought here.”
Wilson, an undrafted free agent out of North Texas in 2018, worked his way from a depth player for the 49ers who appeared in six games as a rookie, to a key part of the team and a started this year. He had 92 carries this season for 468 yards and two touchdowns, part of his career total of 390 carries for 1,733 yards and 15 scores. He is expected to have some role in Sunday’s game for Miami against the Chicago Bears, relying on his familiarity with McDaniel and the offense he runs to speed up the learning curve of a new playbook and a short week of preparation - especially when he expected to be on his bye week this week. Wilson’s role will likely continue to grow throughout the remainder of the season as he feels more comfortable with the Miami offense and develops chemistry with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and the rest of the players.
The good news is, Miami’s bye week is not until Week 11, so Wilson’s off-week plans just have to delayed a few weeks.