The Miami Dolphins have built one of the better roster cores in the NFL, especially along the defensive line. They’ve been getting high-level play out of Zach Sieler and Christian Wilkins on a serious bargain for the last couple of seasons, but those days are coming to an end.
When so many of your top players are on rookie or “prove it” deals, it’s easy (maybe “easier”) to build a talented roster. You can acquire players like Tyreek Hill, Jalen Ramsey, and Bradley Chubb without having to worry about fitting them under the cap. When a General Manager really proves his worth is when those rookie and prove-it deals begin to expire.
Keeping the Band Together
The first dominoes to fall in this equation are going to be Sieler and Wilkins. A lot of Dolphins fans are more interested in Christian Wilkins’ future, but I think that is a pretty cut-and-dry case for him. He was a first-round pick by Chris Grier, has averaged 760+ snaps per season, and will be making at least $10+ million to play this year.
On top of all that, he’s been one of the best five to ten interior defenders in the league over the previous two seasons while also being a vocal leader on the team. To me this can all lead to only one conclusion: Wilkins is going to get the bag. He won’t be the highest-paid defensive tackle (that honor belongs to Aaron Donald), but he will get a top-5 contract which means an average yearly salary in the range of $19-$22 million per year.
So what about Sieler?
Things are much more interesting when it comes to Zach Sieler. While you could argue that his level of play has been on par with Wilkins over the past two years, he has a few things working against him. Sieler is a year older and was acquired back in 2019 when the Dolphins claimed him off waivers. It may not make a difference to fans, but General Managers are much more interested in keeping their draft picks around-especially those that occurred in the first round.
If Sieler were to walk in free agency, Grier could just point to the fact that he unearthed this gem off the waiver wire and managed to sign him to a team-friendly deal over the last three years and then proceeded to let him go when he became expensive. It looks totally different if he takes a player in the first round (Wilkins) and then fails to keep him around for his prime playing years.
The other thing that could work against Zach, in this case, is his snap counts since joining the Dolphins. Prior to last year, he was almost a part-time player (never eclipsing 540 snaps). It is worth mentioning that 2022 could throw that out the window completely. He played 874 snaps and was still the disruptive force that Dolphins fans have grown accustomed to seeing.
Why he Should get Paid
I went over all of that because it’s important to consider why the team may avoid just writing a blank check. Zach Sieler is one of my favorite players on the Miami Dolphins and without question one of the most underrated players in the entire NFL. He came into the league as a tweener (about 6’6 290lbs) but has added bulk since joining the Dolphins and is a master of using his length to dominate inside.
Zach Sieler is more than a depth piece. In the last 8 games of 2020, @zachsieler was one of the most productive d-lineman in the NFL. PFF graded him as the 10th best DL in that time frame with 19 solo tackles and 9 TFL's in those contests.— George Forder (@GeorgeForder3) June 22, 2021
One of Grier's best moves. #Finsup pic.twitter.com/uPJ0CvMqLs
Since he put on a Dolphins uniform, he’s been one of the best run defenders in the entire league. He’s been top-10 in defensive stops and run defense grade over the past two seasons among interior defensive linemen (per PFF). It’s easy to see when you break down the film, but it sticks out to casual fans too. That’s because Sieler makes the splash plays when you need them the most. The guy is as game as they come.
Wouldn't be a defensive breakdown without a Zach Sieler play behind the LOS. pic.twitter.com/hdo605YJaf— George Forder (@GeorgeForder3) September 27, 2022
Break out the Checkbook
So if he’s unlikely to get paid like Christian Wilkins, but still has a ton of value, what does a fair Zach Sieler contract look like? Before spit-balling these figures it’s also important to point out that Sieler went and hired Drew Rosenhaus prior to this season. Rosenhaus is widely known as one of the best agents in all of sports but does have a great working relationship with the Dolphins’ organization.
With everything in mind, Sieler should be looking at falling somewhere between being the 10th and 15th highest-paid interior defender coming into next season (2024). That mean’s he is probably looking for a yearly average somewhere in the neighborhood of $14-$18 million dollars. With him being 29 next season, it is likely to be a three or four-year contract extension. If the Dolphins aren’t willing to fork that kind of money over, someone else will (assuming Sieler doesn’t give Miami a discount).
Final Contract Prediction: 4 years $66 million dollars ($30 million guaranteed).
Oh... and Happy Father’s Day!