For the Miami Dolphins, one such decision revolves around the future of defensive lineman Christian Wilkins, a core piece of the team's defense and an even larger piece of their locker room.
But when it comes down to brass tacks, the decision isn't that tough at all. The Dolphins shouldn't let Wilkins, who is set to become a free agent, go anywhere. For reasons that extend far beyond the stat sheet, the 2019 first-round pick should call Miami home for the rest of his career.
The Dolphins have tough decisions to make in the coming months, but signing Christian Wilkins shouldn't be one of them.
Pay that man his money.
Leadership That Can't Be QuantifiedMost would say the Dolphins' most important offseason decision is whether to extend quarterback Tua Tagovailoa when they hold all the cards on that choice and can kick the can down the road.
Tagovailoa is signed for the 2024-2025 season. He can be franchised thereafter if the team chooses. By then, the team should have a clearer line on whether Tagovailoa is a true All-Pro leader worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
In Wilkins, those questions have been answered. He is elite at what he does, logging a career-high nine sacks last season, yet he isn't under contract for 2024.
The most valuable thing Wilkins brings to the Dolphins is his embodiment of leadership. He is the main character. He has no problem letting it be known. And he is more than happy to let the other team know about it, as well.
Since entering the league, Wilkins has consistently demonstrated the kind of leadership that builds championship-caliber teams. His influence in the locker room is profound beyond setting a standard for work ethic; he's uniquely talented in using humor and his signature confidence to make others on the team more comfortable in their head space. Hell, he does it for us, and we're just fans.
The Miami Heat is known for its team culture, a key ingredient to its championship success. Wilkins brings that sort of value to the Dolphins in a manner suited for an NFL locker room.
Letting Wilkins leave in free agency would open a huge hole on the defensive line and a massive gap in the team's self-esteem — the latter of which may be harder to fill.
Dynamic DuoLast offseason, Miami solidified its defensive front by re-signing Zach Sieler, ensuring the continuity of the team's defensive line and maintaining the impactful partnership between Sieler and Wilkins. Breaking up a proven and tested duo that could anchor the Dolphins' defense for the next five seasons would be a massive mistake in the name of pinching pennies to spend elsewhere.
One cannot overlook Wilkins' chemistry with Sieler. Their friendship and cohesiveness on and off the field enhance the Dolphins' defensive line in ways that are difficult to replicate.
The pair's ability to work together, predict each other's moves, and create havoc for opposing offenses adds a layer of complexity to the Dolphins' defense. The fact that their personalities mesh well together is a welcome bonus clearly displayed throughout HBO's Hard Knocks.
Beyond the StatsThe most compelling argument for retaining Wilkins lies in his intangible contributions. If the Dolphins are looking at the analytics or stat sheets, they'll vastly undervalue their soon-to-be opponent, who, as it stands, could be on his way to wearing a gold jacket as a member of the NFL Hall of Fame.
Wilkins' demeanor and ability to elevate the play of those around him do not appear on a stat sheet but have an undeniable impact when gameday rolls around. His presence on the field is felt by his teammates and feared by opponents. He brings an energetic confidence that can turn the tide of a game, rallying the Dolphins when they need it most.
Christian Wilkins represents who the Miami Dolphins should want to be and who they often have failed to be.
Keep Wilkins in Miami. Let someone else leave.