Given their cap predicament and his projected pay, the Miami Dolphins will find it tough to retain outstanding defensive tackle Christian Wilkins in 2024.
According to Over the Cap, the Dolphins currently owe $51.898 million. That means that in order to re-sign a possible $20 million-plus free agent like Wilkins, the team must first cut more than $52 million in payroll.
A more feasible option would be to replace Wilkins with a youngster. On February 5, ESPN scouting expert Matt Miller predicted that the Dolphins would pick Illinois defensive tackle Jer’Zhan Newton in the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft.
“Star defensive tackle Christian Wilkins hits free agency this spring, and his replacement could be found at pick No. 21 if Miami doesn’t re-sign him,” he said.
Reasoning: “Newton is a first-step magician who can sneak between blockers or simply run over them. During the regular season, the 6-foot-2, 295-pounder racked up 7.5 sacks while playing several positions on the Illinois front. Newton has the potential to make a Grady Jarrett-like impact at 3-technique in Miami, surrounded by a strong group of defensive ends like Bradley Chubb and Jaelan Phillips.
Jer’Zhan Newton, a two-time All-American disruptor, is being scouted by the Dolphins for 2024
Newton is a four-year contributor who played his whole college career at Illinois.
During that time, the two-time All-American recorded 18.0 sacks and 27.5 tackles for loss in 44 games. He also forced two turnovers, recovered three fumbles, knocked down five passes, and had 187 total tackles.
The Draft Network’s Damian Parson hailed Newton as a “powerful hand striker” who is “extremely disruptive on all three downs.”
As did Bleacher Report scout Matt Holder, who described him as a “disruptive player overall.”
Parson, like Miller, projected Newton as a starting 3-technique interior defensive lineman. “His impact can be felt on both run and passing downs,” the scout stated. “That said, he will be most impactful on passing downs where he can create havoc for opposing quarterbacks and generate pressure up the middle of the OL.”
Holder described the youngster as “strong and stout at the point of attack against the run, stun offensive linemen and stay in his gap.” He also acknowledged his “impressive blend of strength and athleticism.”
“Ultimately, Newton brings a lot to the table as a pass-rusher and run defender to be worthy of a first-round pick,” he concluded on Bleacher Report, comparing him to former New York Jets first-rounder Sheldon Richardson.
On The Draft Network, Parson said Newton is a “Pro Bowl Caliber” prospect.
Matt Miller selects guard with the Dolphins’ second-round pick.
Continuing with Miller’s two-round mock draft on ESPN, the analyst filled another position that might be lost to free agency in 2024.
“Robert Hunt, Connor Williams and Robert Jones all hit free agency this offseason, making it a near-lock that the Dolphins will add a guard or center early in the draft,” Miller wrote.
His selection: Cooper Beebe, G, Kansas State.
“Beebe played left guard at an expert level for Kansas State, but there has been chatter about his potential at center,” the scout said, detailing the pick. “His movement ability in the run game just so happens to be a perfect fit for Mike McDaniel’s offense, too.”
The offensive line will likely be a top priority of Miami’s in 2024. General manager Chris Grier needs to start getting younger — and more cost-effective — at the position group with left tackle Terron Armstead mulling retirement and Williams coming off a torn ACL — if re-signed at center.