Manic Monday in Miami as Dolphins lose four starters to huge contracts

Dolphins also get salary cap in order for 2024 ahead of Wednesday deadline by restructuring five contracts; sign new center and two inside linebackers

Aaron Brewer, formerly of the Tennessee Titans, agreed to a three-year deal with the Miami Dolphins on Monday night.
Aaron Brewer, formerly of the Tennessee Titans, agreed to a three-year deal with the Miami Dolphins on Monday night. / Joe Sargent/GettyImages
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It was not a good start to free agency for the Miami Dolphins.

Free agency gutted the Miami Dolphins on Monday as they lost four star players who agreed to massive contracts with other teams. The Dolphins countered with three additions of their own. Miami also restructured five veteran contracts to get under the salary cap number of $255.4 million in advance of Wednesday's league mandated deadline at 4 pm EST.

As a result of losing the four key players to big deals, Miami stands to receive up to four compensatory picks in the 2025 NFL Draft. It's a small consolation prize for losing some of your defense's best players. It does not appear as though Miami will offer contracts of those significant figures for any player in free agency, so the compensatory picks should be secure.

Christian Wilkins leaves Miami for Las Vegas and agreed to terms with the Raiders on a four-year pact, worth up to $110 million, with $84.75 guaranteed. Miami tried previously to keep Wilkins as they negotiated throughout last season, but they could not get Wilkins to accept an annual average value of $20 million. The team with the Raiders has an annual average value of $27.5 million. Nevada, like Florida, has no state income tax.

Safety Brandon Jones, who was serviceable, but not great by any means, agreed to a three-year deal with the Denver Broncos that is worth up to $22.5 million over the duration of the contract. Jones is one of the better blitzing safeties in the league, but is not the most reliable in pass coverage. He got beat last season for some big plays.

Miami did try to get him to agree to terms before free agency started, but the negotiations broke down before a deal could have been reached. Jones was a third-round pick of the Dolphins and made 30 starts while appearing in 54 games. He finishes his career in Miami with 238 tackles, eight sacks and three interceptions.

The third player that the defense lost was probably the one with the deepest cut. Andrew Van Ginkel, who had an interest in staying in Miami, was gobbled up by the Minnesota Vikings as he agreed to a two-year deal worth $20 million, with $14 million guaranteed. Van Ginkel became an edge rusher who excelled once Jaelan Phillips went out with a torn Achilles tendon. He had a career high six sacks in 2023 and reunites with the coach that drafted him out of Wisconsin, Brian Flores, who is the Vikings defensive coordinator,

Miami also waived starting cornerback Xavien Howard and middle linebacker Jerome Baker last week in cost cutting moves. That makes five starters leaving the Dolphins in the span of a week and it appears as though new defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver will be starting his tenure with a new defense.

The Dolphins also lost right guard Robert Hunt to the Carolina Panthers. Hunt agreed to a five-year deal worth in excess of $100 million with $63 million of said sum being guaranteed. Miami desperately wanted to keep Hunt and solidify the interior offensive line, but they knew that they could not compete with those types of numbers.

Miami did sign restricted free agent Robert Jones on Sunday night who backed up Hunt and quite possibly will be his replacement. Jones will compete with Lester Cotton in training camp for the starting nod, depending on how the balance of free agency and the NFL Draft work out.