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Dolphins’ McDaniel discusses Tua, Wilkins contract talks

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                                Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) runs up field with the ball on Jan. 13.


    Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) runs up field with the ball on Jan. 13.

INDIANAPOLIS >> Miami Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel spoke publicly for the first time since shortly after the team’s playoff elimination, addressing a number of offseason topics surrounding the team this afternoon from the NFL scouting combine.

McDaniel said he’s “absolutely” hopeful to reach a long-term extension with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa this offseason as Tagovailoa is set to enter the fifth and final season of his rookie deal in 2024.

“I’m very encouraged both Tua’s representation and our organization are hard at work,” McDaniel said. “Those timelines are impossible to predict.”

McDaniel said he is communicative with general manager Chris Grier in matters like player contract talks, but he primarily takes on his role of coach for the Miami quarterback.

“My main concern this offseason has been communicating what Tua needs from his head coach and his offensive coaching staff, which is what things can we identify to continue the progression of your game,” McDaniel said.

“My belief has always been strong — since Day 1 — in Tua. It’s stronger than it was the first day I met him, and that’s because of that relationship where I’m focused, which is continuing to provide the coaching so he can continue to evolve his game, as he has since the second that I started talking to him.”

McDaniel, today, identified the number of reps in the offense Tagovailoa had in 2023 by staying healthy for an entire season as the most important thing the quarterback got out of his most recent campaign.

The other major contract negotiation this offseason for the Dolphins is that of defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, who is a free agent, but Miami can opt to place him on the franchise tag by the March 5 deadline.

Asked if he expects Wilkins to be a member of the Dolphins in 2024, McDaniel responded: “Yeah, I hope so. Don’t you?

“We’ll see. But excited to see, excited for Christian’s opportunity that he’s earned,” McDaniel continued. “We love good players, and we’d love to have him back.”

Wilkins has been a staple of the Dolphins defense since he was the team’s first-round pick in 2019, when Miami headed into a rebuild. After unsuccessful extension talks last offseason and training camp, Wilkins played out the fifth year on his rookie contract and is due for free agency. The franchise tag, however, can keep him with the Dolphins for another season at a figure of $22.1 million.

McDaniel also addressed former defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s departure, one that was labeled as mutual when announced by the team early in the offseason, since Fangio bolted for the same role with the Philadelphia Eagles.

“I’d be lying if I said I was expecting that during the season at all,” McDaniel said of his tenure with Fangio lasting one season. “Vic would feel similarly.

“I think it’s important when the season ends for you to remove emotions, evaluate and have very good conversations with all people that you’re depending on,” McDaniel said. “With Vic and I, we had extensive conversations that were very healthy, and ultimately, when push came to shove, it seemed like we both had the opportunity and it’d be best for both parties involved to literally mutually part.

“It wasn’t anticipated. It was something that I think was a factor of great communication between him and I, where we feel like we’re all best served if we go a different direction, which is something that we had mutual belief and excited for both parties moving forward.”

McDaniel said he’s giving five-time Pro Bowl left tackle Terron Armstead time and space when it comes to his pending retirement decision.

“There’s a roller-coaster of emotion when you’re talking about potentially leaving a game that you’re elite at,” McDaniel said. “He’s been an unbelievable leader, and he’s really battled through a ton of different things for us, and right now, he’s determining something that him and his body are the only people that know, and we are very open for that. We have to allow for that time and assess all options, so the Miami Dolphins have plans for any sort of scenario.”

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