Stars at defensive tackle have been paid handsomely this offseason, with the Jets' Quinnen Williams, Titans' Jeffery Simmons and Commanders' Daron Payne scoring three of the four highest-paid contracts at the position in the months before training camp.
Dolphins DT Christian Wilkins appears to be next in line to cash in and believes he should be, even if he intends to keep the focus on Miami's work as a team.
"The biggest thing with that, all that stuff, I just try to focus as much on ball as possible and leave all that other stuff up to the organization and my representation and just control what I can control with my guys and with this team," Wilkins said regarding his contract situation on Saturday, per the team transcript. "I definitely feel like I've done enough and done a lot to earn a new deal and a new contract; but again, I'm just focusing on ball and improving every day and just giving my all to this organization and hopefully they'll give their all back to me."
Wilkins, who turns 28 this December, has served as a valuable plug in the middle of the Fins' defensive line for the past four seasons, with 11.5 career sacks and a team-high 16 tackles for loss in 2022. He also made his Top 100 debut this summer, slotting in at No. 81 for his contributions to Miami's fourth-ranked rushing defense.
He's currently set to play on the $10.8 million fifth-year option from his rookie contract.
That's a far cry from the $23.3 million per-year average of the deals between his three abovementioned contemporaries.
Although Wilkins batted away a couple more follow-up questions regarding his contract on Saturday, choosing to leave those discussions to the team and his representatives, he was happy to comment on his fellow interior linemen contributing to the continued uptick of DT paydays.
"I just love it for the evolution of the game and how far we've come as a position," Wilkins said. "Again, like I said, I'm big on respecting the game so it's my job to carry that torch for those Warren Sapps, those Vince Wilforks -- all those guys that I grew up watching and learning from. I have a responsibility so I love what we've been able to do as a position for the game and hopefully we'll continue to do that."
Wilkins hopes to join those ranks of higher-paid defensive linemen in the near future. In the meantime, he'll continue leading in ways that have put him on the precipice of a lucrative reward.
"I put a lot of pressure on myself when it comes to this game, and I kind of like it that way because I just feel like who is it going to be if it's not me?" he said. "And my teammates are counting on that, and that's what this organization is counting on. So I try to just bring the energy every day, set the tone, kind of just be that spark, be that light for the guys in this building."