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Dolphins’ Grier talks Gesicki, Wilkins, Byron Jones; McDaniel to take time assessing coaching staff – Twin Cities

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Miami Dolphins general manager Chris Grier addressed several topics about his roster Monday as he met with the media following his team’s 34-31 loss to the Buffalo Bills in an AFC wild-card playoff game Sunday.

To begin, the Dolphins don’t appear to have much flexibility heading into the offseason with Miami currently $16.4 million over the 2023 salary cap, according to OverTheCap.com.

This is not something that worries Grier as he is confident he will regain that room to work with.

“We always have flexibility, and we’ve done a lot of work to make sure we’ve maintained that,” Grier said. “What it is right now is not what it will be to start the season.”

The Dolphins will be working to restructure a number of high-priced contracts, a specialty of senior vice president of football and business administration Brandon Shore, who can convert players’ base salaries into signing bonuses, freeing up cap space.

First order of business for Grier at Monday’s press conference was to answer about cornerback Byron Jones, who never suited up for the Dolphins during the 2022 season after lower left leg surgery last March. He remained on the physically-unable-to-perform list all season after Miami was initially optimistic he could play early in the season.

“Byron worked hard trying to get back,” Grier said. “Unfortunately, it didn’t work out. He did his best. Trainers, doctors, everybody worked hard.”

Grier was not prepared to speak in many definitives with his roster just one day removed from his group’s contested defeat at the hands of the Bills, who were two-touchdown favorites at home.

“After the tough loss [Sunday], we’re kind of licking our wounds and just going about our process,” he said. “We’re just not there right now to deal with it, but Byron did everything he could to try and play so no qualms with that at all.”

Grier touched on tight end Mike Gesicki, who played on the franchise tag in 2022, but his 32 receptions for 362 yards in his first regular season in Mike McDaniel’s offense were the lowest he’s had since his rookie year.

Gesicki still caught touchdowns, though, with five in the regular season and another in the first half of Sunday’s playoff game. Grier detailed a conversation with the tight end that occurred hours before meeting with reporters.

“Told Mike I was proud of him. He did a nice job, made some plays [Sunday],” the Grier said.

“We’ll see what the future holds. He’s earned the right to be a free agent. We’re happy for him. He did a nice job.”

Defensive tackle Christian Wilkins could be in line for a big extension after recording a whopping 98 tackles, the most by a defensive lineman since 1994. He is set to play on the fifth-year option of his contract for $10.75 million in 2023.

“It’ll be important to talk to him, work with him and keep him here because he’s been a big part,” Grier said. “He was one of the first guys here through this [rebuild]. … He had been through a lot of stuff, and [we talked about] how happy he was to get a chance to go to the playoffs.”

Wilkins parlayed his 89-tackle 2021 season with his even-greater production this season. He recorded eight sacks between the two campaigns.

Coaching staff assessment

If the Dolphins are going to make changes on the coaching staff, they don’t appear to be imminent early in the team’s offseason after Sunday’s elimination.

“Pretty early. I think 24 hours ago, we might’ve had a lead,” McDaniel said in response to whether conversations have taken place about changes with his assistants. “One of the things that I found from my experience in the National Football League is that it’s very long, it’s very emotional, and you can lend yourself to living with regret if you make any sort of decisions emotionally.

“We’re going to go through the process, and you got to kind of let things simmer for, really, the entire coaching staff — just like you do with players — and have communication. It’s going to take a minute.”

At the top of the watch list is defensive coordinator Josh Boyer.

As a holdover from former coach Brian Flores’ era when McDaniel came along last offseason, Boyer’s defense finished the 2022 regular season 30th in takeaways, 27th in pass defense, 24th in scoring defense and third-down defense and 18th in total defense.

McDaniel liked the way the defense turned it around in the final stretch, however. It kept the New York Jets out of the end zone in an 11-6 win in the regular-season finale to qualify for the playoffs. Then, the Dolphins forced three turnovers, scored on one of them and registered seven sacks to stick close with the heavily favored Bills in Sunday’s wild-card loss.

“I was very, very proud of the defense, the coaching staff and the players on, specifically, the very end of the season, McDaniel said. “I think the last three regular-season games, in a place of adversity, they found their best self, I think. I couldn’t be prouder of [Sunday], specifically.”

Miami special teams coordinator Danny Crossman also could have his standing with the team up in the air after his unit had kick/punt coverage busts, missed field goals and other miscues throughout the season.

Futures contracts

The Dolphins signed seven players to reserve/futures contracts Monday: defensive tackle Josiah Bronson, offensive lineman Lester Cotton, cornerback Tino Ellis, linebacker Cameron Goode, wide receiver Braylon Sanders, tackle Kion Smith and defensive tackle Jaylen Twyman.

The players, who were all on Miami’s practice squad this season and many were elevated to the roster for games, count against the Dolphins’ 90-man roster heading into the offseason and 2023 training camp.

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