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Despite no Jonathan Taylor trade, Dolphins GM believes Miami can contend in AFC

Although the Dolphins failed to trade for Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor ahead of Tuesday’s roster cutdown deadline, general manager Chris Grier is confident Miami can contend in the AFC in 2023.

Asked Wednesday if the team as constituted is built to compete with the Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals, Grier answered: “I do. I think we can compete with them. Again, that’s to be determined this season, but we feel good about the players. [Coach] Mike [McDaniel] and the coaching staff do a fantastic job. I think this group is a very close group and focused. They’ve had a great camp and working together, it’s a very close unit. It’s fun to be around them and they enjoy being around each other. And I think that’s always a big key when you’re building a team.”

Grier, speaking to local reporters for the first time since the 2023 Draft concluded in late April, confirmed Miami had “exploratory talks” with Indianapolis on a deal regarding Taylor, an All-Pro back. However, Grier said there was no exchange of trade offers. Grier declined to comment on whether Indianapolis asked for wide receiver Jaylen Waddle as part of any deal — multiple outlets, including the Miami Herald, reported that the Colts brought up Waddle in a trade scenario — but said: “Jaylen Waddle will not be available to anybody.”

In the last year-plus, no team has been more aggressive than the Dolphins in adding Pro-Bowl-level talent to the roster. The addition of players such as wide receiver Tyreek Hill, offensive tackle Terron Armstead and outside linebacker Bradley Chubb vaulted Miami to its first playoff appearance since 2016 last season. In addition to Taylor, Miami was linked to other prominent running backs this offseason, including the New York GiantsSaquon Barkley and the Las Vegas RaidersJosh Jacobs, among others.

“We’ve had some discussions [about Taylor], but it’s no different than any player that’s ever released or available that we know about and have discussions with the GM about,” Grier said.

As the Dolphins continue to peruse for additions — some big, some small — there’s a delicate balance that Grier is aware of. The team is already $30 million over the cap for the 2024 season, with multiple notable players scheduled to become free agents after the season. Miami recently signed defensive lineman Zach Sieler to a three-year extension through the 2026 season but has had trouble locking up fellow lineman Christian Wilkins long-term. After staging a hold-in for multiple weeks during training camp, Wilkins said he is focused on preparing for the regular-season opener on Sept. 10.

Miami Dolphins general manager Chris Grier reacts during a press conference at Baptist Health Training Facility in Miami Gardens, Florida, Wednesday, August 30, 2023.
Miami Dolphins general manager Chris Grier reacts during a press conference at Baptist Health Training Facility in Miami Gardens, Florida, Wednesday, August 30, 2023.

Grier said contract talks with Wilkins’ representation will be put on hold during the regular season.

“We made an offer that we thought was fair,” he said, “and there’s times when you do things like that, it has to work for both sides. And so there’s never any ill will from each side. I enjoy his agent. We have good conversations. So, right now we’re going to hold off until, in my mind, at the end of the season, because I don’t think it’s fair to distract Christian from his goals, what he wants to achieve for the team.”

As for quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who is entering his fourth season and got his fifth-year option exercised early in the offseason, Grier also indicated there are no extension talks imminent.

“His agents and I have had discussions, just general but not really about that, and just agreed, let’s just let him play out the season and then we’ll attack that in the offseason,” he said.

Grier acknowledged the team has “a lot of new players coming available” for free agency in the coming years but said there are mechanisms to become cap-compliant next offseason. And the youth of those home-grown players plus the influx of veteran talent is the reason for his optimism ahead of the 2023 season.

“I think you feel good about the roster we have,” Grier said. “We like the players on the roster. Yesterday was an exciting day with the 53[-man roster] and still working through the practice squad additions. When you build a team, like we’ve always talked [about], you look long-term, short-term. We’re always aggressive to [add players], but we’re also going to be mindful.”