The Miami Dolphins’ looming decisions on two key defenders and where things stand

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Linebacker Raekwon McMillan was the Miami Dolphins’ highest-rated defensive player last season, according to Pro Football Focus.

Defensive tackle Davon Godchaux produced more tackles within 2 yards of the line of scrimmage than any other interior defender in football in 2019.

But unlike teammates DeVante Parker, Jesse Davis, Allen Hurns and Jakeem Grant, neither McMillan nor Godchaux — to this point — has received a contract extension that would keep them off the unrestricted free agent market in the spring of 2021.

Though the Dolphins appreciate the skills of both players, there is nothing on the verge of happening as far as an extension with either player. The Dolphins have been holding off, for now, on any more extensions. Still, Miami has not ruled out an extension for either in the months ahead, with both entering the final year of their contracts.

Some teams are holding off on extensions because the NFL’s 2021 salary cap is expected to drop because league revenues likely will decline because of COVID-19 issues, particularly those involving attendance at games.

So teams assuredly will be more judicious in handing out big contracts during the next year. That makes it vital that Godchaux and McMillan remind the Dolphins of their value this season if they don’t get extensions before then.

Godchaux assuredly will play a lot, as he did last season, and McMillan figures to play a lot on traditional running downs.

With McMillan, here’s the good news: He graded out well against the run, ranked by PFF 26th among all 121 NFL linebackers in run stop percentage, measuring tackles that constitute a bad play for the offense.

PFF ranked him 33rd of 88 qualifying linebackers overall. He’s mature and professional; former defensive coordinator Patrick Graham — unprompted — raved about his leadership late last season.

He’s not going to be an every-down linebacker in today’s pass-heavy NFL because Miami has better options on traditional passing downs and in nickel and dime packages. His metrics in pass coverage remain subpar for NFL linebackers.

But if he’s strong again against the run this year, Miami would be wise to keep him.

The Dolphins initially expressed interest in giving McMillan a contract extension, but nothing has materialized.

Godchaux has proven to be one of the Dolphins’ best fifth-round picks this century.

He was first in the NFL last year among interior linemen with 33 run stops (tackles within 2 yards of the line of scrimmage). His 75 tackles last season were a career high, and he’s steady, durable, reliable and a respected leader.

But he has not been very proficient with tackles for loss (four last year), and he was part of a Miami defense that was 26th against the run, though the edge defenders were more to blame for that than the interior defenders.

He has only three career sacks but had a career-high seven pressures last season.

But the Dolphins’ spring decision not to pursue any free agent defensive tackles from a solid group including D.J. Reader showed their faith in Godchaux and Christian Wilkins. And Miami drafted Alabama’s Raekwon Davis 56th overall to supplement them.

Miami wants to see what it has with a Godchaux, Wilkins, Davis tackle troika, with Zach Sieler also potentially a factor and defensive ends Emmanuel Ogbah and Jason Strowbridge well-equipped to move inside on passing downs.

Godchaux, who has taken up bicycling and is due to earn $2.1 million this season, said the contract situation doesn’t weigh on him.

“I don’t look at it as a big year, contract year,” he said. “Every year is a big year because it’s the next year. Each game I take the same approach. That takes pressure off me. I don’t think fourth year, end of my contract, I have to have a big year. I want to elevate my play… If I take that approach, I think I’ll be good.”

The problem is that the Dolphins could go from having more than a prepandemic projection of $60 million in 2021 space to barely any if the cap drops dramatically. That’s why unless the Dolphins give extensions, it’s helpful if Miami carries over most of its remaining space, which should be in the $14 million range after signing two remaining draft picks and filling out a practice squad.

THIS AND THAT

Dolphins receiver Hurns told WSVN-Fox 7’s Steve Shapiro that while he hasn’t yet worked out with Tua Tagovailoa he has been impressed by the Dolphins rookie quarterback when they have interacted.

“Real good guy,” Hurns said. “I reached out to tell him ‘Welcome to the team.’..

“It will be a great thing playing with him because I’m left-handed myself. I will be excited to see catching from someone who’s left-handed. He’s a real positive guy. You can tell he’s very hungry. Real humble guy, ready to come in and work.”

New Patriots quarterback Cam Newton has played against the Dolphins only twice — a Carolina win in 2013 and a 45-21 Carolina Monday Night pasting of the Dolphins in 2017, in which he threw for 254 yards and four touchdowns.

Only a few Dolphins defenders from that 2017 team remain key pieces of this current Dolphins defense.

Miami’s Aug. 14 preseason opener against Atlanta would likely be canceled if the NFL decides that teams should only play its second and third preseason games. That decision is among dozens still being negotiated between the league and union.

The Dolphins’ 21 rookies are expected to be permitted to report to the team facility on July 21, seven days before the start of training camp July 28. Miami’s four quarterbacks and every other QB under contract can report to their team facilities on July 23, according to Carolina coach Matt Rhule.

Here’s my Tuesday Marlins 6-pack.

And please check back for more on the Dolphins and Heat later today.

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