Miami Dolphins running back Jeff Wilson, Jr. enters free agency next week after spending the second half of the 2022 season in Miami.
He hopes he can remain with the Dolphins. The powerful 194-pound rusher, who was acquired by the Dolphins at last year’s November trade deadline, was reunited with coach Mike McDaniel and fellow tailback Raheem Mostert when Miami acquired him from San Francisco for a fifth-round pick.
“That’s family,” Wilson told the South Florida Sun Sentinel in a recent phone interview. “Those are for-lifers, so staying with them, that will be awesome.
“Then, on top of that, being in Miami, the city, I just love everything about it. That will definitely be cool. I can’t make the decision. If it was up to me, I wouldn’t mind it at all, but at the end of the day, I can’t just say that that can happen, but I dang sure wish it would. We’ll see.”
Wilson told WSVN Sunday night he hopes to be back with the Dolphins. His agent, Drew Rosenhaus, said on the program there’s “mutual interest” between Wilson and Miami.
That aligns with what general manager Chris Grier said at the scouting combine last week in Indianapolis, on the possibility of simply keeping Wilson together with Mostert, although there are a number of enticing free agents to look into.
“We’re very open to those guys coming back,” Grier said. “We’ve talked about that scenario where they may be back. We may have the same backfield back next year.”
Wilson, who was an undrafted find by McDaniel with the 49ers, has just a tad over $5 million in career earnings since 2018. The 27-year-old tailback is entitled to make his money in free agency after averaging 4.9 yards per carry in a 2022 season split between San Francisco and Miami. But the money isn’t the most important thing for Wilson.
“Time is ticking, and I’m not getting younger,” Wilson said. “Obviously, I want to get paid for what I do. Who doesn’t? That’s just the honest truth, but at the same time, like my dad and everybody else told me, it’s not always about the money. So just be open, be patient, and let your agent do the work.”
So what is Wilson looking for in his free agent destination?
“I want to feel at home. I want to feel comfortable. I want to be able to be me,” he said. “I just want to be able to have fun and play the game that I love.”
Incidentally, one coach that famously does allow — and even emphasizes — players being themselves is McDaniel.
“You know he’s about his business, but you can just tell he wants you to have fun,” said Wilson of McDaniel, who started his relationship with him in a pre-draft college workout, leading them to spend time together every year since.
Winning is a priority for Wilson.
“I want to win a Super Bowl,” he said. “I done been in one. I done almost had one and had it taken. Been back to the NFC Championship, been in the playoffs. So, obviously, I want that.
“I’ve had that taste, and I’ve been so close. I need it. It’s something that I have to have.”
Wilson is certainly comfortable in McDaniel’s outside-zone rushing scheme, but he feels he can adapt to anything if he had to switch teams.
“I don’t feel like it’ll be a problem,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s football, and we’ve been playing in different offenses, schemes since we were in pee-wee.”
Wilson has been spending time with family in Texas this offseason, but he also remains consistent with a training regimen.
“That never really stops,” said Wilson, who added he continues to work on his power. “Obviously, take time and have fun, but what has to be done, always has to be done. Nothing’s going to take away from that.”
Wilson recapped his eight games with the Dolphins and season-ending conversations: “It’s just a lot of love. A lot of thank yous on both sides. Me thanking them and them thanking me for coming and doing what I do. It’s a mutual respect thing. It’s all love there. It felt like I’ve been with the team, like through all the OTAs, training camp, all of it. It felt like I was there the whole season.”