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Las Vegas Raiders make huge splash in NFL free agency with Christian Wilkins, examining impact

Las Vegas Raiders, Christian Wilkins

The Las Vegas Raiders opened NFL free agency on Monday by landing one of the best defensive players in football, agreeing to terms with former Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Christian Wilkins. Once finalized, the deal will make Wilkins one of the highest-paid NFL players ever.

Wilkins, age 28, was the 13th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. While he has never earned a Pro Bowl selection in his career, he is widely viewed as one of the best interior defensive linemen in the NFL right now.

  • Christian Wilkins stats (career): 50 QB hits, 43 tackles for loss, 20.5 sacks

Related: Las Vegas Raiders free agent targets 2024, including Christian Wilkins

The 6-foot-4 defensive tackle was the most sought-after player in NFL free agency. With quarterback Kirk Cousins only drawing bids from the Atlanta Falcons and Minnesota Vikings, Wilkins had more suitors across the league. Despite interest from the Houston Texans and other Super Bowl contenders, Wilkins chose Las Vegas as his new home.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Network first reported the deal, with Wilkins’ agent David Mulugheta confirming the report and the terms of the contract. Once a star of the Dolphins’ defensive line, Miami had to let Wilkins walk because it’s over the 2024 NFL salary cap.

Christian Wilkins impact on the Las Vegas Raiders defense

The addition of Wilkins could prove to be a game-changer for the Raiders defensive line. All-Pro edge rusher Maxx Crosby has carried the pass rush in recent years. This past season, Crosby finished with the highest ESPN run-stop win rate (36 percent) among edge rushers. He also set career-highs in tackles for loss (23) and sacks (14.5), while also recording 31 quarterback hits.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, Wilkins is landing a four-year deal worth a base salary of $110 million. Of that $110 million total across four seasons, $84.75 million is guaranteed.

  • Christian Wilkins contract: 4 years, $110 million

Despite Crosby’s dominance, the Raiders’ pass rush was largely a one-man show that struggled to generate consistent pressure. Last season, Las Vegas ranked 24th in pressure rate (19.4 percent) and hurry rate (5.9 percent), while placing 15th in sacks (46).

Wilkins, one of the best run-stuffing defensive tackles in the NFL, has blossomed as an interior pass rusher in recent years. Last season, he posted one of the highest ESPN pass-rush win rates (13 percent) among defensive tackles. Wilson also set career-highs in QB hits (23) and sacks (nine). The combo of Wilkins and Crosby projects to be one of the best defensive line duos in the NFL.

Related: Most overrated NFL free agents 2024

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