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Raiders make defensive line splash by adding Dolphins tackle

Updated March 11, 2024 - 6:19 pm

Raiders coach Antonio Pierce argued the club should add a dominant defensive tackle at the NFL scouting combine.

It didn’t take long for general manager Tom Telesco to get Pierce his man.

Telesco and the Raiders came to terms with Dolphins defensive tackle Christian Wilkins on Monday, the first day of the NFL’s legal tampering period. The team, in doing so, gave edge rusher Maxx Crosby a worthy partner. The Raiders also potentially improved their defensive line from good to great.

It came at a significant price.

Wilkins, 28, earned a four-year deal worth up to $110 million. The contract includes $84.7 million in guarantees.

It’s money well spent for a club that’s been searching for a complement to Crosby for years. The Raiders are also signing Wilkins after an impressive season where he recorded 65 total tackles and a career-high nine sacks.

He’s proven to be an impressive presence in the interior.

Wilkins finished with 61 pressures last year, the fifth-best in the NFL among interior defensive lineman, according to Next Gen Stats.

He had 18 pressures when being double teamed. The ability to eat up blockers and still have success pushing the pocket is something the Raiders haven’t had from a defensive tackle in years.

The Dolphins didn’t re-sign Wilkins because they didn’t believe in his talent. Miami is almost $22 million over the NFL’s projected salary cap and needs to get under by Wednesday.

The Dolphins lost edge rusher Andrew Van Ginkel and guard Robert Hunt in free agency Monday as well because they couldn’t afford them.

Miami’s loss is the Raiders’ gain.

Pierce spoke at the combine about adding an anchor capable of taking pressure off of Crosby and joining a defensive line room that also features emerging pass rusher Malcolm Koonce and second-year lineman Tyree Wilson.

“You know we got some ends, and those boys showed up,” Pierce said. “You know what you’re gonna get from Maxx. Malcolm Koonce has come into his own, and Tyree will be just fine. But how good would it look if we put a couple more pieces in the middle of that defense, man?”

Pierce said adding another strong interior presence would lift the entire group to another level. That’s just what the Raiders have done with Wilkins.

“And now Maxx doesn’t have to run as far on the outside, because that quarterback, he can’t step up anymore,” Pierce said. “Because you’ve got inside, B gap pressure and force.”

Contact Vincent Bonsignore at vbonsignore@reviewjournal.com. Follow @VinnyBonsignore on X.

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