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Raiders’ newcomers drawn to culture created by Pierce, Crosby

Updated March 14, 2024 - 6:43 pm

Antonio Pierce and Maxx Crosby’s partnership as the pied pipers of the Raiders’ way is beginning to pay dividends.

Free-agent signings Christian Wilkins and Gardner Minshew said Thursday the presence of Pierce and Crosby played a significant role in drawing them to Las Vegas.

Wilkins, a dominant interior defensive lineman, counts the Raiders’ star edge rusher among his favorite NFL players. Wilkins looks forward to partnering with Crosby to wreak havoc up front.

“There’s one big reason that I definitely wanted to come here and that’s number 98,” Wilkins said of Crosby. “He’s obviously a heck of a player and I’ve got a lot of respect for who he is as a player, how he operates and plays. I’m excited to be his teammate.”

Wilkins is also eager to work in the environment Pierce has created as the Raiders’ coach. The team’s attitude change once Pierce was put in charge midseason caught Wilkins’ eye in Miami, where he played the last five years.

“The big thing is be yourself,” Wilkins said. “And I’m such a character, such an animated, sick, twisted individual. I just love the game, I love the grind and you just feel that here. Just people who love ball. Just great energy. And you can tell everyone is just accepting of (who) everybody is and everybody is just already themself. And you can tell that just playing against the Raiders.”

Minshew, the vagabond quarterback with an off-beat but distinctive nature, immediately felt at home with the Raiders. That’s because Pierce encourages players to embrace their individualism.

“One of the first things I saw coming in here is be you, be yourself,” Minshew said. “To have the confidence to do that, I think, is huge. I think when you have that confidence, you can play a lot better and have a lot more fun.”

Minshew, 27, signed a two-year, $25 million contract with $15 million guaranteed.

He’s expected to compete with Aidan O’Connell for the Raiders’ starting quarterback job. The team could also still add another passer in the draft in April.

The hope is Minshew provides insurance for a rookie in case they aren’t ready to play right away or is a strong backup.

Wilkins, 28, is the biggest move of the Raiders’ offseason so far.

It took a four-year, $110 million contract with $82.75 million guaranteed to get him to move west. It also took the influence of Pierce and Crosby. The culture the two are building is turning heads in the NFL. Prospects at the scouting combine in Indianapolis spoke of their admiration for the Raiders throughout the event.

“I’m a big fan of football, a big fan of what’s going on in the league, so I’m always watching, I’m always paying attention,” Wilkins said. “You definitely pick up on stuff like that. It’s a big reason of why I want to be here. Just that energy, that stuff is important.”

Wilkins’ fit alongside Crosby should be perfect.

It’s been a long time since the Raiders had a combination on the defensive line like those two. Wilkins had 65 tackles and nine sacks last season. Crosby had 90 tackles and 14½ sacks.

Joining forces could make the duo even more dangerous.

“That remains to be seen, but there’s a lot of possibilities,” Wilkins said. “We’re gonna have to put the work in, build a rapport, that’s very important, just to get around the other guys on the defense and the other D-linemen.”

Contact Vincent Bonsignore atvbonsignore@reviewjournal.com. Follow @VinnyBonsignore on X.

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