In the short term, the Las Vegas Raiders are clinging to a slim postseason chance here in 2023, with a difficult schedule ahead of them once they clear their bye week and four teams stacked ahead of them to reach the seventh and final AFC playoff spot. In the long-term, it is clear that with the right coach and a few pieces added in Raiders free agency, this team has a chance to be very competitive again very quickly.
With that in mind, Bleacher Report looked at one intriguing addition to consider in Raiders free agency: Dolphins defensive lineman Christian Wilkins, the kind of imposing veteran inside presence the defense is lacking.
While the Raiders have played better and better defensively as the year has gone on, the fact is that the Raiders remain among the worst teams in the NFL at stopping the run, ranked 30th in yardage allowed on the ground and 31st with an average of 4.4 yards per carry allowed.
That’s where a behemoth like Wilkins—who is 6-foot-4 and 310 pounds—comes in. Sticking him in the middle of the Raiders defense would go a long way to not only helping the Raiders stop the run, but also to helping occupy blockers so that stars like Maxx Crosby and Robert Spillane have a bit more freedom to make plays.
Christian Wilkins a ‘Force Multiplier’
To that end, B/R has Wilkins heading to Las Vegas as part of Raiders free agency 2024.
“Christian Wilkins would be a force multiplier for this defensive front. Outside of Chris Jones, he’s the most dominant interior defender who is set to hit free agency. He’s an elite run-stopper and is putting together his best pass-rushing campaign to date,” the site wrote this week.
Indeed, Wilkins has been excellent, as usual, against the run. Among all interior defenders graded at Pro Football Focus, he has registered a 72.8 grade against the run, which ranks 15th in the NFL out of 127 players. He is not as strong against the pass but overall, he rates 17th among defensive linemen, with a grade of 75.5.
Plenty of Money to Spend in Raiders Free Agency
Part of the issue for this team as it closes out this season and begins to look ahead to Raiders free agency 2024 is that there is not telling whether interim coach Antonio Pierce and interim GM Champ Kelly will be running the show. But no matter who it is, there is talent on hand—and there is money.
“Whoever gets the job as general manager this offseason needs to hit the ground running. There are solid pieces in place on defense for a quick turnaround. The Raiders are also 10th in 2024 cap space, so spending shouldn’t be an issue,” B/R reports.
At $53.1 million in available space, according to Spotrac, the Raiders now are actually ninth in cap room in the NFL. Wilkins will not be cheap—Spotrac projects his market value at $78 million over four years, and he would chew up more than $22 million in cap space for next season.
But considering the Raiders free agency needs, and considering how much a run-stopper would benefit the whole defense, he would be worth the investment.