Browns Predicted to ‘Take Swing’ on Projected $100 Million DT

christian wilkins

Getty Miami Dolphins DL Christian Wilkins.

The Cleveland Browns spent big to lock down interior defender Dalvin Tomlinson last offseason, and at least one prominent insider expects them to try something similar with another stud defensive tackle in the coming days.

Jeremy Fowler of ESPN reported on Sunday, March 10 that there will be a substantial free agent market for Christian Wilkins after the Miami Dolphins opted not to utilize the franchise tag to keep him. Cleveland was among three teams Fowler mentioned by name as suitors for Wilkins, who has established himself as one of the most dominant front-line defenders in the NFL over his five-year career.

“Wilkins’ market is heating up after Miami opted against the franchise tag,” Fowler wrote. “Expect at least seven teams to pursue him. The Brian Flores connection in Minnesota is one to watch, but Houston and Cleveland could take swings, too.”

Browns Can Clear Space for Christian Wilkins by Reworking Contracts of Expensive Offensive Players

Christian Wilkins, Dolphins

GettyDefensive tackle Christian Wilkins of the Miami Dolphins will hit unrestricted free agency on March 13, 2024.

Miami selected Wilkins with the No. 13 overall pick in the first round of the 2019 draft, and the 28-year-old defensive tackle is on the verge of the first monster payday of his career.

Pro Football Focus (PFF) projects that Wilkins will sign a contract paying him $25 million annually over the next four seasons ($100 million total), which includes $70 million in guaranteed money.

“Wilkins hoped to get an extension done before the 2023 season but didn’t let the lack of one amid many at the position slow him down,” PFF wrote. “Wilkins is as good a run defender as any interior defensive lineman in the NFL, setting career highs in every pass-rushing category this season, including pass-rush win rate, pressure rate, sacks, quarterback hits and pressures.”

Cleveland has less than $5 million in salary cap space as of Sunday, though the team has multiple moves it can make to clear up more financial flexibility in the short-term. Among them is a restructure to quarterback Deshaun Watson’s deal, which will knock more than $30 million off of his nearly $64 million cap hit in 2024.

The Browns can also extend wide receiver Amari Cooper, which will keep the 2023 Pro Bowler under contract for multiple years and significantly reduce his roughly $24 million cap hit in the upcoming season.

Signing Christian Wilkins Type of Big Move Browns Showed They Are Willing to Make in Trade for Jerry Jeudy

Jerry Jeudy

GettyFormer Denver Broncos wide receiver Jerry Jeudy is now a member of the Cleveland Browns.

Cleveland’s big-money contracts and cap-clearing moves continue to rack up and will create difficult seasons in the years ahead, but the Browns made the playoffs in 2023 as the AFC’s top Wildcard team and are going for it all over the next couple of campaigns.

To wit, Cleveland traded with the Denver Broncos for former first-round receiver Jerry Jeudy over the weekend. The Browns sent the Broncos fifth- and sixth-round selections in the upcoming draft for the right to Jeudy’s $13 million fifth-year option.

The move is risky if Jeudy doesn’t prove out. The Browns would either have to overpay the receiver to keep him, or incur the risk of Jeudy walking out the door for nothing after just one year.

But, aside from Watson, the Browns have proven quality evaluators of talent during the tenure of general manager Andrew Berry and continue to have a green light from ownership to spend. Considering that defensive tackles Shelby HarrisMaurice Hurst II and Jordan Elliott are all headed to free agency next week, the Browns have a major need on the D-line and a star in Wilkins on the market who can fill it.

Cleveland’s time is now, so a deal with Wilkins makes sense despite the cost.

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