NFL Insider Stirs the Pot on Possibility Lions Target Projected $100 Million Star

Dan Campbell Christian Wilkins

Getty ESPN's Dan Graziano mentioned that the Detroit Lions are looking to upgrade defensive tackle and could do so in NFL free agency by signing Christian Wilkins.

Few would argue that the Detroit Lions couldn’t use an upgrade at defensive tackle for the 2024 season. As free agency is set to begin on March 13, veteran Christian Wilkins is the consensus best available defensive tackle on the market.

On March 10, that was enough for ESPN’s Dan Graziano to loosely link the Lions to Wilkins.

“After Chris Jones landed a big deal on Saturday night, Miami’s Christian Wilkins is likely to be a hot name, with contending teams such as the Texans and Lions looking to upgrade at that position,” wrote Graziano.

The big deal Graziano referred to was the record-setting contract the Kansas City Chiefs agreed to with Chris Jones. With $95 million guaranteed, Jones will become the highest-paid defensive tackle from an average annual basis in NFL history.

On March 8, the Baltimore Ravens signed fellow defensive tackle Justin Madubuike to a 4-year, $98 million contract.

That leaves Wilkins as the lone elite defensive tackle available according to a lot of NFL free agency rankings. Pro Football Focus had Wilkins ranked seventh among all potential 2024 free agents, including behind only Jones and Madubuike at defensive tackle.

PFF also projected Wilkins to receive a 4-year, $100 million contract in free agency.

Lions in the Market for Christian Wilkins?

Graziano isn’t the first to essentially urge the Lions to sign Wilkins. On March 3,’s All Lions’ Christian Booher argued Wilkins “could be a game-changer for the Lions.”

“Wilkins will be a big addition wherever he winds up, and has the ability to be a difference-making element,” wrote Booher. “With the Lions’ needs, it would be a significant move that would signal Detroit’s desire to compete for a Super Bowl.”

Wilkins posted a career-high 9 sacks and 23 quarterback hits in 2023. He’s also averaged 84 combined tackles over the past three seasons. Wilkins hasn’t missed a game during that stretch.

Slotting him on Detroit’s defensive line next to Alim McNeill could transform the Lions defensive front. Wilkins would upgrade Detroit’s pass rush, which was 23rd in sacks last season, and run defense, which was second in 2023.

But while the need exists, it’s important to note that Graziano didn’t really directly tie Wilkins to the Lions.

“This doesn’t mean the Lions are necessarily ‘in’ on Wilkins,” SB Nation’s Pride of Detroit’s Ryan Mathews wrote on X (formerly Twitter) in response to Graziano. “They could be, but nothing Graziano says here reveals that.

“There’s a lot of dot connecting here by simply identifying the Lions as a team who is ‘looking to upgrade at that position.'”

ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler wrote that he expects “at least seven teams to pursue” Wilkins. While he mentioned the Minnesota Vikings, Houston Texans and Cleveland Browns as likely suitors, he didn’t name the other potential teams.

Other Potential Defensive Tackle Targets for Lions

Wilkins is the biggest fish left at defensive tackle, but there are a lot of quality defensive tackles who will be available in NFL free agency.

PFF ranked 12 defensive tackles in the top 100 potentially available free agents this offseason. That list included Grover Stewart, Leonard Williams and D.J. Reader.

PFF has Williams and Reader both rated as top 20 free agents this offseason. Stewart came in on the ranking list at No. 52 overall.

If the Lions are seeking to upgrade defensive tackle without dedicating around $100 million to one free agent, then those options are more likely targets.

But the Lions do have the cap space to make a big splash if they choose to. On March 10, Spotrac ranked the Lions sixth in available cap space with about $53.3 million to spend.

Read More