Patriots Named Ideal Fit for $15 Million Dolphins Pass Rusher

Jerod Mayo

Getty Jerod Mayo could boost the defense with the addition of Christian Wilkins in 2024.

While the New England Patriots have strengths on defense heading into the 2024 season, poaching a star from an AFC East rival could help further solidify the unit.

ESPN’s Matt Bowen suggested that the Patriots would benefit from signing Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Christian Wilkins. The sixth-year veteran, who started his NFL career on a four-year, $15.4 million rookie deal, tallied 68 tackles and 9.0 sacks last season.

“I expect the Patriots to be active in free agency, and Wilkins has the position versatility to align all over the defensive front,” Bowen wrote.

“He would pair nicely with Christian Barmore to give first-year head coach Jerod Mayo two difference-makers on the defensive interior.”

Barmore had a strong 2023 season with 8.5 sacks and 64 tackles. The Patriots didn’t have a major sack threat on the defensive line beyond Barmore except for defensive end Deatrich Wise Jr., who had 4.5 sacks and 32 tackles in 2023.

New England players know well the threat that Wilkins poses after five seasons with the AFC East rival Dolphins. Wilkins has 20.5 sacks and 355 tackles plus an interception in his career.

He has 3.5 or more sacks in each of the past three seasons. Durability has also been key for Wilkins, who played in and started all 17 games in each of those seasons.

Wilkins has only missed two career games in 2020 because he tested positive for COVID-19. A former No. 13 NFL draft pick out of Clemson, Wilkins has 77 career starts and two games of playoff experience — including one of the coldest games ever in Kansas City this year.

With the Patriots on a two-year playoff drought, adding a playoff-seasoned veteran in Wilkins could help the team rebound from a 4-13 season. Wilkins has 7 tackles and a sack in his playoff appearances.

Patriots Can Afford Christian Wilkins Amid Major Salary Cap Space

New England will need to play quite a bit for Wilkins — a projected $20.2 million annually or a 4-year, $80.98 million deal based on Spotrac’s numbers. Wilkins made $10.75 million with his fifth-year option in 2023.

The Patriots can afford to pay Wilkins amid the team’s $73.9 million in salary cap space. Mayo said on record that his team will “burn cash” this offseason in looking to rebuild.

Improving the defense could help that instantly. Last season, the Patriots allowed 21.5 points and 316.2 yards per game, which all ranked in the top half of the NFL.

The defense arguably took some lumps because of injuries and an underperforming offense that scored 13.9 points and tallied 295.2 yards per contest. New England will get some help back on defense with cornerback Christian Gonzalez and linebacker Matthew Judon healthy in 2024.

Christian Wilkins Would Return to His Roots if He Joined the Patriots

As for luring Wilkins to Foxborough, the Patriots hold a local advantage. Wilkins grew up in Massachusetts where he played for Framingham before a transfer to Suffield Academy in Connecticut and became a 5-star recruit amid 28.5 sacks in high school.

A 2-time All-American at Clemson, Wilkins tallied 16 sacks and 192 tackles in four seasons from 2015 to 2018. Wilkins helped the Tigers go unbeaten in 2018 and win a national title, and he helped the team win it all in 2016 before that.

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