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Projected $81 Million Lineman Won’t Receive Franchise Tag, Will Test Free Agency

The Miami Dolphins will not use the franchise tag on free agent defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, according to a report.
Christian Wilkins Free Agent

This is a good year to need a defensive tackle, as Chris Jones of the Kansas City Chiefs and Christian Wilkins of the Miami Dolphins are set to hit the open market. While Jones’ salary makes him too expensive to receive the franchise tag, most believed that Miami would use the tool to keep their homegrown star in town for at least one more season. Since entering the league, Wilkins has established himself as one of the most reliable interior linemen in the league, and he’s coming off a career season.

Starting and appearing in all 17 games, the former first-round pick finished his fifth year in the league with nine sacks, 65 tackles, 10 tackles-for-loss, 23 quarterback hits, and a 71.8 PFF grade. In just about any other year, Christian Wilkins would be the top defensive tackle on the market. While that honor goes to Chris Jones this year, Wilkins is the type of player most teams never want to let go. However, a recent report by ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler states that Miami will let Wilkins test the open market.

Free Agent Christian Wilkins Will Not Receive Franchise Tag  (Report)

The wording of Fowler’s tweet implies that the Dolphins haven’t finalized their decision, but it’s more probable than not that Christian Wilkins will become a free agent. Chances are, the Dolphins will try to re-sign Wilkins in free agency, but now they’ll be bidding against 31 other organizations.

Christian Wilkins is a great player, but the Dolphins might not have the financial liberty to re-sign the free agent. The team is currently $28.5 million over the salary cap and still needs to set aside money for Tua Tagovailoa and Jaylen Waddle’s inevitable extensions. Wilkins is great at his job, but defensive tackle is something of a luxury position. You can get by without a great one, and Miami isn’t in a position to hand out that type of deal.

Miami’s loss will be another team’s gain, as the former first-round pick could be the missing piece for a contender. Several teams should be interested in Christian Wilkins as a free agent, but these five organizations make the most sense.

Best Team Fits

Detroit Lions

Aidan Hutchinson is a great player, but the Lions could use another pass rusher. Even though they came minutes away from a Super Bowl appearance, this defense needs a lot of work. Fortunately, they have $54.3 million in cap space and should be able to afford a free agent like Christian Wilkins. Wilkins can collapse the pocket frequently while also providing top-notch run support for a defense that struggled to stop anything on the ground.

Green Bay Packers

Joe Barry is gone, and while that is addition by subtraction, it won’t singlehandedly fix every issue on the Packers. Green Bay needs another pass rusher, especially when they share a division with Detroit’s great offense and presumptive first-overall pick Caleb Williams. Christian Wilkins might break the bank, but the Packers can create the cap space for the free agent by releasing David Bakhtiari.

Los Angeles Chargers

One of the biggest failings of the Brandon Staley Era was the team’s inability to find an answer at defensive tackle. Year after year, the Chargers couldn’t do anything to stop runs up the middle. Head coach Jim Harbaugh believes that controlling the trenches is vital to the success of a football team, so they could be all-in on free agent defensive tackle Christian Wilkins. While they’d need to clear cap space, they can easily do so by releasing Mike Williams.

New Orleans Saints

The New Orleans Saints shouldn’t be able to afford to sign free agent Christian Wilkins, but they always find a way to manipulate the salary cap for the players they want. The Saints lost a lot of talent on the defensive line last year, and they never found true replacements. While Bryan Bresee showed some promise as a rookie, he could use a better teammate like Wilkins lining up alongside him. Playing in a weak NFC South, this might be enough for the team to make their long-awaited return to the postseason in 2024.

Kansas City Chiefs*

This one comes with an asterisk, as the Chiefs will only be interested in Christian Wilkins if they cannot re-sign Chris Jones as a free agent. According to reports, Jones will probably get  $27-28 million in free agency. This is a lot of money for a player entering his age-30 season, and Kansas City might not be willing to hand out that much cash. If they have to let him go, the Chiefs could pivot to a younger player in Wilkins who is only projected to receive a bit over $20 million per year.

Main Photo: Jim Rassol – USA Today Sports


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