Lions Floated as Possible Suitor for Projected $81 Million ‘Tone-Setter’ Defender

While many pundits are calling for the Detroit Lions to address edge rusher this offseason, the Lions could just as easily add to their pass rush on the inside of their defensive line. Five-time All-Pro defensive tackle Chris Jones would make a lot of sense, but so would Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Christian Wilkins.

Report: Dolphins now expected not to franchise tag Christian Wilkins’s All Lions’ Christian Booher suggested the Lions should consider Wilkins if he’s available in NFL free agency.

“Wilkins is a versatile lineman who can contribute in a big way against both the pass and the run,” wrote Booher.

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

The Dolphins could still place the franchise tag on Wilkins. But if he reaches free agency, Spotrac projected his market value to be about $81 million on a four-year contract. Such a deal would pay Wilkins $20.2 million on an average annual basis.

During the 2023 season, Wilkins recorded a career-high 9 sacks and 23 quarterback hits. He also had 10 tackles for loss, 2 pass defenses and 1 forced fumble.’s All Dolphins’ Alain Poupart hyped Wilkins as a significant part of Miami’s defense.

“Wilkins is a foundational piece for the Dolphins, a tone-setter on defense and a leader,” wrote Poupart.

Will the Dolphins Place the Franchise Tag on DT Christian Wilkins?

The Pro Football Focus’ free agent primer predicted the Dolphins to place the franchise tag on Wilkins. However, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported on March 3 that Miami “probably won’t” franchise tag the veteran defensive tackle.

“That would put a big-time tackle who had 63 tackles and nine sacks in 2023 on the market,” wrote Fowler.

The ESPN insider then named the Houston Texans and Cleveland Browns as the top landing spots for Wilkins.

Spotrac reported the Texans as sixth in salary cap space with roughly $70 million to spend. But the Lions aren’t far behind at seventh with about $54.3 million in space.

That’s a lot more than the Browns, who are currently just $2.4 million under the salary cap.

The Lions probably don’t want to get in a bidding war, but Wilkins is likely to be available in free agency. And if the Lions want him badly enough, they have the capacity to sign him.

How Wilkins Could Fit With the Lions

Pundits expect the Lions to upgrade cornerback and edge rusher this offseason. Detroit finished the 2024 season ranked 27th in passing yards allowed and 29th in net yards allowed per pass attempt.

Although not an edge rusher, Wilkins would upgrade the Lions pass rush. Defensive end Aidan Hutchinson and defensive tackle Alim McNeill were the only Lions defenders with more than 3 sacks during 2023. Adding Wilkins to the mix will give the team another elite pass rushing option.

With Wilkins, opposing defenses will likely not be able to double team Hutchinson, who was second in the NFL in pressures last season, as often. Wilkins and McNeill could make up perhaps the best defensive tackle duo in the league.

Additionally, Wilkins would be a strong addition to Detroit’s run defense, which was ranked second during 2023.

The Pro Football Focus player grades rated Wilkins 10th against the run among 76 interior defensive linemen who played at least 50% of his team’s defensive snaps last season.

Wilkins began his career as the No. 13 overall pick for Miami in the 2019 NFL draft. He has started every game for the Dolphins since the beginning of the 2021 season.

In 81 games over five seasons, Wilkins has posted 20.5 sacks, 43 tackles for loss and 20 quarterback hits. He has also accumulated 19 pass defenses and 4 forced fumbles.

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