Christian Wilkins, Gardner Minshew share their excitement to join the Raiders

Thu, Mar 14, 2024
NFL News (AP)

Christian Wilkins, Gardner Minshew share their excitement to join the Raiders

LAS VEGAS (AP) - Defensive tackle Christian Wilkins opened his introductory news conference with the Las Vegas Raiders on Thursday by emulating his new coach, Antonio Pierce.

"Raiderrrsss!" Wilkins exclaimed before allowing the first question to be asked, in the same exuberant manner Pierce displayed following each victory after he took over coaching duties in the middle of last season.

Wilkins agreed this week to a four-year, $110 million contract, and quarterback Gardner Minshew agreed to a two-year, $25 million deal. Both players shared their excitement about joining the Raiders as the franchise prepares for its first offseason under Pierce.

The 6-foot-4, 310-pound lineman wore a three-piece, window-pane-themed black suit with white stripes, lined on the interior with playing cards, as he embraced his Sin City surroundings.

"I've had this thing for a little while but no better time than now to bring it out," Wilkins said. "Vegas is obviously a great city, great place. There's a lot to be excited about. Coach Pierce, his energy, and the things the team was able to do last year toward the end and during his time taking over. There's a lot of great teammates, a lot of things to be excited about."

Wilkins spent his first five seasons with Miami. He had a career-high nine sacks in 2023. Overall, he's played in 81 games and recorded 20 1/2 sacks, 43 tackles for loss, 19 defended passes, four forced fumbles and six fumble recoveries. He should form an impressive duo with star edge rusher Maxx Crosby.

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"There's one big reason to definitely want to come here, and that's number 98," Wilkins said, referencing Crosby. "He's obviously a heck of a player and I got a lot of respect for who he is and how he operates and how he plays. ... Maxx is one of two of my favorite players in the league just because he does things the right way, just that work ethic, that grind and just how he does everything the right way."

Wilkins will be reunited with defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, who had that job in Miami when he was drafted in 2019. That's one of many reasons he feels like the Raiders are a good fit.

"I'm just such a character, just such an animated, sick, twisted individual," he said. "I just love the game. I love the grind. You just feel that here. Just people who just love ball, just great energy and you can just kind of tell everybody's accepting of who everybody is, and everybody's just already themselves."

Unlike Wilkins, Minshew will have to compete for playing time.

Las Vegas lacks a clear-cut starting quarterback after releasing veterans Jimmy Garoppolo and Brian Hoyer. Aidan O'Connell was the starter for the majority of last season, but the Raiders could still make a move to bring in another QB.

Minshew started 13 games for Indianapolis last season, filling in capably after Anthony Richardson was injured.

"I'm always looking for opportunities to compete and this is a great one here," Minshew said. "Excited to get in and compete with a team that I feel has a chance to be really good. I always have two goals for myself everywhere I go: get better and have fun. So, I look forward to getting here, working really hard, and to enjoy it."

Minshew completed 305 of 490 passes (62.2%) for 3,305 yards, with 15 touchdowns and nine interceptions, and had an 84.6 passer rating last season.

Having played in several systems for Jacksonville (2019-20), Philadelphia (2021-22) and Indianapolis, Minshew is confident he'll be able to catch on under offensive coordinator Luke Getsy and quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello.

"I think at this point in my career, bounced around in college, bounced around a little bit in the NFL, so feel very confident in the ability to learn the offense, pick it up," Minshew said. "And that's one of the things I'm really excited to just dive into."

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