Dynasty IDP Free Agency Preview: Edge Rushers
In his debut article, Jason King surveys the state of edge rushers across the NFL.
No one wants to talk about it right now with the Super Bowl approaching, but we’re about to enter the darkest of days: a seven-month break from meaningful NFL games. Luckily, the NFL offseason is stacked with activity to keep our interest, and for fantasy and dynasty leagues in particular, free agency is important to pay attention to.
From a date perspective, here’s what you need to know:
Teams can apply franchise tags beginning February 20. The deadline is March 5.
The so-called “legal tampering” period begins March 11 at noon Eastern and concludes March 13 at 4 p.m., and it's at that time that contracts can actually be signed as it marks the start of the new league year. (March 11-13 are recommended vacation days from your respective jobs!)
This series of articles – my first for The IDP Show! – aims to provide you with a snapshot of where each team stands at the position, plus brief write-ups on the top free agents. We begin with the edge rushers.
Buffalo is looking at a significant cap hit if it decides to move on from Von Miller, who still has three realistic years remaining on one of the more player-lopsided (for a non-quarterback) contracts in recent memory. Bills brass also needs to decide on the fifth-year option for Gregory Rousseau. It should be an easy decision, and doing so would keep 2021’s 30th overall pick in Buffalo for the next two seasons. Otherwise, veterans Leonard Floyd, Shaq Lawson, and A.J. Epenesa are all headed for free agency.
Miami is literally in a world of hurt, with starters Bradley Chubb (ACL) and Jaelan Phillips (Achilles) in recovery mode. Andrew Van Ginkel picked an awesome time for a breakout season. He and his magnificent mane venture into free agency along with veteran stopgaps Justin Houston, Melvin Ingram, and Bruce Irvin. In addition, given contract terms, Emmanuel Ogbah doesn’t look likely to see the final two years remaining on his deal. The Dolphins have some serious work to do to address the EDGE position.
New England and new head coach Jerod Mayo welcome back Matt Judon from a torn biceps injury. The stud has one year remaining on his deal, as does the versatile Deatrich Wise. The duo will again be joined in the defensive line room by rising sophomore Keion White. Josh Uche, man of intrigue, and Anfernee Jennings are free agents.
The New York Jets have invested heavily in the EDGE position the past two drafts, and rising star Jermaine Johnson leads a group of returnees that includes veteran John Franklin-Myers, 2023 rookie Will McDonald, and Michael Clemons. Carl Lawson is looking for a new start on the open market, and Bryce Huff is hoping for a larger opportunity and a fat paycheck.
You can make a decent argument that Baltimore’s biggest offseason loss will be defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald, whose creative schemes have earned him head coaching consideration. It’s no coincidence that free agents-to-be Jadeveon Clowney and Kyle Van Noy both looked reborn in their 10th seasons. And Odafe Oweh enjoyed a breakout year, just in time for the Ravens’ decision on his fifth-year option, which I’m assuming will be picked up. Veteran Tyus Bowser will be around next season, as will David Ojabo (two years remaining on his rookie contract) and second-year pass rusher Tavius Robinson.
Cincinnati has priorities other than EDGE. Trey Hendrickson (two years), Sam Hubbard (two years), Myles Murphy (three to four years), and Joseph Ossai (one year) all return, along with depth pieces Cameron Sample and Jeff Gunter.
Cleveland needs to either bring back fantasy disappointment Za'Darius Smith or address the position in some other way. Myles Garrett remains under a long-term contract and is complemented by Ogbo Okoronkwo, Alex Wright, and Isaiah McGuire.
Pittsburgh looks set at its top three EDGE spots with T.J. Watt (two years remaining), Alex Highsmith (four years), and Nick Herbig (three years). Veteran Markus Golden is a free agent.
Houston of course has Will Anderson as its defensive centerpiece, but otherwise, the Texans are taking a hit with Jonathan Greenard set to reach the open market. Derek Barnett finally blossomed after joining the Texans halfway through the season, but he’s a free agent too, as is Jerry Hughes, whose advanced age may have finally caught up with him. Dylan Horton and Myjai Sanders offer depth, but Houston needs a couple of edge rushers to play serious snaps.
Indianapolis continues to wait and see if Kwity Paye can make the leap. Whether or not the Colts pick up his fifth-year option will be telling. Dayo Odeyingbo is entering the final season of his rookie deal, and Samson Ebukam just completed year one of a three-year pact. Indy is therefore looking for depth with Tyquan Lewis set to depart.
Jacksonville, whether on the tag or through a new contract, is going to have to shell out to keep top pass rusher Josh Allen. Former No. 1 overall pick Travon Walker is coming around, and rookie Yasir Abdullah offers upside depth. Veteran Dawuane Smoot and 2020 first-round bust K'Lavon Chaisson are free agents.
Last offseason, Tennessee signed Arden Key to a three-year contract to complement franchise stalwart Harold Landry. This offseason they’re set to lose the soon-to-be 34-year-old Denico Autry and former Bear Trevis Gipson. Rashad Weaver returns as depth for another season.
Denver jettisoned both Randy Gregory and Frank Clark in-season and relied heavily on Jonathon Cooper, Baron Browning, and Nik Bonitto. All three are under contract for 2024, although Cooper and Browning each have one year left on their rookie deals.
Kansas City used first-round picks on edge rushers in each of the past two drafts in “Furius George” Karlaftis (2022) and Felix Anudike-Uzomah (2023), and added the underrated Charles Omenihu on a two-year deal last offseason. Mike Danna is set to hit the free agent market, while B.J. Thompson returns as a depth piece.
The Los Angeles Chargers scored a win in the second round last year with Tuli Tuipulotu. Of course, Joey Bosa (two years) and Khalil Mack (one year) are returning, along with Chris Rumph (one year). Journeyman Justin Hollins is a free agent.
The great Maxx Crosby (three years remaining) leads Las Vegas’ EDGE group, which also includes 2023 first-rounder Tyree Wilson and Malcolm Koonce (one year remaining) off a breakout season. Janarius Robinson is also under contract.
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Dallas mostly looks good with Micah Parsons still playing under his rookie contract, veteran DeMarcus Lawrence back for another season, and Sam Williams developing as he enters Year 3. Both Dorance Armstrong and Dante Fowler are set to hit free agency and would leave holes in the rotation should they sign elsewhere. Viliami Fehoko Jr. (three years) and the versatile Chauncey Golston (one year) return as depth pieces.
In New York, Jihad Ward is hitting free agency but otherwise, the room looks set short-term with Kayvon Thibodeaux entering a pivotal third season, and Azeez Ojulari, former Bill Boogie Basham, and Tomon Fox in-house on one-year contracts.
Nolan Smith had a quiet rookie season in Philadelphia, but his opportunity is coming. Haason Reddick and Josh Sweat each have a year left before their deals void, and the ancient Brandon Graham is there now. Depth options Patrick Johnson and Terrell Lewis are set to return.
Washington, of course, already hit the reset button with in-season trades of Montez Sweat and Chase Young. Rising sophomores K.J. Henry, Andre Jones Jr., and Jalen Harris enter the offseason atop the depth chart. (LOL!) James Smith-Williams, Casey Toohill, and Efe Obada are all on expiring contracts.
Chicago’s depth chart is in decent shape with Montez Sweat locked up long-term. The versatile DeMarcus Walker is back for another couple of seasons, while Dominique Robinson (two years remaining) and Khalid Kareem (one year) provide depth. Yannick Ngakoue and Rasheem Green are free agents, and the Bears were probably just fine watching both leave the premises after the season ended.
Detroit has one of the best edge rushers in the league in Aidan Hutchinson but could use an upgrade on the right side, where John Cominsky (one year) and Josh Paschal (two years) have been adequate. Exclusive rights free agent James Houston will return but is coming off a lost season due to injury. Charles Harris and the Okwara brothers (Romeo and Julian) are hitting the open market.
Green Bay brings back everybody – Rashaan Gary, Preston Smith, and Lukas Van Ness are all under contract long-term – but will likely be looking for another depth piece with Kingsley Enagbare (two years remaining) coming off a torn ACL suffered in the Wild Card round.
If you thought Washington was in the worst shape of any team, take a look at what’s happening in Minnesota. Danielle Hunter and Marcus Davenport have contracts that are voiding, and D.J. Wonnum is hitting the open market. Only Pat Jones II (one year) and Andre Carter II (two years) return.
Atlanta is undergoing an organization-wide makeover, and that includes the EDGE room, where primary options Bud Dupree and Calais Campbell are set to walk. I’m assuming (perhaps falsely) that Lorenzo Carter will be back for the final year of his contract. Otherwise Arnold Ebiketie (two years remaining), Zach Harrison (three years), Ade Ogundeji (one year), and DeAngelo Malone (two years) all return on rookie deals for the rebuild.
I don’t mean to fan the flames of the dumpster fire that is the Carolina Panthers organization, but how would it look to see a top duo of Amare Barno (two years) and D.J. Johnson (three years) coming off the EDGE in 2024? That’s not going to happen, of course, but Brian Burns, Yetur Gross-Matos, and Marquis Haynes are all currently looking (longingly?) at unrestricted free agency.
In New Orleans, top dogs Carl Granderson (four years) and Cam Jordan (two years) return along with Isaiah Foskey (three years), Tanoh Kpassagnon (one year), and former first-round bust Payton Turner (one year). Zack Baun and Kyle Phillips are free agents.
Tampa Bay has rising star Yaya Diaby in the fold for the next few seasons, but otherwise, Shaquil Barrett, Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, and Anthony Nelson are all currently set to reach free agency post-2024.
Arizona cobbled together decent EDGE production from the likes of Dennis Gardeck (one year remaining), Victor Dimukeje (one year), rookie B.J. Ojulari, converted off-ball Zaven Collins (two years), and Cam Thomas (two years). Only little-used Jesse Luketa isn’t under contract for 2024.
Rookie Byron Young and free agent Michael Hoecht rarely came off the field for Los Angeles. Nick Hampton and Ochaun Mathis (three years each), and Zach VanValkenburg, and Keir Thomas (one year each) are all under contract but none eclipsed the 100-snap mark in 2023.
Seattle welcomes back Uchenna Nwosu (three years), Boye Mafe (two years), Derick Hall (three years), and Mike Morris (three years). Darrell Taylor is a restricted free agent.
San Francisco has Nick Bosa locked up long-term, and Drake Jackson (two years) and Robert Beal Jr. (three years) should both return to the 49ers rotation. Chase Young, Randy Gregory, and Clelin Ferrell are all free agents.
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18 Most Interesting Free Agents
1. Josh Allen
Granted there’s a good chance Jacksonville hits him with the franchise tag and/or locks him up long-term by mid-July, but Allen is entering his prime years (27 when the season kicks off) and is coming off a career season that saw him notch 17.5 sacks. And I get the argument that sacks can be a bit fluky and he’s due for some regression in that number, but Allen isn’t at all fluky. He ranked seventh among edge rushers playing at least 500 snaps with a “backfield disruption” score – a measure of quarterback hits and tackles for loss per snap – of 5.68. (Click here for an explanation of that metric and why I like it.)
I don’t envision his ultimate landing spot having much (if any) impact on his fantasy standing, and I have him as my seventh overall EDGE for dynasty. Allen doesn’t have the ideal size that new defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen seems to prefer, so I’m entertaining a chance he’s wearing new laundry in 2024. I would love to see the Lions scoop him up to pair with Hutchinson.
2. Brian Burns
The Panthers reportedly turned down some pretty impressive trade packages for Burns (remember the supposed offer of two first-round picks from the Rams?), so they can’t let him walk as an unrestricted free agent even after a disappointing 2023. Burns saw a significant drop in both sacks (12.5 in 2022 to eight in 2023) and PFF pressures (68 to 40), but his other data points look fine, including his backfield disruption score of 4.18. That’s actually a tick better than his 4.10 from 2022. And if you’re a fan of PFF grades, Burns was better in 2023 than in 2022 in overall defense, pass rush defense, and run defense. Entering his age 26 season, Burns is a dynasty buy, even if he remains with Carolina as expected.
3. Danielle Hunter
Unlike Allen and Burns, Hunter is definitely going up for bid on a reworked deal that voids. He played this season like he knew a massive payday depended on it, collecting 16.5 sacks on 83 combined tackles with a darn good backfield disruption score of 4.48. He’ll turn 30 next October so he’s quite a bit older than Allen and Burns, but he’s got a few high-production years remaining. He won’t come cheap in dynasty trades, but if you find a rebuilder thinking it’s time to cash out on Hunter, you might be able to barter a discount.
4. Jonathan Greenard
Coming off an injury-plagued third season that saw him play less than 300 snaps over eight games, Greenard was widely available on waiver wires in 12-team dynasty leagues to start the 2023 season. What a difference a season (a 12.5-sack season) makes, as Greenard now finds himself among the most coveted edge rushers set to hit the free agent market. He was sixth among all edge rushers playing more than 350 snaps with a Backfield Disruption score of 5.85.
5. Bryce Huff
There’s no guarantee that Huff would become a more productive fantasy EDGE with more snaps, but IDP gamers would sure like to find out. Stuck in a rotational role with the Jets that saw him earn just a 42 percent snap share, Huff still generated 67 pressures – a top 15 mark per PFF – and led all edge rushers with 450 snaps or more with a Backfield Disruption score of 6.45. With 10 sacks on the year, Huff should have been a useable fantasy asset, but he wasn’t for the most part because he could only muster 29 combined tackles. A different uniform with a more robust role could work wonders for Huff.
6. Chase Young
Young was among the IDP elite after his rookie season. The second overall pick of the 2020 NFL Draft scored Defensive Rookie of the Year honors and seemed on his way to stardom. Then came 2021, when he underwhelmed before tearing an ACL in mid-November. Young showed signs of getting back to his rookie production earlier this season in Washington, but he was traded to San Francisco mid-year and wasn’t the force he could have been opposite Nick Bosa. Young’s star has dimmed significantly, and I’m interested to see if there’s a team willing to give him a lucrative multi-year deal. My guess is Young will settle for more money on a one-year pact to set himself up for another run at a big payday in the 2025 offseason.
7. Denico Autry
Autry’s dynasty value is low due to his advanced age – he’ll be 34 when the 2024 season kicks off – but he’s hit DL1 numbers frequently over the past two to three seasons. Coming off a career-best 11.5 sacks and 50 combined tackles, Autry should be appealing to win-now teams. And likewise, Autry should be interested in chasing a ring, especially with Tennessee resetting its coaching staff.
8. Josh Uche
I can’t quite accept that Uche’s 2022 season was a fluke, but it stands out like Cinnamon Sugar in the Pop-Tarts section of the breakfast aisle. That season his 56 pressures translated to 11.5 sacks and served as a testament to his potential as a pass down specialist. He’s never topped 374 defensive snaps in his four-year career, and I’ll settle for 475 as a step in the direction of fantasy relevance. Even without Bill Belichick in town, I can’t see that happening in New England.
9. Za’Darius Smith
Smith is an outstanding and versatile defensive lineman coming off a 60-pressure season, and he was practically droppable in all but 16-team leagues in 2023. Why? He played just 580 snaps, tallied just 5.5 sacks, and had just 27 combined tackles. To make matters worse for dynasty, he'll turn 32 when the season kicks off, so his shelf life is on the back end. If he can find a new home where the EDGE cupboard is bare, he'll regain some fantasy value before it's time for him to find his life's work.
10. A.J. Epenesa
Epenesa’s best asset has always been his length. Standing 6’5” with 34.5” arms, the former second-rounder has a built-in physical advantage that provides more grace with wrapping up quarterbacks and ball-carriers. He’s never eclipsed 400 snaps in Buffalo, and he’s intriguing because there’s upside with greater volume. He makes plays in the backfield at a good clip (4.38 Backfield Disruption score in 2023, 4.53 in 2022) and converts sacks at a good rate as well, with 6.5 in each of his past two seasons. Epenesa’s a quiet buy right now in dynasty before free agency fever truly gets underway.
11. Andrew Van Ginkel
Miami would be wise to bring back Van Ginkel following a 6-sack, 69-tackle season. With Jaelan Phillips and Bradley Chubb working their way back from serious injuries, the Dolphins need him, and his old team probably represents his best shot at maintaining fantasy value.
12. Marcus Davenport
This is a wash, rinse, repeat listing from last season, when I had thought that getting Davenport to a prime destination for snaps was finally his ticket to starting fantasy asset. He played just 118 snaps over four games before an ankle injury ended his season. I can preface any rose-colored outlook for Davenport with, “If he could just stay healthy…” Unfortunately, it would be a major surprise if that happened, but hey, he’ll be 28 in 2024, and if snaps were mileage, we’d be wondering if someone rolled back his odometer.
13. D.J. Wonnum
I’m no huge Wonnum fan, and he’s benefitted as much as anyone from situation, having seen 700 snaps on average over his four-year career in Minnesota. I get that volume is king, and Wonnum on 826 snaps hit the 8-sack mark in 2023. His Backfield Disruption score (2.66) is middling, as is his PFF pressure total of 38. Wonnum’s best suited as a third option, and his best shot at anything more remains in Minnesota.
14. Jadeveon Clowney
He set a career-high in pressures (71) and tied a career-high in sacks (9.5) as a 30-year-old. It’s fair to accept that Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald deserves some credit for Clowney’s unexpected production, and it’s fair to assume Clowney could follow Macdonald to his next coaching stop. (Washington, perhaps?) I’m mostly in this to see if this former No. 1 overall pick will play for a sixth different franchise in seven seasons.
15. Carl Lawson
C’mon now, don’t laugh. Lawson seriously fell out of favor with Gang Green in 2023, but during his four years in Cincinnati and in 2022 in New York, Lawson was capable of converting pressures into sacks. And he’s still on the south side of 30.
16. Derek Barnett
Barnett’s resurgence was a low-key top-10 IDP storyline of the season. Barnett was a good rotational EDGE for Philadelphia for the first five years of his career, but he never had the impact – real or fantasy – that many thought he would as the 14th overall selection of the 2017 NFL Draft. After an injury-shortened 2022 and a pressure-free first half to 2023, Philly waived him, and Barnett came alive as a Texan with 2.5 sacks and 18 pressures on 206 snaps from Weeks 14-18. I’m not going to argue Barnett is going to become a fantasy star as a 28-year-old, but in the right situation and with high snap volume, Barnett could be a useful asset.
17. Micahel Hoecht
You don’t see many converted defensive tackles play 858 snaps at EDGE, but Hoecht and rookie Byron Young barely came off the field for the Rams. His situation couldn’t be more ideal, and Hoecht responded with 81 combined tackles and 6 sacks. His underlying numbers could certainly be more ideal though, as Hoecht posted a rough Backfield Disruption score of 1.88. For the sake of your Hoecht shares, you’re hoping for a return to Hollywood and for the Rams decision-makers to forget to make upgrades and add depth at EDGE.
18. Leonard Floyd
Floyd’s Backfield Disruption score (4.86) was very close to that of Za'Darius Smith, but Floyd practically doubled Smith in the sack department. Approaching 32, Floyd’s better days are in the past. I don’t think he has much if any fantasy value remaining, and his market as a free agent should confirm that.