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Best edge defenders available in the 2022 NFL Draft and free agency

Indianapolis, IN, USA; Michigan Wolverines defensive end Aidan Hutchinson (97) against the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Big Ten Conference championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Super Bowl is done and dusted, which means all 32 NFL teams are firmly into team-building season. The 2022 NFL offseason is all about 31 teams trying to build a roster capable of winning next year’s Super Bowl while the defending champions make sure they can retain their crown.

The big debate is where teams should invest resources. They can attack positions of need in free agency, the draft and even via trade. In this series, we will look at each position group and where the strengths lie in each of those areas for any teams in need, now looking at edge defender.

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Best edge defenders in free agency (Rank among PFF's top 200 free agents)

  1. Von Miller, Los Angeles Rams (4)
  2. Chandler Jones, Arizona Cardinals (5)
  3. Jadeveon Clowney, Cleveland Browns (13)
  4. Randy Gregory, Dallas Cowboys (14)
  5. Emmanuel Ogbah, Miami Dolphins (22)
  6. Melvin Ingram III, Kansas City Chiefs (24)
  7. Haason Reddick, Carolina Panthers (31)
  8. Harold Landry III, Tennessee Titans (33)
  9. Justin Houston, Baltimore Ravens (37)
  10. Jerry Hughes, Buffalo Bills (39)

It’s not that this year’s crop of free-agent edge rushers is absent of elite players, it’s that those elite players are creeping up in age and therefore carry a difficult balancing act between quality and the free agency dollars that it typically takes to acquire their services.

Miller only just showed how capable he still is of influencing games and changing outcomes. He posted a 91.2 PFF grade on the year and 93.0 in the playoffs. Over four postseason games, Miller notched 22 pressures and two game grades of at least 92.0. He remains an elite run defender who can still generate a lot of pressure, even if it’s not quite as devastating as it was when he was at his peak. However, Miller is 33 years old and has already exhibited signs of decline, making any contract a difficult one to navigate.

Jones is just behind Miller in age (32) and is coming off a PFF grade of just 68.2 for the 2021 season. The good news is his pass-rush grade remained outstanding (87.7), but any sign of production heading in the wrong direction at his age is a red flag. Jones is one of the few players who has a demonstrable knack for sacking the quarterback at an above-average level. He will make impact plays for your defense, but does the cost line up?

You can find younger players lower down the list, but they carry their own concerns. Gregory is just 29 and became a real leader on defense for Dallas, but he has just 1,580 career snaps to his name and has only just started to make an impact as a high-level rusher.

All of the question marks surrounding this free-agent group might inflate the market for a player like Harold Landry III, who is just 25 years old and has a very attractive resume for teams. Landry has a lot of data points in his favor:

  • Multiple high sack total seasons
  • Huge pressure numbers
  • Extremely durable
  • Age

The only concern with Landry is that his PFF pass-rushing grade has never matched his pressure total. He impacts the quarterback far less decisively than other rushers. 

Lower down the list, players like Jerry Hughes may offer the possibility of guaranteed pressure for less money. Hughes has tallied at least 49 pressures in each of the last nine seasons, many of which he spent as the only threat along the Buffalo defensive line. His age likely prohibits a big payday, so he could be a shrewd investment for a team just needing a clear upgrade.

Related content for you:

Best offensive linemen available in the 2022 NFL Draft and free agency via Sam Monson

Best edge defenders in the 2022 NFL Draft (PFF Big Board rank)


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