Sunday, July 15, 2018
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Post-Draft Free Agency: Top Four Edge Rushers

As teams have become more pass-oriented, the pass rusher has emerged as a premium position. So much so that pretty much every defensive scheme in the NFL is predicated on how the defensive coordinator best feels he can get after a quarterback. Thus, the “Edge Rusher” designation was born.

Is he a defensive end in a 4-3 or an outside linebacker in a 3-4? Nobody cares. All they care about is pressuring the quarterback and disrupting the offense. Here are the best four guys that do that left in free agency as of May 15, 2018.

Cliff Avril NFL Free Agents
Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
Cliff Avril

2017: one sack, two tackles

Avril missed 12 games in 2017 with an injury and was officially cut by the Seattle Seahawks for failing a physical. Of course, teams can pretty much dictate when a player fails a physical at any time. Before getting hurt, Avril was Seattle’s best and most consistent pass rusher in spite of all the hype Michael Bennett unjustly received.

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Truthfully, with their draft and Frank Clark chomping at the bit, Avril was expendable. He works best as a 4-3 defensive end and should land with a team early in the training camp process.

Best fit: New York Giants, Cleveland Browns, Atlanta Falcons

Tamba Hali NFL Free Agents
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Tamba Hali

2017: one tackle

Hali was unsatisfied with his role in Kansas City’s defense last season. It’s rough for an older player when a younger guy, in this case Dee Ford, takes his job. Hali is just a couple of years away from being a legit pass rushing threat and a nice six-sack, 30-plus tackle performance. He’s more of a back-up option at this point, but for a team running a 3-4, he’s worth a look at the right price.

While Hali may be frustrated as a reserve, if he wants to continue his NFL career, that’s where it’ll be.

Best fit: Washington Redskins, Denver Broncos, Houston Texans

Conner Barwin NFL Free Agents
Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
Connor Barwin

2017: 26 tackles, five sacks, one fumble recovery

Barwin was a bridge and insurance player for the Los Angeles Rams last season. They were converting to a 3-4 under then new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and needed someone who knew what the hell he was doing in that scheme.

Barwin had a solid year, but so did the Rams’ cheaper options at the position, Matt Longacre and rookie Samson Ebukam. It turns out Phillips is a pretty good coach that can coax a solid season out of plenty of dudes, making Barwin expendable.

Best fit: Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, Baltimore Ravens

Elvis Dumervil NFL Free Agents
Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports
Elvis Dumervil

2017: 13 tackles, 6.5 sacks

Dumervil, like Barwin and Hali, is an older player. He’ll be entering his 13th season in the league if he lands with a team in 2018 and is no longer a guy that can start 16 games and wreak havoc in every down. What he can do is still rush the passer as a situational guy, which is what the San Francisco 49ers used him for last season.

While Dumervil didn’t start, he did appear in all 16 games and delivered solid sack numbers. He did it for $1.5 million guaranteed and if a team is willing to pony up that kind of cash again, they can probably count on the veteran to deliver a similar performance in 2018.

Best fit: New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers, Indianapolis Colts

Summary
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NFL Free Agent Defensive Lineman
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