A Look At The Best Free Agent Pass Rushers On The Market In 2018.
The Detroit Lions pass defense was not great by any means. The Lions ranked number 11 in passing touchdowns allowed, but number 27 in yards allowed. They ranked number four in interceptions, but number 20 in sacks. The Detroit Lions recorded only 35 sacks in 2017, and the player responsible for just over 1/3 of those, Ziggy Ansah, is an unrestricted free agent if the team does not re-sign or apply some version of the franchise tag to him between February 20 and March 6, 2018. Whether it is Ansah or another player on this list the Lions should be looking for free agent pass rushers in 2018.
The Lions edge defenders under contract are not without promise, however. Second-year pro Anthony Zettel increased his sack total from one as a rookie to six and a half in year two. Kerry Hyder, the team’s leading sack artist in 2016, had eight sacks a year ago and is a restricted free agent. There is no reason to believe that Hyder will not be brought back for 2017. General manager Bob Quinn recently said that he wanted a coach that would scheme around his players’ abilities. Such a coach should have a use for Hyder. Both of those players disappear from the stat sheet for long intervals, however. They are at their best when another player is providing pressure that they can work off, rather than as the primary pass rusher.
Dwight Freeney was brought in as a late-season addition, but his connection to the team was primarily the presence of Jim Caldwell. The two spent time with the Colts organization earlier in their careers. 2017 undrafted rookies Jeremiah Valoaga and Alex Barrett were signed to reserve-futures contracts immediately following the season. They were both impressive in the 2017 pre-season but failed to make a mark during the 16 games that mattered. The Detroit Lions currently have players with fewer career sacks combined than the team recorded in 2017. There is no doubt that pass rushers are the Bob Quinn’s most desperate need during the 2018 offseason.
There are a lot of fugazis in the free agent pass rusher market in 2018. Alex Okafor had a good season going before tearing his achilles tendon. That’s an injury that can rob a player of any athleticism he had and is particularly dangerous for larger players. Adrian Clayborn had one good game in 2017 and suddenly finds himself on every list like this. He has had over 80 games in which he was a below average pass rusher. I recommended that the Lions pick him up two years ago, but the nine-sack season he just had and the weak free agent pass rushers in the 2018 group mean that he is going to be terribly overpaid.
Pass rushers are one of the least scheme specific player archetypes in the NFL because the true base defense of the NFL is nickel. If the team is playing a 3-4 defense, one of their defensive linemen will leave the field half or more of the time. If a team is playing a 4-3 defensive scheme, one of their linebackers will leave the field for more than half of the plays. Regardless of the base scheme, on passing downs there will be two edge defenders and two interior linemen rushing the passer on more than half of the team’s defensive snaps. Here are the best free agent pass rushers that may be available in 2018.