Edge Rusher Free Agency Rankings 2023: Veteran Mercenaries Justin Houston and Melvin Ingram Save Underwhelming Group

    The 2023 edge rusher free agency rankings aren't as top-heavy as they were a season ago, but the class has some good value.

    Edge Rusher Free Agency Rankings 2023: Veteran Mercenaries Justin Houston and Melvin Ingram Save Underwhelming Group

    It doesn’t take a genius to figure out from the edge rusher free agency rankings that it’s a bit of a light year at the position. The truth is, NFL free agency is a bit light this year. Still, that doesn’t mean the players this offseason can’t produce and make a difference for prospective teams.

    But unfortunately, for those looking for a top-tier starter, you won’t find one in this class. Von Miller, Chandler Jones, Harold Landry III, and Randy Gregory were all on the market a season ago. That caliber of player does not exist in the class.

    2023 EDGE Free Agency Rankings

    A season ago, Arden Key ranked 94th in the free agency class. This year, the pass rusher came in at 24. That is a testament to two things; he has continued to improve, and the class is a bit thin this year.

    Find out where the rest of the edge rushers ranked in PFN’s Top 100 Free Agents.

    1) Arden Key

    Progression as a player is not linear. At least, that is the general rule. There are exceptions to the rule, and they are dubbed “ascending players.”

    Key, despite being a five-year veteran and having played on three teams already, had gotten better at each stop. The Raiders had no choice but to play him early on, which went poorly. But in a part-time role with San Francisco a season ago, his potential really began flashing.

    MORE: Interior Defensive Linemen Free Agency Rankings 2023

    Although Key only plays a fraction of his snaps on the interior as a rusher, somehow, he’s able to cause havoc despite his 240-pound frame. Key possesses long arms and good quickness, which allows him to win quickly from the interior on obvious passing downs.

    While his best use is as a designated pass rusher, he’s also rounded into a dependable run defender. He may never play 700 snaps in a season, but Key can give you some darned good play by being on the field 40-50% of the time.

    2) Jadeveon Clowney

    It didn’t shock anybody when Jadeveon Clowney decided to return to Cleveland in 2022. He was coming off his best season as a pro playing opposite of Myles Garrett, and another season like that could bring a truly grand payday his way.

    The shocking part came when he signed the dotted lines in the Spring. Because anybody that knows anything about the pass rusher knows he isn’t huge on the whole voluntary workouts and training camp thing.

    Clowney had an underwhelming season in 2022, culminating in the team sending him home early from school. But he’s still a 270-pound freak athlete who is a strong edge defender that can generate pressures with that athleticism. Any team looking for a $10 million option at the position for a title run should be giving Clowney a call.

    But I wouldn’t expect him to answer until July.

    3) Zach Allen

    Zach Allen was one of the league’s pleasant surprises in 2022. On a football team that was an absolute trainwreck, with a defense with practically no talent, Allen shined in Year 4. The 280-pound EDGE brings versatility to a defensive front.

    He’d be a good fit for teams looking to base out of a Tite Front, which would allow Allen to attack the B gap. However, he can also play as a strongside defensive end in a 4-3 or even slide all the way down to the 3-technique on passing downs.

    4) Marcus Davenport

    Marcus Davenport is one of the most curious cases in the NFL. Despite having the Saints add in their first-born sons in the trade up to get him, Davenport has never become an every-down player for New Orleans.

    He’s a good football player. Few are able to generate the kind of speed to power Davenport can offer on the edge, and he’s used that strength and athleticism to round into a strong run defender.

    Yet, he can’t seem to stay on the field and cement himself as a star player. The flashes have been there, but he’s lacked consistency in his game, the evidence of which comes in his ever-fluctuating pressure and sack totals.

    5) Charles Omenihu

    Samson Ebukam started over Charles Omenihu in San Francisco, but the latter is the more desirable piece, given his package in totality. At 25, Omenihu is still growing as an edge defender, particularly against the run.

    However, with his freakishly long arms and outstanding frame and athleticism, defensive coaches should be salivating over the prospect of adding Omenihu as a traditional defensive end or hybrid interior player in a one-gap scheme.

    MORE: Offensive Line Free Agency Rankings 2023

    His pass-rush productivity exploded when he got to San Francisco. Omenihu was a menace during their playoff run two seasons ago, and his 54 pressures in 2022 were 22 more than his previous career best.

    Omenihu had a lot to learn coming out of Texas, and he is very much in the same mold as Key was a season ago. He’s an unfinished product and an ascending player on the defensive line.

    Rest of Edge Rusher Free Agency Rankings

    6) Yannick Ngakoue
    7) Robert Quinn
    8) Ogbonnia Okoronkwo
    9) Justin Houston
    10) Melvin Ingram
    11) Samson Ebukam
    12) Brandon Graham
    13) Dawuane Smoot
    14) Kyle Van Noy
    15) Lorenzo Carter

    Dalton Miller is Pro Football Network’s Lead NFL Analyst. You can read all of Dalton’s work here and follow him on Twitter: @daltonbmiller.