Cincinnati Bengals Free Agency: Which Edge Rushers Could Be a Fit?

With one of the most lopsided pass rushes in team history, the Cincinnati Bengals will be looking to add an edge rusher to help add balance.

CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Bengals ranked near the bottom of the league in ESPN’s Pass Rush Win Rate metric, even though defensive end Trey Hendrickson finished in the top 10.

The Bengals had one of their most lopsided pass rushes in team history in 2023, with Hendrickson’s career-high 17.5 sacks accounting for 66% of the team total of 44.

Myles Murphy, the team’s first-round pick last year, played better as the year progressed, and the hope is that he can build on that and push Sam Hubbard for a starting job in 2024. Hubbard had a down year, but he played through significant pain the final month-plus of the season.

Free Agent Edge Rushers That Fit the Bengals

Hubbard will be 29 in June, and the best way to utilize the two years remaining on his contract would be to reduce his snaps. Not dramatically, but incrementally. He’s played 75% of the defensive snaps every year since 2019, and he was at 83% in both 2021 and 2022.

Cam Sample is a solid rotational piece, and Joseph Ossai is an enigma.

The Bengals aren’t going to make a splash signing of an edge rusher in free agency the way they did with Hendrickson in 2021 (four years, $60 million).

But there are several options that could provide solid depth at an affordable price to help defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo employ a rotation that will keep everyone fresh and effective into December and January.

Let’s take a look at some of the possible fits who are available.

Derek Barnett, Houston Texans

A first-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2017, Barnett had 19.5 sacks in his first four seasons before his production fell off. The Eagles cut him in November, and the Houston Texans claimed him off waivers.

The new scenery led to a fresh start for Barnett, who had 2.5 sacks and 10 quarterback hits in Houston’s final four regular-season games. And he added a sack in the team’s Wild Card win against the Cleveland Browns.

Barnett will turn 28 in June, and he’s expected to sign for less than the three-year, $15 million extension the Eagles gave him last March.

Leonard Floyd, Buffalo Bills

Floyd signed a one-year, $7 million contract with Buffalo last season and rewarded the Bills with 10.5 sacks despite playing on 54% of the defensive snaps.

Spotrac has Floyd’s market value increased to two years, $16.1 million this offseason, but there always can be fluctuations in where those deals end up.

As discussed in the article on free agent fits at defensive tackle, players on the wrong side of 30 usually aren’t on the Bengals’ radar.

But Floyd could be an exception if his market value drops. He’ll be 32 two days before the season opener, but he’s had at least nine sacks in each of the last four seasons.

K’Lavon Chaisson, Jacksonville Jaguars

A former teammate of Joe Burrow’s at LSU and a fellow first-round pick in the 2020 draft class, Chaisson is hitting free agency at just 24 years old. He’ll be 25 in July.

Spotrac has a market value on Chaisson at two years, $6 million, which is incredibly affordable for someone with his pedigree. Chaisson’s potential has far outweighed his production at this point in his career, with just five career sacks, but he could be one of those guys like Barnett who benefits from a new environment.

 

Chaisson may not be an ideal fit coming from Jacksonville’s 3-4, where he dropped quite a bit as an outside linebacker. But he would be worth exploring if Anarumo thinks he could make it work.

Yetur Gross-Matos, Carolina Panthers

The 2020 second-round pick is hitting free agency for the first time after compiling 13 sacks in his first four seasons for the Panthers.

Spotrac doesn’t have a market value listed for Gross-Matos, so it will be interesting to see where he lands as a second-round pick who has had success getting to the quarterback despite not having a lot of opportunities to attack with the lead.

MORE: Which 2023 Last-Place Team Has the Best Chance To Win a Division Title in 2024?

Gross-Matos will turn 26 next week, and the Panthers may lock him up before he gets to free agency, especially if they decide to let his bookend, Brian Burns, sign elsewhere for what would sure to be one of the biggest defensive signings in free agency this year.

Of note, Gross-Matos was twice as productive rushing from the right side (Hendrickson’s side), so he could be an effective sub when Hendrickson needs a break. But Gross-Matos has rushed from the left side about 40 percent of the time during his four years with the Panthers, so Anarumo could use him anywhere.

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