Falcons Free Agency Wish List: EDGE Defenders

NFL: JAN 07 Browns at Bengals

With the new league year looming around the corner, I’ve begun a series of NFL free agency wish lists for the Falcons at each position of need. If you missed the first part of this series, follow the link below:

1. Danielle Hunter

A pure sack artist out of my alma mater? There’s no way I was going to put anybody else atop this list. In Hunter’s last four healthy seasons, he’s had at least 10 sacks, including a career-high 16.5 last season. He’s a little on the older side, set to turn 30 next year, but there have been no signs of him slowing down to date, and he likely won’t require a massive five-year, $100+ million contract because of his age.

2. Brian Burns

The Panthers don’t have a lot going for them as an organization, but their defensive line, anchored by Derrick Brown and Brian Burns, is nothing to mess with. For that reason, I have a difficult time believing they’ll let Burns walk in free agency, but bad teams stay bad for a reason. Burns has never had fewer than 7.5 sacks since he came into the league in 2019, and the Falcons actually reached out to the Panthers at the trade deadline last year about his availability but were shut down.

3. Josh Allen

Josh Allen picked the right time to have a career year, totaling 17.5 sacks and making his second Pro Bowl. That should lead to a massive payday, and the Jaguars have made it clear they want to keep him. However, I’m interested to see how this situation plays out. Allen had more sacks last season than his previous three seasons combined. So, was 2023 just a flash in the pan or a sign of things to come? That’s something the Jaguars will have to answer this offseason, which means they should probably just franchise tag him.

4. Jonathan Greenard

Greenard was a third-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, and like Allen, is coming off a career year, racking up 52 tackles, 22 QB hits, and 12.5 sacks for the Houston Texans. He also had eight sacks in 2021 in just 12 games. With C.J. Stroud on a rookie contract, these are the kind of players the Texans can overpay a little to keep, but Greenard is a Hiram, Georgia native. Perhaps Raheem Morris can pull on some strings to convince him to come east to Atlanta.

5. Bryce Huff

After a 10.0 sack season in a contract year, the New York Jets have informed Bryce Huff they will not be using the franchise tag on him, allowing him to hit the open market.

It was a breakout year for Huff, who only had 7.5 sacks combined in his first three seasons. The Jets don’t have a lot of wiggle room when it comes to the salary cap, so the Falcons could certainly make him a fair offer to bring him to Atlanta.

6. Za’Darius Smith

Set to turn 32-years-old next season, the best days of Za’Darius Smith are likely behind him, but he can still stop the run and mix in 5-10 sacks at this point in his career. He’s also a veteran that could help some of the younger pass rushers develop.

7. Josh Uche

Uche had a breakout campaign in 2022, racking up 11 sacks, but he came back to earth last season, totaling just three with six QB hits. By himself, he’s not going to be the answer to the Falcons pass rush woes, but he would be a solid rotational option that won’t break the bank.

Photo: Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire


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