FentayeJones Posted February 20, 2016 Share Posted February 20, 2016 Quote Even with the top players likely to be franchise-tagged, pass-rushers still figure to take the biggest bite out of the NFL's wealth of spending money in free agency. So many teams around the league remain starved for players who can consistently pressure the quarterback, and with the millions of dollars expected to be available once the market opens next month, pass-rushers of all shapes and sizes could cash-in with lucrative deals. According to Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com, the 32 NFL teams may enter free agency with roughly $1 billion to spend. While Super Bowl MVP Von Miller and New York's Muhammad Wilkerson remain likely to receive the franchise tag, the pass-rushers that do make it to the market should find a number of open checkbooks. "This thing (free agency) is just going to explode," former NFL executive Joe Banner told Seifert. "People are just not realizing what is sort of already happening and will keep happening." More money won't mean more problems for pass-rushers. Miller may get the tag, but the Denver Broncos will eventually make him the highest paid defensive player in the NFL. His next deal figures to be worth well over $100 million total, with $50 million or more guaranteed. A 26-year-old edge-terror with four Pro Bowls and one of the most dominant finishes to a championship season in recent memory, Miller earned his blockbuster deal. Wilkerson, who is coming off a broken leg suffered in the Jets' season finale, may have to play the 2016 season on the franchise tag. At an estimated $13.4 million, Wilkerson will still have leverage in getting the ball rolling on a multi-year deal. Who else is going to get paid? "Everybody who hits the market," Banner said. "It's that simple. Someone has to get all this money. To me, it's almost malpractice not to see what could happen on the market. The money is going to be there. It has to be." Teams will be paying a premium for pass-rushers. Miami Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon might be the best of the bunch behind Miller and Wilkerson. He's produced 29 sacks over his first four NFL seasons, including 25.5 since 2013. Only 25, Vernon will enter free agency with the possibility of joining Miller as one of the highest paid defensive players in the game. In fact, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald believes Vernon will command $14-15 million per year on his next deal, either from the Dolphins or one of the many pressure-hungry teams waiting in free agency. It's not difficult to find the franchises most likely to spend on a pass-rusher. Salguero mentions the Atlanta Falcons, New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers, Oakland Raiders, Indianapolis Colts and Chicago Bears as possibilities. You can safely add the Dallas Cowboys, Jacksonville Jaguars, Arizona Cardinals, Cleveland Browns, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and San Diego Chargers to the list, although most teams could use another talented rusher. Vernon won't be the only quarterback disruptor in demand. Malik Jackson, 26, will be a free agent after helping the Broncos win Super Bowl 50. He's coming off a dominant season in which he tallied 5.5 sacks and defended seven passes, while also leading the Broncos in tackles for loss (11). His ability to play in any front and create havoc as both a defensive end and tackle will give him a huge market. "I'm not looking for J.J. Watt numbers or Ndamukong Suh numbers." Jackson said, per Brooke Cersosimo of NFL.com. "I'm thinking more just getting paid. One hundred million dollars is a lot of money and J.J. was Mr. Defense a few times and a Pro Bowler. Suh was doing great things when he was in Detroit, so I'm not even saying $100 million. I'm not even saying $90 million, but somewhere in that ball park would be cool." Just a casual $90 million. But those missing out on Vernon and Jackson will have other options. Jason Pierre-Paul enters free agency as one of the more difficult players to evaluate. He was franchise-tagged by the Giants after a 12.5-sack season in 2014, but he blew up his right hand in a fireworks accident last summer and played in just eight games (with one sack) in 2015. While JPP might be damaged goods physically, he only turned 27 years old last month, and he was still disruptive with one intact hand to end last season. Ben Stockwell of Pro Football Focus highlighted his finish: Racking up 14 pressures in his first two games of the season against Tampa Bay (two hits, four hurries) and New England (one hit, seven hurries), Pierre-Paul set the stage for a productive second half, collecting 41 pressures from his Week 9 return, bettered by only four 4-3 defensive ends in that time period. With an offseason to learn more ways around the difficulties of playing with one good hand, Pierre-Paul could return in 2016 with the potential for producing big sack numbers. Using a survey of five league sources, Jordan Raanan of NJ.com projected Pierre-Paul's next deal to be two years and $21.2 million, with $6 million guaranteed. Even at only two years, the contract would be worth over $10 million per season—with the added protection of a small percentage guaranteed. If teams can look past his one sack and really dig into his tangible impact from 2015, it's possible JPP will command an even bigger market—with teams willing to give him more years and more money—once he hits free agency next month. Mario Williams of the Buffalo Bills will likely join JPP on the open market. However, Williams entered the 2015 season coming off three straight years with at least 10 sacks, including 15 in 2014. Unless we are to believe the 31-year-old defensive end fell off the cliff athletically, it can be safely assumed that Williams still has plenty to give for the right scheme. In fact, teams running the 4-3 front should be willing to throw big numbers at the former No. 1 overall pick. Another interesting case study will be Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bruce Irvin. While entering the NFL as a speed demon off the edge, he played the majority of his time in Seattle as a jack-of-all-trades linebacker. His best case scenario might be to find a 3-4 team in need of a pass-rusher. After registering eight sacks as a rookie, Irvin produced only 13.5 over his last three seasons. He will likely look for a better opportunity to line up and get after the quarterback, and there's no shortage of teams in need of such a player. Queue the bidding frenzy. In fact, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk believes Irvin will eventually sign a deal worth more than $10 million per year. Haven't heard of Jaye Howard? You will by next month. The 27-year-old defensive tackle had 5.5 sacks during a breakout season for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2015. As a 300-pound interior defender who can rush the quarterback, he'll enter free agency with the leverage to command big money. The list goes on and on. Former first-round pick Nick Perry is headed for the open market after registering 3.5 sacks over two playoff games for the Green Bay Packers. While injury-prone, he's proved to be a disruptive player when on the field. His best football might be in front of him. Robert Ayers and William Hayes both excelled as pass-rushers in part-time roles. Ayers is coming off a season in which he tallied 9.5 sacks for the Giants, while Hayes had 5.5 sacks—continuing his run of at least four sacks in four straight seasons—for the Los Angeles Rams. Miami's Derrick Shelby played in place of Cameron Wake last season and impressed, both as a run-stopper and rusher. He's still only 26 years old. Veterans Tamba Hali and Dwight Freeney can still provide impact as situational pass-rushers. Despite turning 32 years old last December, Hali has six or more sacks in seven straight seasons and nine of his 10 overall. Freeney signed in Arizona in October and provided the Cardinals with eight sacks in 11 games. Don't forget about defensive tackle Nick Fairley, a former first-round pick of the Detroit Lions who signed a one-year deal with the Rams last offseason. He was an effective player during his lone season in St. Louis, leaving him with the potential to get a multi-year deal next month. Interior disruptors always find a market. Want to go the risky route? Greg Hardy and Aldon Smith will be available. Both players have at least one career season with 14 or more sacks. If the past has taught us anything, it's that a team or two will keep giving opportunities to a player capable of reaching the opposing quarterback. There's also Junior Galette, who had back-to-back seasons with 10 or more sacks before the New Orleans Saints released him prior to the 2015 season. He eventually landed in Washington, where he promptly tore his Achilles and missed the entire year. All signs point to obvious ending. The NFL is flush with cap space and drenched with intriguing pass-rushing options set to enter free agency. It's a combination of factors that should produce incredible contracts for those capable of providing one of the most important assets in football. If you are a pass-rusher headed for the open market, expect the largest sum of spending money in league history to pay out in a big way. http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2617966-pass-rushers-will-get-paid-in-2016-nfl-free-agency Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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