DENVER, CO – SEPTEMBER 17: Defensive end Demarcus Lawrence #90 of the Dallas Cowboys celebrates a turnover against the Denver Broncos int he first quarter of a game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on September 17, 2017 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
In the modern, pass-happy NFL, the role of edge rusher has grown increasingly important. The premium players at the position can dictate the game on a whim, and teams will always covet a dominant edge player who can change the game on just one won pass-rushing snap. This year’s edge class is stockpiled with upper-echelon talents for teams to pursue, highlighted by the fact that the top-three players on this list combined for 221 quarterback pressures throughout the season. Here are PFF’s top-10 free agent edge defenders.
Playing this season under the franchise tag, Lawrence backed up his dominant 2017 season where he generated an elite-level overall grade of 91.6 with another premier year setting the edge on the Dallas defense. Including the postseason, Lawrence notched an 88.0 overall grade in 2018, tied for ninth among edge rushers, while his 49 defensive stops were third-most at the position. Validating his consistency, the former Boise State product led the league in games with three or more pressures, earning that in 14 of his 16 regular season games played. Lawrence is going to be highly coveted as one of the best all-around edge defenders in the league – a player of his caliber doesn’t hit free agency very often.
Flowers has improved in each of his four seasons since being drafted in 2015. During his Super Bowl-winning 2018 season, he put his versatility and disrupting ability on display to the tune of 78 total pressures, tied-for-second most among edge rushers, and 43 defensive stops. As great as Flowers has been as a pass rusher, he’s been just as good against the run, with his 10.5% run stop rate ranking fourth at the position. Flowers lined up all over the New England defensive line with only 57.3% of his pass rushes coming from the left side of the front. The fourth-year player is a young, do-it-all edge defender and could be a finishing piece to a building defense. The Patriots don’t always break the bank when signing free agents, but they would be wise to re-sign him.
As a balanced and somewhat underrated edge rusher, Graham enters free agency following five consecutive seasons of overall grades at 80.0 or higher. He’s thrived in getting after the after quarterback by completing his third-straight season with 77 or more pressures. His 88.1 overall grade this season was good enough for eighth-best among edge defenders, and while he’s at his best when rushing the passer, he also offers tremendous balance against the run. Even at age 30, Graham remains a versatile player that can be a prominent factor in any team’s defense.
Clowney enters free agency after his best year in the NFL thus far, but could be a strong candidate for the franchise tag with the…