When Pro Football Focus originally listed their Top 10 Edge Defenders Set to Hit Free Agency, the list was incredibly top heavy. Chargers LB Melvin Ingram, Cardinals LB Chandler Jones and Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul all headlined a talented group. Now those three players (originally ranked first-third in PFF’s Top 10 list) have been franchise tagged by their respective organizations. So who’s at the top of the list now?
Nick Perry, Green Bay Packers
Coming in at #4 on PFF’s was Packers LB Nick Perry:
Perry makes the list for a second consecutive offseason after returning to the Packers on a one-year deal last season. Another former first-round pick, Perry did not live up to his draft status during his first contract and consistently graded average prior to 2016. Perry was given a one-year prove-it deal and his production shot up last season. He tallied career-highs in nearly every statistical category. He led all 3-4 outside linebackers with a 12.4 run-stop percentage. He’s still far from an elite pass rusher, but his improvement put him in the same range as Chandler Jones, Jason Pierre-Paul and Jadeveon Clowney in pass-rushing productivity this past year. It’s taken some time, but he’s grown into playing as a 3-4 outside linebacker, and should still have the flexibility to play in a three-point stance as a defensive end, and on either side of the formation.
Perry was more of a Linebacker, but #5 on PFF’s list was a true Defensive End.
Jabaal Sheard, New England Patriots
Sheard is just two seasons removed from a career year, and he still played very well last season on a slightly smaller snap count. Over the past two regular seasons, Sheard has 96 total pressures, including 14 sacks, which is even more impressive considering his 1,142 snaps aren’t much more than some edge defenders reach in a single season. He’s graded well as both a pass-rusher and run defender in two different systems. Sheard can play different positions and roles across a front-seven and could be a valuable chess piece for a defense.
Other names of note remaining on the list include aging veterans Demarcus Ware and James Harrison plus Panthers DE Charles Johnon (#10) - the latter of whom might be another potential target for the New Orleans Saints.