With the first week or so of 2019 free agency (mostly) complete, we’ve seen some amazing headlines and moves. Let’s break down the major moves on the defensive line and their impact on IDP value.
Terrell Suggs, DE ARI
Back to where it all began. Suggs moved to Arizona after eighth grade and played high school and college football in the state. After 16 seasons in Baltimore, he heads home. In Vance Joseph’s scheme, he’ll play outside linebacker opposite Chandler Jones but expect him to share a job. He’s not going to be asked to play full-time.
As for production, you can expect 34 solo tackles, eight assists, and five to eight sacks.
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Trey Flowers, DE DET
Flowers was the hottest edge defender in this free agency class and one of the best players at any position. His old Patriots coordinator Matt Patricia convinced him to come to the Lions to play the same position that has treated him so well so far. Well, Patricia and about $18m per season.
Expect Flowers to do the same thing – rush the passer well but show excellent discipline to set the edge and play inside on a significant amount of snaps. 30 solos, nine assists and eight to ten sacks seem reasonable, which should make him a top-12 DE.
Malik Jackson, DT PHI
Jackson spent three seasons in Jacksonville after winning his big-money contract on that great Broncos defense. He played well but never quite caught fire. And honestly, he was never that special in Denver. Jackson has always been good rather than great.
18 sacks over three years was a decent return for him. But landing in Philly is another thing. He’ll be surrounded by other pass rushers and in Fletcher Cox an interior player who was more disruptive than anyone bar Aaron Donald in 2018.
20 solos, nine assists and four-six sacks should be about right.
Sheldon Richardson, DT CLE
Richardson has been a tease across his career. Since being drafted 13th overall six seasons ago, he’s been paid over $25m but recorded just 23.5 sacks. He’s spent much of that time as an elite run defender but that’s not enough in the IDP world.
As a pass rusher over the past two seasons, he managed to create 83 pressures but convert just six into sacks (7.2%). In his first two seasons, he recorded 87 pressures but managed 13 sacks (14.9%). This is a great example of how bad sacks are as a stat. Richardson is going to be good as a Brown and has a definite chance to be a top-12 IDP tackle.
Alex Okafor, DE KC
Okafor has been a good player in the last two or three seasons. Not great but definitely solid. He heads to a Chiefs team who are rebuilding their defense after it arguably cost them a Super Bowl. Steve Spagnuolo is changing the whole scheme and with Dee Ford and Justin Houston gone, they need edge help. Okafor was given some hefty cash by the Chiefs and they’ll expect him to come in and play starter volume – likely across from Breeland Speaks.
Shamar Stephen, DT MIN
Stephen is a fairly average player who should be a rotational piece. The reason he’s important is that he’s pretty much limited to playing nose, which means Linval Joseph should have the freedom to be more of a penetrator. Joseph could be very good in 2019.
Mike Pennel, DT NE
The Patriots gutted the roster at tackle this off-season and Pennel is the first piece to land. At the moment he looks assured of playing 500-700 snaps as a run defender. Remember how good Alan Branch was in that job? That’s his upside.
Malcom Brown, DT NO
Ex-Patriot Brown lands in what sounds like a great spot. But in reality, he has David Onyemata and Sheldon Rankins (when fit) to compete with. Not to mention Tyeler Davidson as their primary nose. Brown will be a useful NFL piece but maybe not an impact IDP.
Cameron Wake, DE TEN
It’s not hyperbole to say Wake has been one of the better NFL pass rushers over the past decade. Plus, the story of how he got his chance and made the most of it is inspirational. He’ll make a great documentary one day. The Titans have Harold Landry onboard and should add another OLB but Wake will give them some experience and leadership at the position. 23 solos, 6 assists and seven to nine sacks seem sensible.
That’s a whistle-stop tour of the moves we’ve seen so far. There will be more and of course, there are several elite pass rushers in the draft which will shake the position up across the league. It’s all well and good sitting atop the depth chart now but wait until Nick Bosa or Brian Burns lands on your team.
Remember: sacks are a terrible way of judging pressure so you need to be looking for opportunity first and foremost. Who is going to be on the field enough to bring their pass rush to bear?
Thanks for reading.