NFL Top Free Agent Defensive Lineman

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If you are one of the teams in the market for top-tier help on offense, good luck. After the first five or so guys off the board, there is a big drop. General managers are going to have to pay handsomely for true difference-makers.

That is not the case on the defensive line. You can build an entire All-Pro line from the D-lineman that will be available when free agents begin signing contracts on March 13. The difference-makers are everywhere.

Chris Jones – DT

Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones is the biggest prize of the free agent pool. He’s coming off a brilliant performance in the Super Bowl, and he is the best defensive tackle in the NFL not named Aaron Donald.

The two-time All-Pro is a game-wrecker, and he is going to command top dollar. He says he wants to be a Chief for life, the Chiefs want him, and Kansas online sportsbooks think that ultimately Kansas City will win the bidding. The Chiefs are -350 favorites to have him next season.

But considering how his agents handled his holdout last summer, which extended into Week 1, there isn’t likely to be a hometown discount.

Josh Allen – EDGE

In 2019, Josh Allen became the first Jacksonville Jaguars rookie to make the Pro Bowl. Then he somewhat disappeared for three years, going from 10.5 sacks as a rookie to 17 total sacks over those three years.

But in 2023, he came back with a vengeance, finishing the season with 17.5 sacks, 46 quarterback pressures, and a second trip to the Pro Bowl.

Allen isn’t in the same tier as players like Myles Garrett and T.J. Watt. But he is only one small step below them. estimates his value at five years and $119.9 million, which puts him just below the top of the market.

Justin Madubuike – DT

If the Baltimore Ravens franchise tag Justin Madubuike, it will cost them $20.9 million. If they let him go to free agency, the 26-year-old, coming off a 13-sack season, will likely cost them a lot more. But if a player they drafted and developed walks to another team, that would be the most costly move of all.

Maryland online sportsbooks have the Ravens at +500 to win the AFC next season, largely because of their defense. Madubuike was the heart of that defense all season long, getting at least a half-sack in 13 of 17 games. That kind of consistent production can’t be replaced overnight. Look for the Ravens to do everything they can to keep him.

Brian Burns – EDGE

In 2022, when the Carolina Panthers traded away Christian McCaffrey, the next most valuable piece on their roster was pass rusher Brian Burns. The expectation then was that he, too, was going to be traded, as Carolina looked to the future.

He wasn’t traded, and now a year later, the Panthers will either need to tag him at a cost of $23 million, sign him to a long-term deal for an estimated five years and $108.7 million, or watch him leave for nothing more than the possibility of a compensatory pick.

Christian Wilkins – DT

Christian Wilkins is one of the best run defenders in the NFL, and he and the Miami Dolphins tried to get an extension done last summer that never ended up coming to fruition. Now he’s coming off a year in which he also set highs in all of the pass rush numbers, which means his contract number is also higher.

Last season, Wilkins made $10.7 million. In 2024 and beyond, he is expected to make at least double that. The Dolphins head to the off-season more than $51 million over the salary cap.

Danielle Hunter – EDGE

With the Minnesota Vikings in negotiations with quarterback Kirk Cousins, will they also be able to keep their top defensive player, Danielle Hunter? He does turn 30 during the season, but his 27 sacks over the last two seasons ranks fourth among pass rushers, and he is eighth with a total of 150 pressures.

NFL online sportsbooks have the Vikings as -200 favorites to sign Cousins, and his contract is expected to average $39 million per season. The average annual value on Hunter’s contract is expected to be more than $20 million. Plus, there is a Justin Jefferson long-term extension looming.

It’s shaping up to be a very interesting off-season in Minneapolis.

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