2018 NFL Free Agents: Defensive Ends

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2018 NFL Free Agency: Star rating is out of five. Age listing as of Sept. 1, 2018.
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  1. DeMarcus Lawrence, DE, Cowboys. Age: 26.
    Franchised by Cowboys

    DeMarcus Lawrence registered eight sacks in 2015, but didn’t play much in 2016. He was very limited because of a suspension and then a back injury, which required surgery. This obviously did not adversely affect his play because he was one of the most dominant defenders in the entire league this past year, registering 15 sacks. He also played the run very well. Lawrence, just 26 in April, has a very bright future ahead of him, and if he continues this level of play, he’ll be enshrined in Canton one day.

  2. Ezekiel Ansah, DE, Lions. Age: 29.
    Franchised by Lions

    Ezekiel Ansah is a very talented edge rusher, but the knock on him is his durability. Ansah hasn’t been fully healthy since 2015, which would explain why he hasn’t approached his sack total from that year, 14.5.

  3. Adrian Clayborn, DE, Falcons. Age: 30.
    Signed with Patriots

    Adrian Clayborn is a rock solid defensive end with no weaknesses. He logged a career-high 9.5 sacks in 2017, though six of them came in one game where Dallas’ inept coaching staff didn’t adjust for Tyron Smith being injured.

  4. Trent Murphy, DE/OLB, Redskins. Age: 27.
    Signed with Bills

    The Redskins really missed Trent Murphy this past season. He recorded nine sacks in 2016, but missed all of 2017 because of a torn ACL and MCL. He suffered the injury in August, so he should be ready for 2018 training camp.

  5. Vinny Curry, DE, Eagles. Age: 30.
    Signed with Buccaneers (3 years)

    The stats don’t show it, but Vinny Curry is a very talented player. He hasn’t recorded more than 3.5 sacks since 2013, but he has provided a consistent pass rush. He’s also very effective in run support. The one downside with him is that he turns 30 in June, but he should still be able to perform on a high level for at least two more seasons. He’ll generate plenty of interest on the open market.

  6. Alex Okafor, DE, Saints. Age: 27.
    Re-signed with Saints (2 years)

    Alex Okafor was a fourth-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, and he has worked hard to improve each year. He was playing on a high level in 2017 – 4.5 sacks in 10 games – but tore his Achilles in November. He’s only 27, but may not be ready for training camp.

  7. Kony Ealy, DE/OLB, Raiders. Age: 26.
    The Patriots thoughtlessly discarded Kony Ealy last offseason, but one man’s trash proved to be another man’s treasure, as Ealy performed very well for the Jets, at least in the first half of the season. He slowed down toward the end, but it was a reminder that Ealy once dominated in the Super Bowl.

  8. Dion Jordan (RFA), DE, Seahawks. Age: 28.
    Tendered by Seahawks (original round)

    Dion Jordan was a bust as a former third-overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Until this past season. Jordan played five games and was dominant in those, recording four sacks. Pete Carroll ranted and raved about Jordan in an offseason press conference, and rightfully so. Perhaps Jordan will finally begin living up to expectations.

  9. Robert Ayers, DE, Lions. Age: 32.
    Robert Ayers registered just two sacks last year, but played better than that. He’s strong versus the run and decent enough as a pass-rusher, but the downside is that he turns 33 on Sept. 6.

  10. Aaron Lynch, DE, 49ers. Age: 25.
    Signed with Bears (1 year)

    Aaron Lynch registered a combined 12.5 sacks in his first two seasons, but has barely registered the stat sheet since. Lynch is physically gifted, but he has red flags for character, motivational and injury issues.

  11. Julius Peppers, DE, Panthers. Age: 38.
    Re-signed with Panthers (1 year)

    Julius Peppers is going to be in the Hall of Fame five years after he retires, but given the way he performed in 2017, he may not hang up the cleats for another two or three seasons. Despite playing about half the snaps each game, Peppers logged 11 sacks. He had 7.5 sacks the year before.

  12. William Hayes, DE, Dolphins. Age: 33.
    Re-signed with Dolphins (1 year)

    William Hayes was an excellent run-defender for the Dolphins in 2017 prior to landing on injured reserve with a hamstring injury. He turns 33 in May, however, so he’ll be declining soon.

  13. Tank Carradine, DE, 49ers. Age: 28.
    Signed with Raiders

    Tank Carradine isn’t much of a pass-rusher, but he’s excellent against the run. He would probably be best as a left end in the 4-3.

  14. Kareem Martin, DE/OLB, Cardinals. Age: 26.
    Signed with Giants

    Kareem Martin has never registered multiple sacks in a season throughout his career, but he’s a solid, jack-of-all-trades outside linebacker who is solid in run support and coverage.

  15. Derrick Shelby, DE, Falcons. Age: 29.
    Re-signed with Falcons (1 year)

    Derrick Shelby has never registered more than four sacks in a season, but he’s a solid rotational end who clamps down well against the run. The Falcons only cut him to save $4.5 million, so Shelby should be able to find a home somewhere else.

  16. Charles Johnson, DE, Panthers. Age: 32.
    Announced retirement

    Charles Johnson used to be a tremendous edge rusher, but is clearly past his prime. He has just five total sacks in the past three years, and he hasn’t played a full season since 2014.

  17. Dwight Freeney, DE, Lions. Age: 38.
    Dwight Freeney, despite his age, is still an effective, rotational pass-rusher. That’s all he is at this point, and he should be limited to 15-20 snaps per game, but he can certainly continue to contribute for a contender.

  18. Aldon Smith, DE, Raiders. Age: 28.
    What a shame. Aldon Smith ruined his career by constantly getting into legal trouble, and that once again proved to be the case on March 3 when he was involved in a domestic violence incident. Smith followed that up by fleeing from police. He has since checked into rehab. All of this prompted the Raiders to finally cut him. It’ll be surprising if he ever plays again, but given that he’s just 28, he still has time to turn his life around.

  19. Cliff Avril, DE, Seahawks. Age: 32.
    Cliff Avril had been a declining player heading into 2017. He then missed the final 12 games of the year with a neck injiry that might have ended his career. There’s a chance Avril doesn’t play again.

  20. Chris Smith, DE, Bengals. Age: 26. — Signed with Browns (3 years)
  21. Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Falcons. Age: 28. — Signed with Jets
  22. Ryan Davis, DE, Bills. Age: 29.
  23. Sam Acho, DE/OLB, Bears. Age: 29. — Re-signed with Bears
  24. Devin Taylor, DE, Giants. Age: 28.
  25. Tamba Hali, DE, Chiefs. Age: 34.
  26. Terrence Fede, DE, Dolphins. Age: 26.
  27. Cassius Marsh, DE, 49ers. Age: 26.
  28. Kerry Wynn, DE, Giants. Age: 27. — Re-signed with Giants
  29. George Johnson, DE, Saints. Age: 30.
  30. Marcus Smith, DE/OLB, Seahawks. Age: 26. — Re-signed with Seahawks
  31. Frostee Rucker, DE/DT, Cardinals. Age: 34.
  32. Bryan Braman, DE, Eagles. Age: 31.
  33. Lerentee McCray, DE, Jaguars. Age: 28. — Re-signed with Jaguars

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