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Position Primer: Edge defenders in free agency

With the new league year just days away, we will be taking a look at several NFL experts' lists of the top 100 free agents, and their views on some of the top players at each position set to hit the open market.

The final position we will take a look at are the edge defenders.

The Giants have two young edge defenders returning in 2020. Both Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines recorded 4.5 sacks last year, and will look to build on those performances this season.

Markus Golden is set to become a free agent after collecting 10.0 sacks in his first season with the Giants.

Jadeveon Clowney

2019 stats: 13 games, 31 tackles (21 solo), one interception, two touchdowns, three passes defended, 3.0 sacks, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, seven tackles for loss, 13 QB hits

Gregg Rosenthal and Chris Wesseling, NFL.com- (FA No. 3) "Clowney's production doesn't always match the hype, but he can still hijack an offense at peak moments -- often in the biggest games. Don't let the three-sack total fool you: He was a difference-maker in his Seattle debut, as the pass rush tended to vanish for quarters at a time whenever he missed stretches due to nagging injuries."

Sam Monson and Steve Palazzolo, Pro Football Focus- (FA No. 13) "Clowney put up an 88.0 overall grade in 2018 — the highest mark of his career — and he followed up with an 87.3 grade after a trade to the Seahawks despite seeing his sack total drop from nine to three. Clowney has the 11th-best overall grade among all edge defenders since 2017, including the third-best mark against the run (91.3), but his pass-rush grade of 83.9 ranks just 25th among that same group. Pass-rushers earn massive contracts for their ability to get after the quarterback, but Clowney has always been good, not great, in that department. The price tag may be too high for many teams, but Clowney brings top run defense and solid pass-rush to the table, though his game has never really lived up to his draft hype and he's never matched the production of other dominant edge defenders."

Kevin Seifert, ESPN- (FA No. 6) "Rented (cheaply) for the season by the Seahawks, Clowney reaffirmed most existing impressions of him: He is a difference-maker when healthy. He made it through 13 games in 2019, scoring touchdowns on separate interception and fumble returns, and was more effective as a pass-rusher than his total of three sacks would suggest."

Pete Prisco, CBS Sports- (FA No. 10) "He doesn't put up big sack numbers, getting just three last season, and he isn't a great edge rusher in terms of explosiveness. He was slowed by injury last year, but everybody is intrigued by his potential."

Dante Fowler Jr.

2019 stats: 16 games, 58 tackles (40 solo), six passes defended, 11.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, one touchdown, 16 tackles for loss, 16 QB hits

Gregg Rosenthal and Chris Wesseling, NFL.com- (FA No. 26) "A washout as the No. 3 overall pick in Jacksonville, Fowler rehabbed his market value with 11.5 sacks and 16 tackles for loss in his first full season with the Rams. Food for thought: Fowler's average of 1.4 impact plays (sacks, QB hits, tackles for loss and forced fumbles) per game with the Jaguars jumped to 2.4 once he joined forces with double-team magnet Aaron Donald in Los Angeles."

Kevin Seifert, ESPN- (FA No. 26) "Fowler produced a career-high 11.5 sacks in his first full season with the Rams, finally putting behind three and a half seasons of disappointment with the Jaguars. The talent has always been there."

Pete Prisco, CBS Sports- (FA No. 24) "He gambled last season by signing a one-year deal with the Rams and responded with 11.5 sacks, a career high. At 26, that's going to get him paid."

NFL.com ranks the top 101 players in the 2020 free agency cycle.

Jason Pierre-Paul

2019 stats: 10 games, 27 tackles (24 solo), two passes defended, 8.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, nine tackles for loss, 16 QB hits

Gregg Rosenthal and Chris Wesseling, NFL.com- (FA No. 31) "In just eight starts after returning from a serious neck injury, JPP produced 8.5 sacks and 44 pressures, per Pro Football Focus. He's a perfect pickup for a team looking for a short-term pass-rush injection."

Kevin Seifert, ESPN- (FA No. 71) "It's pretty amazing that Pierre-Paul managed to record 21 sacks in two seasons with the Buccaneers, especially after suffering a fractured neck in a car accident. After he returned from that injury, as well as his 2015 fireworks accident, who can bet against him?"

Pete Prisco, CBS Sports- (FA No. 61) "He has 21 sacks the past two seasons, even though he missed six games last year with a back injury suffered in a car accident. He is 31, so age is becoming an issue."

Everson Griffen

2019 stats: 15 games, 41 tackles (26 solo), one interception, two passes defended, 8.0 sacks, 11 tackles for loss, 24 QB hits

Gregg Rosenthal and Chris Wesseling, NFL.com- (FA No. 36) "Last season was a huge comeback year for Griffen, who felt confident enough in his production to void a contract with the Vikings that would have paid him more than $10 million. He could still return to Minnesota."

Robert Quinn

2019 stats: 14 games, 34 tackles (26 solo), three passes defended, 11.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, 13 tackles for loss, 22 QB hits

Gregg Rosenthal and Chris Wesseling, NFL.com- (FA No. 38) "A theme of this year's free-agent crop: Aging pass rushers who can still get it done. Quinn's an injury risk, but his quick first step was back last season in Dallas."

Sam Monson and Steve Palazzolo, Pro Football Focus- (FA No. 52) "Robert Quinn's 2013 season, the one in which he racked up over 90 total pressures and earned an overall PFF grade of 93.6, is still one of the best edge-rushing seasons that PFF has ever seen. That year, Quinn was a phenomenon when it came to beating tackles around the corner, but frustratingly, he was never able to get near that level again. His career went sideways when he was forced into schemes that asked him to be a stand-up linebacker on the edge, but his 2019 season in Dallas saw him return to some of his better play as a defensive end. This season saw him post 57 total pressures, the best figure he has recorded since that 2013 season."

Kevin Seifert, ESPN- (FA No. 34) "Quinn displayed high-end pass rushing in 2019 for the Cowboys, his third team in as many seasons. He recorded 11.5 sacks, his highest total since 2014, and led the NFL in pass rush win rate, an ESPN metric using NFL Next Gen Stats data. If nothing else, Quinn can still provide high-level contributions as a situational pass-rusher."

Pete Prisco, CBS Sports- (FA No. 50) "He seemed to revive his career last year in his one season with the Cowboys. He had 11.5 sacks and looked like a younger version of himself. He is 30, so age could start to be a real issue."

Derek Wolfe

2019 stats: 12 games, 34 tackles (23 solo), one pass defended, 7.0 sacks, one forced fumble, eight tackles for loss, 12 QB hits

Gregg Rosenthal and Chris Wesseling, NFL.com- (FA No. 74) "Wolfe was having a sneaky-strong season before dislocating his elbow in December. He's always been an impact player as long as he's been on the field, even if his peak years are in the rearview mirror."

Kevin Seifert, ESPN- (FA No. 98) "Wolfe signed a contract extension with the Broncos in 2016 after testing the open market. But after a career-high seven sacks in 12 games last season, he's set to field external offers in 2020."

Pete Prisco, CBS Sports- (FA No. 92) "This veteran has lost some of his fastball, but he's still a good player, and when he went down last season the Broncos run defense suffered."

Vic Beasley

2019 stats: 16 games, 42 tackles (28 solo), two passes defended, 8.0 sacks, two forced fumbles, eight tackles for loss, 12 QB hits

Gregg Rosenthal and Chris Wesseling, NFL.com- (FA No. 75) "It's a bad sign that the Falcons finally gave up on Beasley becoming a difference-making pass rusher."

Kevin Seifert, ESPN- (FA No. 45) "The No. 8 overall pick of the 2015 draft, Beasley led the NFL in sacks (15.5) in 2016 and recorded eight in 2019. He has never been as much of a play-to-play force as the Falcons had hoped, but that doesn't mean there won't be a market for his services."

Pete Prisco, CBS Sports- (FA No. 79) "If the Falcons, a pass-rush needy team, aren't bringing him back, that's a red flag. But he is just 27 and he has 37.5 sacks in his five-year career."

Shaq Lawson

2019 stats: 15 games, 32 tackles (21 solo), two passes defended, 6.5 sacks, one forced fumble, 13 tackles for loss, 18 QB hits

Gregg Rosenthal and Chris Wesseling, NFL.com- (FA No. 98) "Long an enigma in Buffalo, Lawson's production picked up just in time for free agency. It's a red flag that the Bills' excellent staff didn't get more out of him."

Kevin Seifert, ESPN- (FA No. 66) "The No. 19 overall pick of the 2016 draft, Lawson never caught on as a full-time starter. He did record a career-high 6.5 sacks in 2019 but could probably use a change of scenery after the Bills declined his fifth-year option."

Pete Prisco, CBS Sports- (FA No. 54) "He had his best season in 2019, which will help his value. He is a decent pass rusher and good against the run, but he has never lived up to his draft hype as a first-round pick."

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