3 EDGE Rushers the Detroit Lions Could Sign for 2024
During the 2023 offseason, many fans and analysts suggested that the Detroit Lions had to add at least one pass rusher to team up with Aidan Hutchinson. But GM Brad Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell felt they already had the right players in place to be a good pass-rushing defense in 2023. As the first few weeks of the season went by, it was evident that the Lions still needed help when it came to rushing the passer.
Then, as the NFL trade deadline approached, plenty of people begged Holmes to make a deal to land a pass rusher to solidify the defense down the stretch. As we know, that did not happen either, and the defense is still leaving much to be desired when it comes to sacking opposing quarterbacks.
Though it is too late to add a legit pass rusher at this point in the season, one would think that would be a priority during the offseason. The Lions could wait and add one during the 2024 NFL Draft, or they could make a splash in free agency. Here is a look at three free-agent pass rushers Holmes could have his eye on when the current season concludes.
3 EDGE Rushers the Detroit Lions Could Consider
Pro Football Focus recently released their Top 100 Free Agents for 2024 list and there are some solid pass rushers the Detroit Lions could consider. With that being said, these guys will not come cheap. (Overall PFF Ranking in parenthesis)
(12) EDGE DANIELLE HUNTER, MINNESOTA VIKINGS
Hunter has been a revelation in new defensive coordinator Brian Flores’ blitz-heavy scheme, though he was just as productive in 2022. Teams that run a 3-4 or 4-3 could probably find a way to effectively deploy Hunter, and injury concerns of a few years ago seem like distant memories. He is on pace for another season with 900-plus snaps, 70-plus quarterback pressures and double-digit sacks.
Contract Projection: Three years, $65 million ($21.67 million per year), $40 million total guaranteed
(28) EDGE CHASE YOUNG, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
Finally healthy in 2023 after spending the better part of two seasons recovering from a torn ACL, Young exploded early in the year and has still been among the top edge defenders in pass-rush win rate on the season. A strong run defender as a rookie, Young does lose contain at times and occasionally gets guided upfield beyond the play, but a half-season of working with defensive line coach Kris Kocurek in San Francisco is the best free agency preparation around.
The No. 3 overall pick in 2015, Dante Fowler Jr., signed a one-year, $12 million deal following his rookie contract that began with a torn ACL in his rookie season. Perhaps this type of framework could serve as a blueprint, and Young can bet on himself once again to repeat in 2024 and then truly cash in.
Contract Projection: One year, $15 million fully guaranteed
(42) EDGE ZA'DARIUS SMITH, CLEVELAND BROWNS
Smith was traded from the Minnesota Vikings to the Cleveland Browns this offseason and revised his contract, converting it into a one-year pact for $11.677 million, a price tag he has vastly outplayed once again. Smith has the size and explosiveness to rush from the A-gaps out to a two-point stance as a stand-up outside linebacker, and he has earned pass-rush grades above 80.0 in his past four full seasons.
Contract Projection: Two years, $24 million ($12 million per year), $19 million total guaranteed
TL;DR (too long didn't read)
- Detroit Lions' Pass-Rushing Struggles: Despite the presence of promising player Aidan Hutchinson, the Detroit Lions‘ pass rush has been underwhelming in the 2023 season, leading to calls from fans and analysts for additional talent in this area.
- No Mid-Season Acquisitions: General Manager Brad Holmes and Head Coach Dan Campbell did not acquire any pass rushers at the NFL trade deadline, despite public demand. This decision has left the team still needing improvement in sacking opposing quarterbacks as the season progresses.
- Potential Free-Agent Additions: Looking ahead to the offseason, the Detroit Lions could potentially strengthen their pass rush by acquiring a player from the Pro Football Focus Top 100 Free Agents for 2024 list. Key prospects include Danielle Hunter of the Minnesota Vikings, Chase Young of the San Francisco 49ers, and Za'Darius Smith of the Cleveland Browns. However, securing such high-profile players will likely come with significant financial commitments.
The Bottom Line – A Crucial Offseason Ahead for the Detroit Lions
For the Detroit Lions, addressing the pass-rushing deficit is not just a requirement – it's a priority that could define their defensive strategy in the upcoming season. The absence of any significant moves during the current season highlights the Lions’ trust in their existing roster, but it also underscores the need for a more impactful approach in the offseason.
With players like Danielle Hunter, Chase Young, and Za'Darius Smith on the horizon, the Lions have the opportunity to make a substantial addition to their defensive lineup. However, the challenge lies in balancing the desire for top-tier talent with the financial implications of such signings. The decisions made in the coming months could be pivotal in transforming the Detroit Lions' defense into a formidable force, capable of elevating the team's overall performance and competitive standing in the NFL.