We continue our look at potential free agent pass rushers, using CBS Sports.com’s Pete Prisco’s rankings of top defensive ends and linebackers.
7. Jerry Hughes – DE-OLB – Buffalo Bills
6-2, 254 – Will be 27 years old this season – 10 sacks last season – 25 sacks in five NFL seasons
Hughes finally started 16 games last season after having only eight starts in his first four season. The 10-sack season as a reserve in 2013 got him more playing time. Buffalo could put a franchise tag on Hughes, but they reportedly prefer not to. There does, however, seem to be interest on both sides in working out a long-term deal. Did Hughes benefit from lining up opposite of Mario Williams the last two seasons, or is he coming into his own as a pass rusher? Buffalo already has a lot of money in its defensive line, so can they afford to lock up Hughes?
8. Jason Worilds – DE-OLB – Pittsburgh Steelers
6-2, 262 – Will be 27 years old this season – 7.5 sacks this season – 25.5 sacks in five NFL seasons
Worilds is unrestricted, and even with Pittsburgh needing to improve on a 33-sack season, there is skepticism Worilds will return. They are not going to franchise him for a second straight season. New Orleans and Philadelphia have also been linked with Worilds. With Dick LeBeau now in Tennessee, the Titans have also been mentioned as a possibility. Jarvis Jones could be ready to take over as the primary outside linebacker for Pittsburgh.
9. Rolando McClain – LB – Dallas Cowboys
6-4, 259 – 1 sack last season – 7.5 sacks in four NFL seasons
McClain will not be suspended but will be fined for four games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. It could impact his contract offers this offseason. McClain was fined for a third failed drug test. If he is suspended again, McClain would be suspended for four games. Dallas got McClain from Baltimore last summer in a trade. McClain actually retired in 2013, so there are questions that could keep many teams from pursuing him this offseason.
10. Malcolm Smith – OLB – Seattle Seahawks
6-0, 226 – Will be 26 years old this season – no sacks last season – two sacks in four NFL seasons
The MVP of Super Bowl XLVIII, Smith started 13 games in the last two years for Dan Quinn in Seattle. He played on special teams a great deal, but considering Smith’s knowledge of Quinn’s system, he is a legit possibility. Will Quinn believe Smith is ready for a more prominent role? It will be surprising if Smith is not a target.
11. Derrick Morgan – OLB – Tennessee Titans
6-3, 261 – 26 years old – 6.5 sacks last season – 23 sacks in five seasons in the NFL
The former Georgia Tech star did well transitioning to Tennessee’s 3-4 defense under Ken Whisenhunt. Now Dick LeBeau is in place as a defensive assistant and he loves linebackers, which is still a position where the Titans need help. So will they let Morgan go? Morgan is often compared to Michael Johnson, who signed a huge deal with Tampa Bay last season. Can Morgan get the huge money Johnson got?
12. George Johnson – DE – Detroit Lions
6-4, 263 – 27 years old – 27 years old – 6 sacks last season – First sacks of his NFL career
After bouncing around for three years in Tampa Bay and two years in Minnesota, Johnson got his break last season playing in all 16 games with the Lions. He recorded six sacks and got on the radar as a pass rusher. Can he capitalize on that with a big contract? Johnson is a restricted free agent and the Lions are probably afraid to let him go with uncertainty on the line of scrimmage.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at email@example.com.
Potential Pass Rush Targets - Part Two
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