Free agent edge rusher options for the Falcons in April (2024)

For the seventh consecutive century, the Atlanta Falcons are in need of real pass rushing help. We’re pinning our hopes on a potent co*cktail consisting of one part early round draft pick, one part improvement from young players, and a dash of coaching. Still, it’s clear the Falcons need more on the roster than they have, even beyond a draft pick.

With that in mind, here’s a sampling of players still out there on the EDGE market. We talked about a few players in our defensive line article last week that can be carried over here, but these are choices we haven’t discussed who could join the team’s thin rotation.

Bud Dupree

While Dupree is still just chilling out there waiting to be signed, a reunion with the Falcons feels less likely than it did pre-James Smith-Williams.

That’s because of the numbers game more than anything else. With the Falcons widely expected to snag a starting-caliber edge rusher in the upcoming draft, Dupree would have been an addition if the Falcons wanted a reliable player to take on a significant number of snaps in rotation with the new guy and/or Ebiketie. Instead, they signed Smith-Williams to join Lorenzo Carter and DeAngelo Malone on the roster, and unless the team sours on Ebiketie badly it’s hard to imagine they’ll sign a veteran player who won’t be dirt cheap and would expect significant playing time. Remember, Dupree played at least 59% of the snaps in every single game a year ago.

Still, while Ryan Nielsen is gone and a large chunk of the defensive coaching staff with him, the Falcons still need edge rushers pretty badly, and Dupree is a familiar face for the coaches who do remain. He also tied for the team lead in sacks with 6.5, provided rock solid run defense throughout the season, and was durable and reliable. If the Falcons can’t land their pass rusher of choice early, I’d still welcome a reunion with Dupree for another year.

Tyus Bowser

A player I liked a lot heading into last year, Bowser has played just nine games over the past two seasons thanks to injury, including exactly zero a year ago. That’s a disappointing outcome for a player who had seven sacks in 17 games back in 2022 for Baltimore, and the soon-to-be 29-year-old has yet to find a new home.

If Atlanta’s looking for an interesting bounceback candidate and think Bowser is healthy enough to contribute, he’d be a fun addition. As Steve Palazzolo at Pro Football Focus noted late last week on Twitter, Raheem Morris’s defense will ask its EDGEs to drop into coverage more than the average team, and Bowser did plenty of that (and did so with reasonable success) in Baltimore. He’s also a capable if not outrageously productive pass rusher and a consistently useful run defender, as well, making him another useful addition to the group.

New Falcons coach Raheem Morris' Rams defense had 355 snaps where at least one edge defender dropped into coverage last year, most in the league.

Most coverage snaps among top EDGEs:
Dallas Turner 238
Laiatu Latu 55
Jared Verse 27
Chop Robinson 15

— Steve Palazzolo (@PFF_Steve) April 12, 2024

If Bowser’s market stays cool and the Falcons want reliability and a little upside at EDGE post-draft, they could do a lot worse.

Charles Harris

He had one of his more successful seasons in Atlanta with Raheem Morris back in 2020, before his breakout year in Detroit in 2021, which saw him put up 7.5 sacks. Harris has navigated injuries and a lack of production in the two seasons since then, but the familiarity with Morris and the glimpses of real upside might be enough to intrigue Atlanta anew.

The track record here suggests that a healthy Bowser would be a better option for the Falcons, but if injury is a concern in a pretty thin market, Harris could round out this group effectively.

Yannick Ngakoue

If you’re simply looking to add some pass rushing punch to this group, you might be tempted to take a closer look at Ngakoue. His production and efficacy have been slipping steadily over the past couple of seasons, so you’d be betting on a bit of a bounceback here in the same way that you would with Bowser or Harris.

The bet is a little different, though. Where Bowser is a well-rounded EDGE and Harris is at least a capable enough run defender, Ngakoue is one-dimensional and would be best deployed on third downs and obvious passing downs to pin his ears back and get after the quarterback. His price point would be a sticking point, but given that the Falcons do have players who already do multiple things well but lack any sort of game-changing pass rushing upside, Ngakoue would be an interesting addition if he was cheap.

Shaq Lawson

Like Ngakoue, Lawson’s production has been slipping a bit over the past couple of years. Historically, though, he’s offered you a capable, physical player who can hold his own in coverage, chip in as a pass rusher, and contribute against the run. You’d be betting on his ability to do so in Atlanta, but in such a thin market, it’s not a bad bet if the price is right.

You’ll notice a lot of talk of gambles, upsides, and price points in this article, and that’s for good reason. This is not the market you want to be searching for a top-flight option in, and the Falcons really have to rely on the draft to bring that caliber of player in. Still, if the goal is just to round out their edge rusher group with a capable player with a track record, one of these players would provide that. Expect the Falcons to look hard at snagging one after the draft.

Free agent edge rusher options for the Falcons in April (2024)
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