3 free agent pass rusher targets for the Cincinnati Bengals

Who is the best free agent pass rusher target for Cincinnati?

By: Jake Rajala

The monster 2021 free agent signing Trey Hendrickson was the third-best pass rusher in the AFC last season, as he unleashed 14 sacks. Nonetheless, I believe there are a few FA faces that could still help the Bengals pass rush. I’m going to untwine three pass rushers available that could help the 11th best defense in sacks last season transform into a Top-5 defense in sacks next season.

Carlos Dunlap

“Hello Darkness, my old friend”

Carlos Dunlap is still a very good football player and he proved his ability last season via his 8.5 sacks. Dunlap has familiarity with Cincinnati and they are certainly a team that can help win a Super Bowl ring. He is also arguably the best pass rusher on the FA market after Clowney re-signed with the Browns. If he doesn’t ink a contract with the Seahawks, I would love to witness his return to Cincy.

Geno Atkins

It may seem like Geno Atkins fell off the face of the earth, but his former teammates have expressed their wishes for him to return. Jessie Bates reportedly texted Atkins, “You want to go play for us now” back in January. The second Bengal on this list could also wreak havoc inside while allowing Sam Hubbard to develop as the best DE2 on this team.

Justin Houston

Justin Houston might be 33 years old, but he has been a quality football player over the past three seasons (11 sacks in 2019, 8 sacks in 2020, and 4.5 sacks in 2021). It’s clear that Houston wants to ride off into the sunset on a championship-caliber team. If he doesn’t start over Hubbard, he would be an excellent rotational DE and veteran presence for the Bengals defense.

Free agent pass rusher targets for the LA Rams

Who is the best pass rusher target for the Rams?

By: Jake Rajala

The Los Angeles Rams made a creative, potentially life-saving decision with the trade for Von Miller last season. Unfortunately, the Rams were not able to retain the future HOF pass rusher. I expect the Rams to witness a return from the greek god-like DT Aaron Donald and they still have Leonard Floyd to hunt down quarterbacks.

Despite the Rams projected horses on their defensive front in 2022, they have been rumored to reel in a new pass rusher. Turf Show Times suggested that the Rams could reunite with Robert Quinn and Ramblin Fan believes that Carl Nassib would be a logical fit for the reigning Super Bowl Champions. With that said, I’m going to simply outline a few FA pass rusher targets for the Rams.

Carlos Dunlap

I believe that Sean McVay wants to make another splash signing. They have expressed interest in reuniting with Odell Beckham Jr, but I’d like to see LA prioritize a talented edge rusher to replace Miller. Carlos Dunlap registered 8.5 sacks for SEA last season and he could blossom in a better situation next season. Clowney is off the board and Dunlap should be the next pass rusher on McVay’s wishlist.

Ryan Kerrigan

I don’t love Ryan Kerrigan’s ceiling, but he may be an excellent value signing. If the Rams aren’t able to obtain Dunlap, I’d like to see the Super Bowl-needy Kerrigan ink a one-year contract with the Rams. Per NBC Sports, he had an injury-filled off-season in 2021 and he also wasn’t able to have a quality role on the Eagles defense in the 2021-2022 season. It should be noted that his 2021 campaign was his onle season without 5.5+ sacks. I believe the combination of the Rams Super Bowl chances and Kerrigan’s desire to win a SB should help the two sides join together.

Justin Houston

The former third-round draft Justin Houston has refused to quit in the late stages of his career. Houston had 11 sacks in 2019 (IND), 8 sacks in 2020 (IND), and 4.5 sacks for the Ravens last season. Houston is a well-rounded defender that could also be a great mentor for the likes of Chris Garrett. The four-time Pro Bowl selection could re-sign with the Ravens, return to KC, or join a different contender: perhaps the Rams dream team?

3 pass rusher free agent targets for the Seattle Seahawks

Who is the best pass rusher target for the Seahawks?

By: Jake Rajala

The Seattle Seahawks cut ties with the pass rusher, Carlos Dunlap, this off-season and it’s clear they could benefit from the arrival of a QB hunter. I wouldn’t be shocked if John Schneider used his remaining resources (the 14th most cap space in NFL) to ink a pass rusher in this second week of May. With that said, I’m going to untwine five pass rushers that would be a great fit for the DE-needy SEA squad.

  • Carlos Dunlap

Carlos Dunlap is still a phenomenal football player and he proved that last season with 8.5 sacks and 14 QB hits. Furthermore, Dunlap has familiarity with the Seahawks defense and that is important. I believe that many Seattle fans would rather witness Dunlap return than Jadeveon Clowney.

The idea of Dunlap returning to the Seahawks is a real possibility. According to Sports Illustrated, Dunlap was stated to potentially return to the Seahawks in late March. If he doesn’t get an overly attractive deal soon, it would make sense for him to reunite with the Seahawks in 2022.

  • Ryan Kerrigan

I would rather see the Seahawks give Ryan Kerrigan an opportunity than pay a plethora of money to bring in Melvin Ingram. Kerrigan has 95.5 career sacks and he’s been a pillar of consistency in every season except 2021. In 2021, he failed to record 5.5+ sacks for the first time in his career. He could really be an affordable diamond in the rough for the Seahawks defense right now.

  • Everson Griffen

The Vikings legend Everson Griffen might be the poor man’s version of Dunlap. Griffen (34) is nearly the same age as Dunlap (33) and a bit less productive over the past few seasons than Dunlap. Griffen may want to play with a Super Bowl contender, but the Seahawks could be aggressive for his services. The four-time Pro Bowl DE could be a wrecking ball for the Seahawks if they can’t strike a deal with their beloved Dunlap.

Remaining free agent targets for the Cleveland Browns

Who is the top free agent target for the Browns?

By: Jake Rajala

The Cleveland Browns recently made the blockbuster trade to acquire the elite, controversial quarterback Deshaun Watson. The Browns will surely not take their foot off the pedal, as they aim to win a Super Bowl with Watson, Myles Garrett, and Nick Chubb (in his prime).

The Browns will also be an attractive destination for free agents as they showcase the gifted Watson at QB. With that said, here are a few free agents that Andrew Berry could soon lure to Cleveland.

  • Odell Beckham Jr. (jealous ex)

The polarizing OBJ is reportedly interested in joining the Browns, according to Bleacher Report. Beckham Jr. would look to exploit defenses with the crisp wideout in Amari Cooper. If the Browns showcased Chubb, Cooper, Hunt, and OBJ, the Browns would look a lot like the 2021 LA Rams.

It would be a risk for the cap-strapped Browns to cough up money for the injured OBJ right now, but a potential mutual agreement on a cheaper than expected agreement from OBJ might make the Browns feel more comfortable with his injury.

  • Sammy Watkins

There has been speculation that the Browns could target a deep-threat for Watson. I’d love to see the Browns ink the speed-demon Sammy Watkins on a “prove-it deal” rather than sign Will Fuller for a more expensive contract. Watson could help Watkins potentially bounce back and unveil a career season in 2022. He would absolutely be an interesting WR3 with Cooper and OBJ, as he would offer a unique skill set.

The Chiefs gave the former Browns WR Josh Gordan a shot and now it might be time for the Browns to give the former Chiefs WR the golden ticket.

  • Carlos Dunlap

It may be poetic to see Jadeveon Clowney return to the Browns, but I don’t expect them to be able to afford Clowney at this point. Clowney, who was in Cleveland shorter than OBJ, will likely get an astronomical contract elsewhere in my opinion.

I believe it would be smart to add a veteran edge rusher cheaper than Clowney and then draft a pass rusher early in the 2022 or 2023 NFL draft. Dunlap might be 33 years old, but he had 8.5 sacks last season. Dunlap may be more productive and even more reliable than Clowney, as he’s only missed three games since 2013.

Why the Seahawks are really underlooked in the NFL

Seahawks underrated among NFL nation

The Seattle Seahawks have been very underlooked this offseason. The Seahawks boast arguably a Top 3 quarterback in the league, an elite wideout in D.K. Metcalf, and two players near the top of their position on the defensive side of the ball (Bobby Wagner, Jamal Adams). 

Pete Carroll’s Seahawks are clearly coming off a successful 2020 season with 12 victories, they are holding together an elite QB and high-end roster, and vengeance is on the horizon. Yet, many reputable analysts and outlets are placing the Seahawks Super Bowl chances and team ranking behind other elite teams in the AFC and NFC. 

Odds Shark just placed the 12th man at number 12 in odds of winning the Super Bowl. In front of the Hawks were the New England Patriots, Denver Broncos, Indianapolis Colts, and multiple NFC West squads (LA Rams, SF 49ers). 

CBS Sports just put out an NFL Super Bowl odds that also places the Hawks at number 12. There were many questionable choices ahead of the Seahawks, including the Brees-less Saints in the NFC. 

I believe the outlook on Seattle’s Super Bowl chances is whacky and blatantly false. The Seahawks didn’t only win the division by two games in 2020, but only six other teams had 12+ wins last year. 

In the second half of the Seahawks season, the defense also turned the tide and evolved into an above average unit. Over the past ten weeks of the regular season, the Seahawks defense led the NFL in sacks. Carlos Dunlap, who was the pass rusher that helped turn things around, reached a two year contract to return to the Seahawks. Jamal Adams, who was an absolute star in his first year in Seattle last season, will be aiming to take the next step in year two of the system.

I also believe it’s fair to say that the reigning, still elite NFC West champions won’t drop easily to the likes of the LA Rams and SF 49ers. The 49ers will either run out the shaky Jimmy G or they will be holding a rookie QB against the fiery Seahawks pass rush in their early Week 4 matchup. It will be a huge task for the regressed Garopollo or the rookie Lance, who has been viewed as a product QB, to come out and light up the scoreboard against SEA and fellow NFC West defenses.

The 49ers are largely getting so much praise because a couple stars at TE and DE are returning healthy, combined with a hyped up rookie QB (despite being a surprise pick). The 49ers should take a step up from last season, but they still don’t have the same defense as the team that reached the SB in 2020. 

The Rams appear to be a very serious threat to the Seahawks in the NFC West and playoff seed race, but Matthew Stafford has had his own durability issues and poor turnover habits. He could pose a problem to the Seahawks secondary, but the Hawks have the pass rush to force Stafford into erratic mistakes. Outside of Stafford, there isn’t a huge makeover on the Rams roster. The Seahawks and Rams should be tight down the wire for NFC West gold in my opinion, but I don’t see a sizable difference between the Rams and Hawks. 

Seahawks should at least be a step ahead of the 49ers in their divisional pre-season rankings until Lance shows a spark or Jimmy G shows something not seen in training camp/or pre-season. If Lance proves to be a difference maker and capable of running the offense early, the 49ers should deserve the praise that a talented roster with a talented QB carry. 

I don’t foresee the likes of the Colts, Patriots, Saints, or Broncos ahead of the Seahawks in the overall pursuit of Lombardi. The Saints team has sputtered in the past few years, but now they will have to be elite in the long season without the HOF QB and their best defensive player Trey Hendrickson (left in FA) from a season ago.

It will be hard to envision an “above average” QB performance from Cam Newton or the rookie Mac Jones amid a Patriots team that lost its historic defensive unit from years ago. The Colts QB situation is the biggest gamble in the league, while the Broncos still don’t have a quality signal caller running out of the tunnel next season. 

The Seahawks deserve to be recognized as a Top 6 team. They hold an MVP QB in Russell Wilson on a hungry, proven roster. Not to mention that the Hawks possess the most lethal home field advantage: The 12th man.

Urban Meyer’s career so far: can he transform the Jaguars?

Urban Meyer career up to this point

By: Andy Davies

The Jacksonville Jaguars will go into the 2021 season with a new head coach. Urban Meyer is the new man to take charge, hoping to be the guy to change the fortunes of a franchise that has struggled for many years. After drafting the best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck in Trevor Lawrence this year with the number one overall pick, the Jags fans have rarely gone into a season this excited. The Jags have twice gone into a season on the back of reaching an AFC Championship game but with the addition of Urban Meyer and Trevor Lawrence, there is a real buzz around the organization and in the city of Jacksonville. However, Urban Meyer has never coached in the NFL. He is one of the most successful college head coaches of his generation. Can he translate this to the pros?

His Journey As A Player

Meyer was a walk-on in college as a defensive back for the University of Cincinnati, despite initially being drafted by Major League Baseball’s Atlanta Braves in 1982. Injury would deny Meyer the chance to make it as a professional player, but he showed signs of his coaching credentials whilst in college. He would go back to college, heading to Ohio State University where he studied sports administration. He would get a degree at both colleges, earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology at Cincinnati and sports administration at Ohio State, which will have no doubt helped him massively during his time as a football coach.

He may not have made it to the NFL as a player but he showed signs of his credentials as a coach during his time in college. Meyer would often spend additional time in practice, learning how to run them and handle substitutions. These all prepared him for life as a coach. As a player, he was part of a Cincinnati team that finished 2-9, with Meyer saying that it “wasn’t a great experience. We weren’t very good”. This will help him be prepared for a Jaguars team that won just one game in 2020. His former coach in Cincinnati David Currey spoke of his coaching abilities.

“He was not a great player but you could tell he would coach for a living. He was a student of the game, always trying to learn about things”.

The Start Of Meyer’s Coaching Career

He started his coaching career in 1985 as a defensive backs coach for St Xavier High School in Ohio before becoming a graduate assistant for two seasons with Ohio State. He spent two years with Illinois State as an outside linebackers coach in 1988 and a quarterback and wide receivers coach in 1989. He would then spend eleven years as a wide receivers coach, spending six with Colorado State and then five with Notre Dame before getting his first head coaching job in 2001 with Bowling Green.

The Early Stages Of His Time As A Head Coach In College

Meyer only spent two seasons with Bowling Green but would leave the team with a 17-6 record in charge. Highlights of his time there was the 56-21 win over rivals, the University of Toledo Rockets. Whilst with Bowling Green, he transformer their fortunes. He joined with the team having gone 2-9 in 2000 to then go 8-3 in 2001 and 9-3 in 2002, before leaving for the University of Utah.

Utah hired Meyer and was an instant success, going 10-2 and winning the Liberty Bowl in 2003. They would go 12-0 and win the Fiesta Bowl in 2004. Whilst with the university, he coached safety Eric Weddle and quarterback Alex Smith, who went on to be the number one overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. Smith would become an inspiration to everyone when he went on to win NFL Comeback Player of the Year during the 2020 season, returning the field after a life threatening injury in 2018.

Meyer openly claimed that he “made Utah competitive” during his time there. Morgan Scalley played as a defensive back under Meyer at Utah before going on to become a defensive coordinator with the college. He spoke of how Meyer changed everything.

“You could tell it would be different from the first session at the weight room. I never had butterflies going into a weight room and that had me going”.

Success With Florida and Ohio State

The Florida Gators then came calling in 2005, where Meyer would spend the next six seasons. He would coach notable players such as Cam Newton, Carlos Dunlap, Janoris Jenkins, Maurkice and Mike Pouncey, Tim Tebow and Trey Burton during his time in Florida as head coach. With an overall record 65-15 with the Gators, Meyer won Florida the Outback Bowl and the Sugar Bowl as well as winning two National Championships. He had a 5-1 record with Florida in Bowl games. Following a health scare, Meyer decided to leave the Gators after the 2010 seasons as he wanted to put focus on his family and “life away from the field”.

He soon returned to college football, becoming Ohio State head coach two seasons later. During his time with the team, he had an 83-9 record. He won one National Championship as well as a Sugar Bowl, Cotton Bowl and Fiesta Bowl. His time there sadly ended in controversy, before leaving in 2018 due to health reasons. He spent time as a television analyst before accepting the Jacksonville head coaching position in January 2021.

His Coaching Style & The Spread Offense

Meyer is seen as someone who is competitive, fiery and resolute. His “juice” is said to fire his teams up, with his infectious personality an integral part of his head coaching success. During his time as an analyst, he often went through a breakdown of offensive systems, with one component of his style of coaching being his Spread Offense.

This is a scheme which features four receivers, resulting in the opposition defense attempting to cover these players. This system allows the run game to excel, with RPO and read option plays often used under this style of offense. In a modern day NFL, we are seeing plenty of college schemes being brought into the league. Meyer will look to bring this style of coaching into the NFL that worked so well for him in college.

Can He Transform The Jaguars?

This is not going to be an easy task for Meyer but as he showed in Utah, he is capable of turning a team around. Jacksonville has the talent on their roster but have never seemed to fulfil their potential. One of their aforementioned trips to the AFC Championship was in the 2017 season. Their defense named ‘Sacksonville” played a big part in their journey, where they had a ten point lead and were nine minutes away from reaching the Super Bowl. They would end up losing 24-20 in agonizing fashion.

The components of Sacksonville would slowly fall apart. Jalen Ramsey, Malik Jackson and Yannick Ngakoue all left in 2019, with both A.J. Bouye and Calais Campbell leaving in 2020. Quarterback Blake Bortles was seen as the player holding back the team, being released in March 2019 as the Jaguars looked to Nick Foles, who won Super Bowl 52 MVP just a year earlier. He was seen as the missing piece in the jigsaw but only lasted one season in a disappointing spell with the franchise.

Head coach Doug Marrone guided Jacksonville to the AFC Championship and a 10-6 record in his first full season as head coach of the franchise. Despite this, he couldn’t guide them to more than six wins in any of the three seasons that followed before being fired in January 2021. Issues off the field started to develop, with the players arrested on their annual trip to London in 2018 after an unpaid £50,000 drinks bill. Meyer won’t stand for any negative behaviour with his aforementioned fiery, competitive and infectious personality is likely to keep the players in check.

And then of course, there is Lawrence. One of the best college prospects in many years, he brings a lot of expectation with Jags fans pinning their hopes on him being the man to bring the good times to this franchise. He had not lost a regular season game since high school and reached the National Championship in two of his three seasons with the Clemson Tigers, winning one of those two.

He played 40 games in college and threw for 758 out of his 1,138 throws, giving him a 66.6 completion percentage. Across his time with Clemson, he threw for 90 touchdowns and 10,098 yards. Jacksonville have a real talent on their hands and they need to do everything they can to ensure he fulfils his tremendous potential.

Along with Lawrence, they have reunited their number one overall pick with his Clemson team-mate in running back Travis Etienne, who recorded 70 rushing touchdowns and 4,952 rushing yards during his four seasons in the ACC. He will join a running back room alongside James Robinson, who impressed highly in 2020 during his rookie year with 1,070 rushing yards and 7 touchdowns. Etienne is said to also be working out as a receiver, which gives variety to the offensive side of the ball. Former Detroit Lions wideout Marvin Jones has joined the team via Free Agency to add depth to a wide receiver room already including DJ Chark Jr and Laviska Shenault Jr. Second-round pick Tyson Campbell gives depth to the Jaguars secondary, as will 65th overall pick Andre Cisco. 45th overall selection Walker Little will add protection to the Jags offensive line. Myles Jack is a survivor from the Sacksonville era and alongside fellow linebacker Josh Allen, they have the potential to cause problems for the opposition.

Jacksonville have a long rebuild ahead and fans should not expect an immediate transformation. Doubts remain over new Indianapolis Colts quarterback Carson Wentz and whether he can get back to his 2017 form. The Tennessee Titans’ defense is seen as their Achilles heels and the Houston Texans are a mess. They will likely see their quarterback Deshaun Watson leave, which will result in years of struggles and mediocrity. This is not the toughest division in the NFL and the Jags will want to capitalise on this, but the improvement will likely be in either year 2, 3 or 4 of the Urban Meyer Jacksonville era.

3 Top Landing Spots for Edge Rusher Yannick Ngakoue

Will the Colts Target Ngakoue?

By: Michael Obermuller

The 2020 season was a wild and turbulent ride for edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue, and not just because of the pandemic. The former 2016 third round pick out of Maryland played out his rookie contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars, but the relationship deteriorated after the Jags organization tagged Ngakoue at the start of another offseason that was widely viewed as an attempt to tank.

Hoping to test free agency in the first place, the situation became hostile when Ngakoue demanded a trade before the new season began. After a lot of feet dragging by the Jaguars, that trade request was finally granted to the Minnesota Vikings, who later flipped the pass rusher to the Baltimore Ravens before the deadline.

Ngakoue’s strength as an edge rusher is his consistency. Through five NFL seasons, he has never totaled less than 8.0 sacks, with a personal record of 12.0 in 2017. In 2020 he logged five with the Vikes and three with the Ravens, plus four forced fumbles split between the two. That performance yielded a solid 70.0 grade from Pro Football Focus.

The defensive end is more familiar with the 4-3 scheme that Jacksonville and Minnesota both utilize, but he proved that he can still flourish as a 3-4 outside linebacker with Baltimore. This versatility should help Ngakoue on the open market, as he competes with free agents like Jadeveon Clowney, Trey Hendrickson, Shaq Barrett, Melvin Ingram, Bud Dupree and more. In terms of Yannick, the question is really what franchise wouldn’t want a player of his ability, not what franchise would. With that in mind, these three landing spots are my top fits for Ngakoue.

3. New York Jets (Cap: $+72,498,042_ Rank #3)

This one makes so much sense that it probably won’t happen. The New York Jets have needed an edge rusher for what feels like decades, and yet they still have safeties and interior defensive linemen leading their team in sacks season after season. In 2020, defensive tackle Quinnen Williams led the Jets with 7.0 sacks, and next after that was journeyman edge rusher Tarell Basham with just 3.5 on the year. For a 3-4 defense dependent on blitzing, that’s downright terrible.

Now defensive guru Robert Saleh is at the helm, and it’s expected that this unit to switches over to a 4-3 in 2021. New York has very few capable defensive ends on their current roster (and they just cut one of them in Henry Anderson), so they pretty much HAVE TO target a couple edge defenders through either free agency or the draft. The Jets have the money to nab just about any free agent they want, so it will probably come down to which player Saleh and GM Joe Douglas deem worthy of the hefty price tag.

2. Indianapolis Colts (Cap: $+50,572,338_ Rank #4)

The Indianapolis Colts have done a really nice job building their roster over the years, and they always seem to have cap space to spare despite having less needs than the average NFL team. Credit GM Chris Ballard for that success, and now that the Colts have their starting quarterback Carson Wentz, they can focus on fine-tuning other weak areas.

One position that stands out is defensive end. Veteran Justin Houston is a free agent, and that gives Indy $12 million to spend on a younger replacement. Although there are plenty of free agent options at this position, Ngakoue’s speed and ferocity could really gel with Darius Leonard and this aggressive linebacking crew.

Honorable Mention: Seattle Seahawks (Cap: $+24,795,512_ Rank #15)

Even though the Seattle Seahawks should be spending their money elsewhere, like on an offensive line to block for their disgruntled franchise quarterback Russell Wilson, they probably won’t… And let’s be honest, Ngakoue is a perfect fit for this 4-3 defense that has earned its scary reputation. Carlos Dunlap has already been released and Benson Mayowa is an unrestricted free agent, opening the door for an Ngakoue signing.

1. Tennessee Titans (Cap: $7,559,660_ Rank #20)

Mike Vrabel is ALWAYS in the market for pass rush, and they just freed up $10.2 million in cap space by releasing cornerback Malcolm Butler. Last offseason the Titans brought in Vic Beasley and the aforementioned Clowney on the edge, but largely swung and missed on both free agents (their average of 1.4 sacks per game was tied for 28th in the NFL in 2020). Fast forward one year later and the void for a consistent pass rusher is larger than ever.

Tennessee must correct this weakness if they hope to compete for a Super Bowl, and not many free agent edge rushers have been as dependable as Ngakoue. So far the five-year pro has been an ironman throughout his career, playing 78 out of 80 possible games, and starting 70 of them. We already discussed his consistency getting to the quarterback as well, as he averages an impressive 9.1 sacks per campaign.

The Titans matched up against Ngakoue twice a year for four straight seasons. They know what he can do, and it’s time they added his skillset to their arsenal.

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