Ranking impending free-agent edge-rushers

With free agency approaching as the 2016 NFL offseason kicks into full gear, we’re taking a look at how top-tier impending free agents rank at some of the hottest positions. This time, we break down the edge-rushers.

1. Bruce Irvin, Seattle Seahawks: His sack and pressure numbers don’t jump off the page, but that’s only because he was asked to do a lot more than rush the quarterback in Seattle. As a pure rusher, the 28-year-old former first-round pick would excel.

2. Mario Williams, Buffalo Bills (released): He’s coming off a grouchy, unproductive year in Buffalo, but a new setting could be huge for the former No. 1 overall pick. Remember, Williams is just a year removed from a 14.5-sack season. And he’s only 31.

3. Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants: The hand is of course a major question mark, as is the fact he had just one sack in eight games. But JPP is undoubtedly the most talented player on this list, and he had 12.5 sacks just two seasons ago. Plus, he’s only 27.

4. Robert Ayers, New York Giants: The underrated former first-round pick had 14 sacks despite starting only 12 games the last two years with the Giants. At 30, he might still be on the rise.

5. Tamba Hali, Kansas City Chiefs: The 32-year-old doesn’t put up sack numbers like he used to, but he’s still extremely productive and versatile and should have some gas left in the tank, at the very least as a situational pass-rusher.

6. Greg Hardy, Dallas Cowboys: Major character concerns here, of course, but the 27-year-old had six sacks in limited action with Dallas and isn’t far removed from a 15-sack 2013 campaign. Someone will gamble.

7. Nick Perry, Green Bay Packers: The 26-year-old former first-round pick obviously has a lot of talent, and he might have earned himself a lot of money with 3.5 sacks in the 2015 playoffs. We’ll see if that gets teams to overlook the fact he has just 12.5 sacks in 46 regular-season games.

8. Chris Long, Los Angeles Rams (released): The former No. 2 overall pick put up stellar numbers between 2011 and 2013 but has disappeared since. Is he done at the age of 31? He seems motivated to get back on track, so we’ll see what a new setting does for him.

9. Derrick Shelby, Miami Dolphins: In a less-than-full-time role, the 27-year-old has gotten better each year. His sack numbers (nine in his last three seasons) are limited, but he brings a lot of pressure and is also a solid run defender.

About Brad Gagnon

Brad Gagnon has been passionate about both sports and mass media since he was in diapers -- a passion that won't die until he's in them again. Based in Toronto, he's worked as a national NFL blog editor at theScore.com, a producer and writer at theScore Television Network and a host, reporter and play-by-play voice at Rogers TV. His work has also appeared at CBSSports.com, Deadspin, FoxSports.com, The Guardian, The Hockey News and elsewhere at Comeback Media, but his day gig has him covering the NFL nationally for Bleacher Report.