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Chiefs, Ravens Among 6 Top Suitors For 70-Sack Pass Rusher

Free agent pass rusher Jerry Hughes has not received much interest on the open market but could be an ideal fit for the following teams.
Jerry Hughes Free Agent

Free agent pass rusher Jerry Hughes has 70 sacks to his name, but despite that production, the free agent does not appear to have much interest on the open market. While he is entering his age-36 season and is not the player he once was, 2023 showed he can still be effective in a situational role. Appearing in 17 games while making two starts for the Houston Texans, the former first-round pick finished the year with three sacks, 32 tackles, four tackles-for-loss, three quarterback hits, and a 67.7 PFF grade, the 52nd-best mark out of 112 eligible players.

At this point in his career, Hughes is a decent rotational pass rusher who probably isn’t suited for starting duties anymore. Seeing as Houston spent the entire offseason adding big-money talent to the front seven, it’s safe to assume Jerry Hughes will not return to the Texans as a free agent. With that in mind, the Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens stand out as two of the six teams who could pursue him as a cost-effective piece of the pass rush.

6 Teams That Could Sign Free Agent Jerry Hughes

The Baltimore Ravens lost several key players in free agency and could to cost-effective veterans to fill the void. With Jadeveon Clowney now in Carolina, the Ravens are betting on former first-round pick Odafe Oweh playing up to his draft capital. While the Penn State product is reportedly impressing in offseason activities, Baltimore should invest in a backup plan in case these results do not translate to the regular season. Jerry Hughes is the perfect free agent for this cash-strapped team, as he can start if needed but is better off as a situational backup complementing Oweh, Kyle Van Noy, and possibly David Ojabo.

The Kansas City Chiefs, meanwhile, have two reliable pass rushers in defensive tackle Chris Jones and edge defender George Karlaftis. If 2023 first-round pick Felix Anudike-Uzomah plays up to his potential, Kansas City won’t need to sign Jerry Hughes as a free agent. Unfortunately, the Kansas State product was a non-factor as a rookie, recording just 0.5 sacks and 14 tackles with an abysmal 53.4 PFF grade. Perhaps he can turn it around, but Hughes is a fine veteran who could help this team win yet another Lombardi Trophy.

Of course, the Chiefs and Ravens are just two of the 32 teams that comprise the National Football League. Every team could bring Jerry Hughes in because he won’t command much as a free agent. However, as things currently stand, the following four organizations make the most sense as potential landing spots.

Other Potential Teams

Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons have one of the league’s better starting quarterbacks in Kirk Cousins, but they’ll never make a deep postseason run with their current defense. While the team invested in the front seven early and often during the 2024 NFL Draft, they could still use a proven veteran to guide the youngsters and provide a Day 1 impact. Jerry Hughes is the right free agent for the job, as the former first-round pick still has enough in his tank to take advantage of the subpar offensive lines in the NFC South.

Detroit Lions

The Detroit Lions have a championship-caliber roster, but there is no such thing as too many reliable pass rushers. Aidan Hutchinson is a star and Marcus Davenport is a fine starter, but the depth here leaves much to be desired. If signed as a free agent, Jerry Hughes could see the field on passing downs and provide this team with a third player capable of collapsing the pocket and getting after the quarterback.

New Orleans Saints

The Saints have a high-risk, high-reward group of pass rushers. Chase Young and Cameron Jordan have a remarkably high ceiling, but neither player is the picture of consistency at this point in their careers. Jerry Hughes doesn’t have the highest ceiling, but the free agent can ensure some consistent production. In a perfect world, he’ll only see the field in clear passing downs and will be a complementary piece on one of the better defensive lines in the game.

Carolina Panthers

The Panthers are using a collection of band-aids to cover up the gaping wound that is their edge defender depth chart. After trading away Brian Burns, Carolina signed veterans Jadeveon Clowney and D.J. Wonnum to replace the two-time Pro Bowler. After failing to find an adequate young edge rusher in the 2024 NFL Draft, Carolina could once again turn to the free agent market and sign Jerry Hughes. Four quarters make a dollar, and Carolina’s plan to add several decent pass rushers instead of investing in one great one could work out in the short term.

Main Photo: Denny Simmons – USA Today Sports


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