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Lunchbreak: ESPN Ranks NFL Pass Rushers Slated to Hit Free Agency

The NFL Scouting Combine is behind us, the franchise tag window has closed and free agency is just around the corner.

There are plenty of talented pass rushers slated to test the waters when free agency opens next week, so ESPN's Seth Walder took a stab at ranking them.

Worth noting is that league pundits have argued that Minnesota needs to add a pass rusher or two to the roster this offseason, but of course there are multiple options to do so, including the upcoming NFL Draft.

Walder topped his list with Haason Reddick, who recorded 11 sacks for the Panthers last season. Walder wrote:

You can understand the skepticism Reddick received on the free-agent scene a year ago. He was coming off a successful 2020 campaign in which he recorded 12.5 sacks, but he had been primarily a pass-rusher for just one season at that point (he rushed the passer on just 31 percent of pass plays in 2019, per NFL Next Gen Stats).

A year later, those doubts have been more or less put to rest. Reddick has put up back-to-back double-digit sack seasons, and he has even done so on two different teams (which is not a factor in the model but, I would think, ought to give us extra confidence in his ability going forward).

Reddick's underlying numbers also back up the sack production, as his pass rush win rate was eighth among edge rushers this season.

Given his numbers over the past two seasons and that Reddick is just 27, the model sees Reddick as the clear No. 1 free-agent pass-rusher option. For context: Reddick's projected 9.5 sacks in 2022 is the sixth highest among all players.

At 32, Von Miller might be getting up there in age as far as defenders go. But he also remained high on Walder's list, coming in No. 2 after helping the Rams win Super Bowl LVI last month.

Next in the rankings came Emmanuel Ogbah (Dolphins) and Derek Barnett (Eagles) at Nos. 3 and 4, respectively. Two-time All-Pro Chandler Jones landed at No. 5 with a "surprisingly low projection" of 6.4 sacks in 2022 after totaling 10.5 for the Cardinals last season.

On the other hand, maybe it's not that hard to believe given that Jones recorded five sacks in Week 1 and then managed just 5.5 the rest of the season, including the postseason (the model does not know about the distribution of sacks).

Jones' age – also 32 – worked against him in the rankings, Walder noted, as did his average pass rush get-off of 0.95 seconds.

Get a behind-the-scenes look of GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Head Coach Kevin O'Connell at the 2022 NFL Combine in Indianapolis.'s Schein says Vikings should 'make a splash' this offseason's Adam Schein listed nine NFL teams "that need to make a splash this offseason," and he included the Vikings on that list. Schein opined that Minnesota should consider trading quarterback Kirk Cousins. He wrote:

New coach? Check. New general manager? Yep. And the replacements are young, smart and inspiring. Which is why I wonder aloud about the future for Kirk Cousins.

Turning 34 in August, Cousins is entering the final season on his contract – and carrying a $45 million cap hit. With Aaron Rodgers staying put in Green Bay, Minnesota's a long shot to win the division. Kevin O'Connell and Kwesi Adofo-Mensah didn't sign Cousins, so there's no reason not to shop him. I like Kirk. He's in the 8-16 range at quarterback, depending on the week. But I don't think the Vikings are going to seriously contend with him this season, so it makes sense for the new regime to turn the page and start fresh. The Colts feel like a very realistic trade partner. Or how about New Orleans? Tampa Bay? Seems like someone could use a top-half field general, no?

Schein encouraged the following eight other teams to also make big moves: Panthers, Patriots, Dolphins, Jaguars, Saints, Raiders, Giants and Jets.

The Saints are an interesting team to watch in the NFC after the departure of Head Coach Sean Payton.

Sean Payton is gone, but stellar [General Manager] Mickey Loomis remains. Mickey thinks big, acts big – and typically wins. Yes, there's a correlation. And while the Saints just missed the playoffs for the first time in five years, the NFC South is suddenly wide open in the wake of Tom Brady's retirement. Of course, New Orleans has a hole of its own at the game's most important position.

Will Loomis re-up Jameis Winston? Bring back Teddy Bridgewater? Would either be enough to get this team back in the winner's circle? There's been chatter about Daniel Jones or Jordan Love heading to NOLA, but I can't see it.