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NFL free agents 2023: Ranking top 10 defensive linemen

/ by Justin Leger
Presented By NISSAN-NFL
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In today's NFL, it's imperative for teams to have a defensive line that can keep the elite offenses in check. Without interior defensive linemen and edge rushers who can get into the backfield, there's virtually no chance of containing the top offensive teams like the Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals and Philadelphia Eagles.

Fortunately for the teams lacking in that category, there is no shortage of options scheduled to become free agents in March. There are several available defensive linemen who can make an immediate impact, though the top options likely will cost a pretty penny. For some, it may be worth the price.

2023 NFL free agents: Top 25 overall | QB | RB | WRTE | OL | LB | DB

Here are the top 10 defensive linemen set to hit the market this spring.

10. Sheldon Rankins, DT

Age: 29

2022 stats (Jets): 3.0 sacks, 43 tackles, 1 forced fumble

The Jets defense was a bright spot in 2022, and Rankins was right in the middle of it. He's a solid interior defender who should also be fairly affordable, which makes him an attractive option in what's set to be a booming defensive line market.

UPDATE (March 15): The Texans signed Rankins to a one-year deal worth $ 10.5 million, per NFL Network's Mike Garafolo.

9. Fletcher Cox, DT

Age: 32

2022 stats (Eagles): 7.0 sacks, 43 tackles, 1 forced fumble

Cox's best days might be behind him, but the six-time Pro Bowler still has plenty in the tank. He proved that with seven sacks -- hist most since 2018 -- and 14 QB hits. After 11 seasons with the Eagles, it's hard to picture him in a new uniform next year.

 

UPDATE (March 15): Cox is back with the Eagles on a one-year. $ 10 million deal, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.

8. Brandon Graham, EDGE

Age: 35

2022 stats (Eagles): 11.0 sacks, 35 tackles, two forced fumbles

Graham is proving age is just a number At age 34, he notched a career-high 11 sacks. The veteran edge rusher would be a huge get for any defense, but like with Cox, it's hard to picture him leaving Philadelphia at this point.

UPDATE (March 13): Graham is re-signing with the Eagles on a one-year, $6 million deal, per NFL Media's Tom Pelissero.

7. Zach Allen, DL

Age: 26

2022 stats (Cardinals): 5.5 sacks, 47 tackles

Allen had a strong 2022 season with the Cardinals and is only getting better with each year. He has racked up 9.5 sacks, 35 quarterback pressures, and 12 pass breakups over the last two seasons.

UPDATE (March 13): Allen is signing a three-year, $ 45.75 million deal with the Broncos, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.

6. Dre'Mont Jones, DL

Age: 26

2022 stats (Broncos): 6.5 sacks, 47 tackles, 1 forced fumble

Jones excels as an interior pass-rusher and he put his talents on display in 2022, setting career-highs in quarterback pressures. His skill set will make him a hot commodity this spring.

UPDATE (March 13): Jones is signing a three-year, $ 48 million deal with the Seahawks, per The Score's Jordan Shultz.

5. Dalvin Tomlinson, DT

Age: 29

2022 stats (Vikings): 2.5 sacks, 42 tackles, 1 forced fumble

Tomlinson is stellar at stuffing the run and can hold his own as a pass-rusher as well. He has 55 tackles for loss or no gain since 2017, the third-highest mark among interior defensive linemen.

UPDATE (March 13): Tomlinson is signing a four-year deal worth $ 57 million with the Browns, per NFL Media's Ian Rapoport.

4. Yannick Ngakoue, EDGE

Age: 28

2022 stats (Colts): 9.5 sacks, 29 tackles, 1 forced fumble

Ngakoue isn't great against the run, but his status as an elite pass-rusher has helped to make up for those struggles. That should be the case in free agency as well.

3. Marcus Davenport, EDGE

Age: 26

2022 stats (Saints): 0.5 sacks, 29 tackles

Don't let Davenport's sacks -- or lack thereof -- fool you. He racked up 32 pressures in 2022. He's the top edge rusher in a weak free-agent class for the position.

UPDATE (March 13): Davenport is joining the Vikings on a one-year deal worth $13 million, per NFL Media's Ian Rapoport.

2. Daron Payne, DT

Age: 26

2022 stats (Commanders): 11.5 sacks, 64 tackles

Payne enjoyed a career year with the Commanders, tallying 11.5 sacks to set himself up for a big payday. The 2018 first-rounder will look to prove, whether in Washington or elsewhere, that his stellar 2022 campaign was not an anomaly.

UPDATE (March 12): The Commanders have signed Payne to a four-year, $ 90 million contract extension, according to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport.

 

1. Javon Hargrave, DT

Age: 30

2022 stats (Eagles): 11.0 sacks, 60 tackles, 1 forced fumble

Hargrave has continued to be a force on the interior defensive line since joining Philadelphia in 2020. He set a career-high with 11 sacks last season and should continue to be one of the game's most disruptive defenders as he enters his 30s.

UPDATE (March 13): Hargrave will sign a four-year, $ 84 million deal with the 49ers, according to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport.

Honorable mentions: Jadeveon Clowney, Justin Houston, Poona Ford, David Onyemata, Robert Quinn.