Five Edge Rushers to Watch For New York Jets in Free Agency

After losing out on Jadeveon Clowney, the New York Jets are expected to still pursue a pass rusher in free agency. Which of the leftover vets make most sense for the franchise?
Dec 3, 2023; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Jets running back Breece Hall (20) carries
Dec 3, 2023; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Jets running back Breece Hall (20) carries / Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
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One can never have too many pass rushers.

That's the motto the New York Jets have lived by since Joe Douglas and Robert Saleh were named general manager and head coach respectively. The organization has not apologized for their infusion of talent at the position, even if it means selecting a player in the first round when other needs on the roster haven't been filled.

That's why the Jets were among the finalists for Pro Bowl edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney. While Clowney ended up heading to the Carolina Panthers on a two-year deal worth up to $24 million, New York won't give up on its quest to find a competent role player to fill out the pass rush behind young players like Jermaine Johnson, Will McDonald IV, John Franklin-Myers, and Michael Clemons.

With several veterans still available, the Jets should be able to find the right fit of dependable talent, and excellent leader. Let's go through some of the top names to watch.

Sep 10, 2023; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Calais Campbell (93)
Sep 10, 2023; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Calais Campbell (93) / Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Bud Dupree

Dupree is a better fit as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. For his role in New York (potentially), the lone goal for him would be to rush the quarterback. Last year with the Falcons, Dupree was solid with that exact role. He's not the kind of player that will put up 10 sacks in 2024, but his ability to simply rush the passer is something the Jets could exploit in a big way.

Calais Campbell

The scheme, in this case, does not matter.

Is Campbell better served to be an interior edge rusher? Sure. Will that matter if they can put him on the outside for a couple of snaps? Not at all.

Campbell is a serviceable veteran who can play in different schemes and provides the kind of veteran leadership that could help players like McDonald and Johnson reach their full potential, while also allowing the Jets to be "multiple" in their defensive front looks.

Yannick Ngakoue

Ngakoue is the apple to most Jets' fans eye currently and for good reason. The former Pro Bowl edge defender is still just 29 years old, has multiple seasons with over nine sacks, and has succeeded almost everywhere he has gone.

The reason he remains available is simply because his asking price is too high at the moment. As the weeks drag on, though, and no deal is met, Ngakoue would make a lot of sense for the Jets.

Markus Golden

In a similar role to Dupree, Golden would be added for the simple notion to get after the quarterback. He's recorded over 10 sacks in three different seasons, and is coming off a four-sack season with the Steelers. At 33 years old, the former second-round pick may be past his prime, but for a few snaps a game, he could provide the necessary depth the Jets are looking for.

Carl Lawson

Let me just say that this is probably the most unlikely of any potential free-agent scenario. Lawson played in just six games last year and was a healthy scratch for most of the year. By the time the season ended, it's hard not to see why the former free-agent signing would downright refuse to come back to the team that once thought he would be a Pro Bowl-caliber edge rusher.

If the two sides can come to an agreement on expectations and snap counts, though, a return for a small deal could be possible. The only issue is Lawson's health. He's battled knee and back issues for multiple years now and will be hard for any organization to trust.

Nick Faria


Nick covers the NFL for Sports Illustrated/FN. He was previously on the New York Jets' beat for AM New York with prior experience reporting on the New York Islanders and the Philadelphia Eagles. The New York City resident is also an Adjunct Professor at LIU Brooklyn.