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This is the third time for picking defenses and the first time for picking individual defensive players. Fortunately, both matter for your fantasy football needs when you play fantasy football. This time, I will determine whether a player’s ranking will rise and fall while also showing whether the defense will rise and fall with the addition or subtraction of a free agent.

And here is the part where I reiterate that defenses and defensive players not only matter but are still sexy. Super Bowl Champions Kansas City Chiefs are 4-3 without Chris Jones. The Pittsburgh Steelers are 1-10 without T.J. Watt (although not a free agent). So, players matter; how a defense (team) plays with and without their ‘star’ defensive players matters.

Here are my top five defensive free agents and where I hope they go to boost defense and their individual IDP rankings.

Top 3 Hopeful Landing Spots for Free Agent Defensive Players

 

  • Player: Chris Jones, Defensive Tackle
  • Hopefully, the Landing Spot: Houston Texans
  • My Rankings (if this happens): Kansas City Chiefs fall out of top-5; Houston Texans jump from seven to five.

First, there is a chance that Jones will stay in Kansas City. Jones and the team could reach a long-term deal or franchise him. The issue is the Chiefs only have $29.3 million in cap space, and reports are Jones is looking for a deal north of $30 million.

Enter the Houston Texans. The Texans reportedly have $69.8 million in cap space. They also have a relatively young core of really good players playing on their rookie contracts.

Last season, Jones racked up 10.5 sacks, 56 quarterback pressures, and 13 tackles for loss. The Texans’ interior combo of Malick Collins and Sheldon Rankins combined for 11 sacks, 57 quarterback pressures, and 16 tackles for loss. The improvement in the interior is without question.

Imagine pairing Jones with Will Anderson Jr. and, with the cash on hand, re-signing Jonathan Greenard, who led the Texans with 12.5 sacks, making for an even more impressive defense under DeMeco Ryans.

Jones isn’t going to set your IDP fantasy stats on fire. But he will make the Texans’ defense better.

 

  • Player: Josh Allen, Linebacker
  • Hopeful Landing Spot: Jacksonville Jaguars
  • My Rankings (if this happens): I currently have Jacksonville ranked 22nd even though their defense was ninth in rushing yards allowed per game (103.1) and 11th in third down conversions allowed per game (4.9).

Opponents also scored 21.8 average points per game against them (16th), and the defense allowed 239.8 passing yards per game (26th). All this happened with Allen having a “give me the money” type of year.

Allen surpassed Calais Campbell’s 2017 team-high 14.5 sacks. Allen collected 17.5 sacks (second in the NFL), had 38 quarterback hits (tied with Justin Madubuike), was second in the league with an 18.3% pressure rate, and added an interception, 17 tackles for loss, and two forced fumbles.

This is more of a team necessity than wishful thinking. Allen and Tavon Walker accounted for 68.75% of the team’s sacks.

The team’s late-season collapse got the entire defensive staff fired. Ryan Nielsen is the new defensive coordinator; even if Nielsen switches to a 4-3 defense, Allen is invaluable to the team.

The most likely scenario is that the Jaguars franchise tag Allen as a linebacker, saving north of two million dollars (the franchise tag for linebackers is $21.9 million, whereas defensive ends are franchised at $23.3 million).

I am cautiously optimistic regarding the bump the team will get with Nielsen, bumping them up to 20th in the rankings if Allen stays. At the same time, wait and see what transpires during training camp. Hoping Allen maintains his third-place fantasy defensive end status is slightly more than wishful thinking if Nielsen does switch up to a 4-3. It will be new for Allen, and an adjustment period must be accounted for.

 

  • Player: Antoine Winfield Jr., Safety
  • Hopeful Landing Spot: Green Bay Packers
  • My Rankings (if this happens): Green Bay Packers go from 15 to top-10, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers fall from 23 to 25.

Winfield famously got snubbed from the Pro Bowl last season. It seems hardly concerning when you are looking to reset the safety market.

Last season, Winfield recorded 122 tackles, eight quarterback hits, 12 passes defended, six sacks, six forced fumbles, and three interceptions. This is all while playing up in the box, slot, or both single and two-high safety. Winfield is that ‘Swiss Army Knife’ type of player.

The Packers’ secondary is memorable but cannot stay on the field. Last season, Jaire Alexander played in seven games; Eric Stokes played in three. This led the team to allowing 7.5 air yards per attempt and only collecting 68 passes defended.

The talk out of the NFL 2024 Combine is that the Buccaneers will not allow Winfield out of Tampa.

But the Buccaneers have their free agent issues with quarterback Baker Mayfield and wide receiver Mike Evans hitting the free agent market.

Winfield topped all defensive backs in fantasy points, averaging 15.3. Playing in the NFC South didn’t hurt. Moving to the NFC North shouldn’t hurt his stats.

My Question to You:

Does free agent Chase Young go back to Washington?

Download Table as CSV
Note: Filters and sorting in the table below apply to the output

# Name Team
Kansas City Chiefs KC
San Francisco 49ers SF
Baltimore Ravens BAL
Cleveland Browns CLE
Houston Texans HOU
Las Vegas Raiders LV
Pittsburgh Steelers PIT
Dallas Cowboys DAL
New York Jets NYJ
Buffalo Bills BUF
Atlanta Falcons MIA
New England Patriots NE
Atlanta Falcons ATL
Green Bay Packers GB
Jacksonville Jaguars JAC
Detroit Lions DET
Tampa Bay Buccaneers TB
Chicago Bears CHi
Indianapolis Colts IND
Philadelphia Eagles PHI
Minnesota Vikings MIN
Denver Broncos DEN
Tennessee Titans TEN
Los Angeles Chargers LAC
Los Angeles Rams LAR
Cincinnati Bengals CIN
Seattle Seahawks SEA
Carolina Panthers CAR
New York Giants NYG
New Orleans Saints NOR
Arizona Cardinals ARI
Washington Commanders WAS

Remember there is never an “off-season”. Your fantasy football fortunes depend on a constant, consistent flow of information. Stick with Razzball!