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Each offseason brings a good deal of veteran movement. In 2021, defensive linemen were also on the move. We asked our staff to offer up the defensive lineman on a new team they were most interested in.
Here are the names who were mentioned.
And here are all of the reasons.
This was a bumper crop of edge rushers and interior defenders; one of the best we've seen in years. The headliner was easily J.J. Watt, who ends up with the Cardinals. My choice for most interesting is Yannick Ngakoue, who signed with the Raiders. Las Vegas has a competent offense, but the defense has been horrific which is why Gus Bradley was brought in to revamp the entire system. Ngakoue was a young star in Jacksonville who forced his way out via a trade to Minnesota, but the Vikings had buyer's remorse and traded him mid-season to the Ravens. Ngakoue has 45.5 sacks in five seasons and can also stop the run, yet his whirlwind 2020 took some shine off his reputation. If he's the most dominant lineman to change teams this year, I won't be surprised.
Jets defensive end Carl Lawson is 26 years old, a former fourth-round pick from Auburn. In his four seasons in Cincinnati, Lawson only recorded 20 career sacks, which isn't great. But his 54 quarterback hits over the last two seasons trails only Joey Bosa (LAC) among all defensive linemen in the league. Under new head coach Robert Saleh, the Jets defense will be a 4-3, similar to San Francisco's. The idea is to scheme creative secondary looks, leaving pressure to come from the front. The rest of the roster is problematic, but Lawson joins a decent Jets defensive line group with Quinnen Williams, Sheldon Rankins, and Vinny Curry as the other starters. Lawson will be on the field a ton, he will have one-on-one matchups, and opposing offenses won't be able to resist passing against the league's worst cornerback group. The team won't win a ton of games, but Lawson should have ample opportunity to produce in IDP formats.
There are quite a few notable defensive linemen who changed teams in the offseason. Jason named J.J. Watt with Arizona and Yannick Ngakoue with Las Vegas. Both could have big impacts on their respective new teams. Another name to focus on is Jadeveon Clowney signing with the Browns. Clowney has largely been a disappointment despite his immense talent. Cleveland will be his fourth team in as many years, and his last team, Tennessee, barely saw any return on their investment. Clowney had 14 tackles in nine games with the Titans last year with zero sacks. Clowney can be one of the best, most disruptive pass rushers in the league, but his priorities seem to be out of place. Perhaps the move to Cleveland will do him good.
I have to echo Jeff here and say it's Jadeveon Clowney. While it's true that Clowney has underperformed to this point in his career, especially when you consider draft capital, this is a defense that should be able to maximize his abilities. Clowney's best games were when he didn't need to be "the guy" in Houston, when offenses had to worry about him and JJ Watt. Well, in Cleveland, he will clearly play 2nd fiddle to Myles Garrett and that could work out very well for this defense as a whole. The Browns defense has done a lot to improve this offseason and could easily be a top-five team defense for fantasy football in 2021.
Lawson, Watt, Ngakoue, and Clowney are all important players to track and clearly the top answers to this answer. I would love to see Watt with Chandler Jones lined up next to him on passing downs like the old Justin Smith/Aldon Smith arrangement in San Francisco. Clowney could be more productive on fewer snaps this year if he and Takk McKinley help keep each other healthy by sharing the pass rush role opposite Myles Garrett.
For leagues that start a defensive tackle, watch to see where Sheldon Richardson lands. He was still very productive last year, but the Browns replaced him with a cheaper Malik Jackson and Andrew Billings in free agency. The Browns and Bengals did a virtual trade via free agency as the Bengals signed Larry Ogunjobi while the Browns got Billings, who opted out of the 2020 season. Ogunjobi was more expensive and he has more promise for fantasy leagues, lining up next to immovable-object and 2020 marquee free-agent signing D.J. Reader.