clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Value of Things: Bang for your Buck— Edge Defenders

What do the top ten paid edge rushers look like?

Houston Texans v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

As we go through the “Bang for your Buck” series a couple of things become painfully obvious. The good news is that the Texans do not have anyone on these lists. At this point, that’s a good thing. Paying someone top end money at their position doesn’t make a whole lot of sense at this point. The bad news is that outside of Brandin Cooks they don’t have anyone that comes close to producing the numbers that a top ten player at their position produces.

Many of you are thinking, “thanks Captain Obvious! Tell us something we don’t know.” Every once in awhile it makes sense to look at these things to see what top ten performance looks like. We want to know how far away we are from having one of those guys. It also makes sense to look up the specific guys around the league because then you know what the going rate is for a legitimate top ten player.

Like with offense, defensive players have more complicated ways to grade them than simple basic statistics. Defensive coordinators set up their defenses differently to the point where they funnel the action to specific guys that make the plays. Edge defenders usually rush the passer, but sometimes they are more valuable setting the edge. This is particularly true with the number of mobile quarterbacks in the game. So, we will look at the edge defenders with the knowledge that these numbers might be inadequate. It’s not a ranking of how good these guys are.

All that being said, pay is usually based on results. If you get sacks you get paid. If you get tackles for losses or force a lot of fumbles you get paid. If you hit the quarterback a lot you get paid. We are taking a look at the top ten highest paid edge defenders over the last three seasons in those categories. Remember, we are looking for an overall standard and outliers more than a ranking of each defender.

Top Ten Edge Rushers

T.J. Watt— 172 tackles, 58 TFL, 52.0 sacks, 116 QB hits, 15 forced fumbles

Joey Bosa— 157 tackles, 38 TFL, 29.5 sacks, 78 QB hits, 8 forced fumbles

Myles Garrett— 128 tackles, 38 TFL, 38.0 sacks, 69 QB hits, 7 forced fumbles

Khalil Mack— 116 tackles, 25 TFL, 23.5 sacks, 34 QB hits, 8 forced fumbles

Maxx Crosby— 142 tackles, 43 TFL, 25.0 sacks, 57 QB hits, 4 forced fumbles

Von Miller— 144 tackles, 43 TFL, 32.0 sacks, 62 QB hits, 6 forced fumbles

Cameron Jordan— 163 tackles, 39 TFL, 35.5 sacks, 63 QB hits, 3 forced fumbles

Harold Landry— 140 tackles, 36 TFL, 26.5 sacks, 52 QB hits, 2 forced fumbles

Arik Armstead—- 166 tackles. 24 TFL, 19.5 sacks, 42 QB hits, 2 forced fumbles

Shaquil Barrett— 166 tackles, 39 TFL, 37.5 sacks, 75 QB hits, 11 forced fumbles

We’ve spent a great deal of time looking at negative outliers. Those are the players that keep your team from really going too far. However, we haven’t spent time on the positive outliers. T.J. has taken the mantle over from his brother as the most dominant defender in the NFL. At least, he is that statistically. Over the past three seasons he has averaged nearly 20 tackles for loss, over 17 sacks, and nearly 40 quarterback hits a season. Those are absolutely stupid numbers

They are the kind of numbers that skew the aggregate. When people look at an aggregate they can look at the median or the mean. The mean is usually just fine, but Watt manages to drive that up for everyone. So, we will look at the median which ends up being the average of the fifth and sixth ranked defender in each category.

Composite— 150 tackles, 39 tackles for loss, 31 sacks, 63 QB hits, 6.5 forced fumbles

Ultimately, you measure each of these ten guys against this composite to see who the outliers are. It would appear that would be Khalil Mack. Funny, this is the second time the Chargers have a negative outlier. Of course, part of that is the reason why he is a negative outlier. He did not play in ten games this past season, so you could claim they got him on the cheap. If he performs like a top ten edge rusher again then it could end up being a bargain.

Localize It

Everyone is always interested in comparing the local guys in these situations. The Texans will likely carry four or five defensive ends this season depending on roster construction. Only one looks to get regular snaps as the others will likely form a rotation depending on the opponents, specific situations, and ongoing performance.

Jonathan Greenard is on his rookie contract. He still has another season after this one until he becomes a free agent. However, it pays to look at how close he might be to being one of these guys. It will make a significant difference to Nick Caserio when it comes time to decide how much to pay him. Since he has had only two seasons in the league and the first was spent primarily on the bench, we will take a look at only his 2021 numbers as compared to the per season composite of the ten guys above.

Composite: 50 tackles, 13 TFL, 10.5 sacks, 21 QB Hits, 2 forced fumbles

Greenard: 33 tackles, 9 TFL, 8.0 sacks, 12 QB Hits, 2 forced fumbles

Greenard played in only 12 games this past season. I suppose one could easily project that out over 16 or 17 games and see how close he comes, but that assumes good health. Some guys just aren’t as adept at staying on the field as others. Since 2021 represents the first regular playing time of his career, we still don’t know if durability is a long-term concern or not. We see what it did to Khalil Mack’s numbers and that was the result of only one season of lost time. I think the upshot is easy to see. Based on what we saw last season, Greenard could get there if he is healthy. Of course, that is only based on part of one season. Time will tell.