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Top three 2024 NFL free agents at every defensive position: Yannick Ngakoue, Justin Simmons best available

NFL free agency is essentially in the rearview mirror as teams depart for the summer. The top players have already signed, and the next crop of free agents have found a home for 2024. There are still some good players available, but the market has significantly dried up until training camp begins. 

Compensatory picks no longer factor into the equation, but some players will wait out offers until training camp starts. Players who should be rostered are still available for the taking. 

These are the top three free agents available at every position on defense. To see the top offensive players still available, click here

Edge rusher

The best pass rusher available, Ngakoue is coming off a down season by his standards. He finished with career lows in sacks (4.0), pressures (34) and pressure rate (8.7%), snapping a streak of seven consecutive seasons with 8+ sacks.

Ngakoue signed later in the summer last season, and appears to be doing the same in 2024. He’s still only 29 years old, and a bargain on a one-year deal. 

Ogbah had just 19 pressures and 5.0 sacks last season, but the numbers were deceiving as he had a 13.9% pressure rate. He played just 240 snaps in 15 games and still can get to the quarterback as a rotational pass rusher. 

The age could play a factor (31), but Ogbah would be good rotational depth.  

An Achilles tear limited Lawson’s productivity in New York in terms of games played, but he rebounded from that with 49 pressures and 7.0 sacks in 2022 (11.9% pressure rate). The Jets essentially relegated Lawson to a backup role after a back injury last August, as he didn’t record a sack and played just 98 snaps.

A healthy Lawson would be a good find for a team needing pass-rushing help. 

Interior defensive lineman

A former starter in San Francisco, Ridgeway played just three games in Houston before a torn Achilles ended his season. Ridgeway had a calf injury prior to the torn Achilles, having just one pressure in 27 snaps played.

If healthy, Ridgeway provides valuable interior depth. 

Mone sat out the entire 2023 season due to a knee injury, and Seattle released him in March. He’s more than a year removed from a torn ACL, suffered after a 2022 season which he started three games. 

If healthy, Mone is worth taking a flyer on. He’s still only 28 years old and yet to field any offers. The knee injury is still a concern. 

The question isn’t whether Joseph wants to play or not. The question is whether the 35-year-old is retired or not.

Joseph waited until November in each of the past two years to sign, doing so in 2022 with the Eagles and 2023 in the Bills. He could do the same if he wants to continue playing football in 2024. 

Joseph would add experienced veteran depth to a defensive line. He had 155 snaps last seaosn, including six pressures and a sack. 

Off-ball linebacker

Cunningham was a surprise at linebacker for Philadelphia last season after signing in August, finishing with 85 tackles and four passes defended in 13 games (10 starts). Still a starter in the league at 29, Cunningham’s biggest issue is staying on the field. 

Cunningham signed in August last season. This may be the case in 2024 as well. 

The former Pro Bowl linebacker played in just nine games for Pittsburgh last season, having 41 tackles (five for loss) and a sack as a No. 3 linebacker. Alexander is a solid reserve Mike linebacker at this stage if he can stay on the field. 

Could be a signing right before training camp for teams that need linebacker depth. 

Woods started seven games for Arizona last season and had 61 tackles, showing he’s more than a good special teamer. While Woods provides excellent play on special teams, he also showed he can get regular snaps on a defense. 

Teams could get Woods at a good value at this stage in free agency. 


The 33-year-old Gilmore had another strong season in coverage, allowing just four pass touchdowns and a 60.3 rating while notching two interceptions. Opposing quarterbacks had just a 49% completion rate targeting Gilmore. 

Gilmore has been on four teams in three years, yet is still a starter. 

Peterson isn’t the All-Pro cornerback he once was, yet still allowed a 62.8 passer rating when targeted at 33 years old. Soon to be 34, Peterson wants to return to the Steelers and has said he wishes to know what position he’s going to play before signing. 

If any team wants Peterson, they are getting one of the better veteran corners on the market. 

The 28-year-old Jackson still hasn’t found a job yet, despite allowing only a 68.6 passer rating when targeted by opposing quarterbacks last season. While only having one interception, Jackson allowed just two passing touchdowns in 2023.

Jackson, who also returns kicks, could find a job by training camp. 


The best free agent left on the market, the 30-year-old Simmons is coming off a season which he finished with 70 tackles, three interceptions and eight passes defended. He earned his third straight Second Team All-Pro selection as opposing quarterbacks targeting Simmons had just a 58.4 passer rating. 

Simmons is the best safety in a deep crop of free agents at the position. 

Hyde’s coverage skills have declined over the past two seasons (87.2 rating), yet the 33-year-old has started 128 games in 11 seasons. A neck injury limited Hyde in 2022, but he returned to have 54 tackles and two interceptions in 14 games. 

Hyde is still a good starter in the league and a natural leader on a defense. He wants to play for the Bills in 2024, but neither side has reached a contract yet. 

Just 28 years old, Adams has played in only 10 games over the past two seasons, thanks to a torn quad tendon and lingering knee issues. Adams had 48 tackles in nine games last season, playing primarily as strong safety. 

Injuries have significantly limited Adams, who can still attack the run. He also hasn’t had a sack in three years after setting a record for defensive backs in 2020 (9.5). 

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Author: Jeff Kerr
June 14, 2024 | 3:50 pm

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