2015 NFL Free Agency Preview: Top 5 Defensive Ends

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Dec 14, 2014; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Green Bay Packers tackle David Bakhtiari (69) tries to prevent Buffalo Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes (55) from tackling Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) during the first half at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

1. Jerry Hughes

Pros: Hughes is a prototype speed rusher, a speedy player with a quick first step who can beat blockers purely with his speed and quickness. He possesses a great second move, able to use his speed to force an offensive tackle to commit before ripping inside and closing for the kill. He uses his hands well, and has more than one tool for shedding a block and making his move on a passer. He’s a finisher, having recorded 20 sacks over the last two seasons.

Cons: Hughes is a true tweener, having played outside linebacker in 3-4 systems in 2012 and 2013 before being converted to a 4-3 rush end for Buffalo. He’s only 255 pounds, and though he has improved his strength and leverage technique over his career to become less of a run liability, he wouldn’t be very scheme flexible.

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Buy-low trade candidates for Chiefs' Brett Veach this offseason
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Arrowhead Addict

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  • Scheme Fit: Hughes is either a LEO end in a 4-3 over/under alignment, rushing out of a wide 9 formation, or he’s a rush linebacker in a 3-4 front. He’s not going to be a 5-tech player, ever.

    Market Value: In the hierarchy of NFL value, effective pass rushers are near the top. Every team wants one, perhaps two players who can get to the quarterback and disrupt the passing game effectively. As possibly the best edge rusher still in the marketplace, Hughes definitely has value. As a 26 year old with probably three or four seasons of his prime remaining ahead of him, his value will increase even further. Look for Hughes to cash in on the market with Jason Pierre-Paul out of the way, perhaps a deal in the range of six years and $60M-$70M.

    Would he sign with the Raiders: I doubt it. He would probably go to Oakland if Reggie was interested, but I don’t see him as a feet for what the Raiders are doing. Khalil Mack is already the Raiders “tweener” edge rusher who can be a linebacker on first and second down and a 9-tech end on third down, and Mack is a much better run defender. There’s a ton of tweener pass-rushers in the draft who the Raiders could target and pay a lot less to do one thing. While Jack Del Rio may be in search of his next Elvis Dumervil and Ken Norton Jr. may be wanting another Cliff Avril, they probably will not get it in the form of a big-money free agent like Jerry Hughes.

    Next: 2015 Free Agent DE Rankings: #2 Brandon Graham