Atlanta Falcons Free Agency Targets: DE Jerry Hughes
Sep 14, 2014; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes (55) sacks Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) during the first half at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Pros: A former 1st round pick in 2010 out of TCU, Jerry Hughes failed to make much of an impact for the Indianapolis Colts, before being traded to Buffalo in 2013. From there, the 6’2, 255 pound lineman exploded onto the scene, notching 10 sacks in just 1 start in 2013, before again reaching double digits with another 10 sack campaign in 2014. Hughes has forced 5 fumbles in the past 2 seasons, and in week 13 last season scored an impressive scoop and score TD against the Browns. He can operate as a true 4-3 DE with his hand in the dirt, and also offers a threat coming from a standing OLB position.
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With 10 sacks in each of his past 2 seasons, Hughes clearly has a nose for the quarterback, and would address one of the glaring weaknesses that has plagued the Atlanta Falcons since the loss of John Abraham – an edge rusher capable of recording double digits sack by himself. Whilst sack numbers aren’t the be all and end all of pass rushing, the ability to finish a play in the backfield has been sorely missed by Atlanta in recent years, and a player who can bring down the quarterback consistently seems a wise way to splash some cash. Hughes offers speed off the edge, with a quick first step, and at 26 years old Hughes has as much left in the tank as any potential free agent signing. ProFootballFocus graded Hughes as the 14th best DE in the league last season, a clear upgrade over any Atlanta pass rushers. Hughes is also quite strong in the run game, as shown by his ability to find the ball carrier. Hughes ranked 13th amongst DEs in tackles, with 53 last season.
With 10 sacks in each of his past 2 seasons, Hughes clearly has a nose for the quarterback, and would address one of the glaring weaknesses that has plagued Atlanta for years – an edge rusher capable of recording double digits sack by himself.
Additionally, Hughes isn’t likely to command as large of a contract when compared to some of the other free agent pass rushers, such as Ndamukong Suh, Jason Pierre-Paul or 2014 sack leader Justin Houston. This may allow the Falcons to sign two excellent contributors rather than one clear cut, can’t miss superstar. In an offseason in which there are several needs to address, that may not be a bad route to take. Furthermore, the Bills have several key decisions to make in the upcoming offseason, and may not be able to fork out enough to keep Hughes in Buffalo.