Atlanta Falcons Free Agency Targets: DE Jerry Hughes

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Nov 9, 2014; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes (55) sacks Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) during the second half at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Kansas City beats Buffalo 17 to 13. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Cons: The main question surrounding Jerry Hughes is how will he fare away from Buffalo’s fierce front seven. Whilst Hughes obviously contributed to the dominance of the Bills’ pass rushing corps, the strong play of the unit served to help Hughes by freeing him up for one on ones with the offensive linemen and free lanes to the quarterback. Of the four starting linemen in Buffalo (Mario Williams, Kyle Williams, Marcel Dareus and Hughes), the free agent was the only one to not make the Pro Bowl. Whilst not a perfect measure of success, it does suggest that Hughes may be last in the pecking order of Bills pass rusher. With Marcel Dareus becoming a free agent at the end of next season, the Bills may prioritise retaining their star DT and allow Hughes to leave, indicating where Buffalo’s talent evaluators rank the group.

The main question surrounding Hughes is simple – how will he fare away from Buffalo’s fierce front seven?

Additionally, the three other members of the Bills defensive line combined for 30 sacks last season, whilst the Falcons starting four linemen only combined for 10. There is a risk that the downgrade in surrounding talent may hinder Hughes’ performance should he join Atlanta.

Furthermore, Hughes struggled mightily in his first three seasons in the league, recording just 5 sacks in 40 games, before being traded for Kelvin Sheppard. At 6’2, he is slightly undersized for a 4-3 DE, but has shown enough in his previous two seasons to warrant a look from the Atlanta Falcons front office.